Meliksenay Debas, born and raised in Ethiopia, completed his studies in Business Administration and Information Systems from Addis Ababa University College of Commerce. He took photography and creative design classes at Master Fine Arts and Vocational Training School in Addis Ababa and then spent several years polishing his skills and gaining valuable hands-on experience in all facets of photography. It is a privilege for Meliksenay to do what he loves full time. His love for photography and his appreciation for it as a form of personal expression, pushed him to pursue it as career in 2013; since then it has become his ultimate path in life. His work is focused on telling the day-to-day stories of city life.
The Berta People
Originally from eastern Sudan, the Berta people migrated to western Ethiopia and settled in the Benishangul region in the 16th or 17th century. Benishangul is an Arabicized form of the original name Bela Shangul, meaning “Rock of Shangul”. This refers to a sacred stone located on a mountain in Menge Woreda, one of the places where the Berta originally settled upon arriving in Ethiopia. After several centuries of Arab Sudanese influence, the Berta are now mostly Muslim and many speak fluent Arabic. Due to their intermarriage with Arab traders, some Berta were called Watawit -the local name for “bat”, meaning that they were a mix of two very different groups. The Berta are slash-and-burn agriculturalists. Their staple food is sorghum, with which they make porridge in ceramic vessels. They also make beer with sorghum. Beer is prepared in large ceramic containers called awar and is’u. In their wedding ceremonies music is played by males with large calabash trumpets (was’a). The groom arrives to the wedding on a donkey and carrying a bang (throwing stick) in his hand. After the wedding, the husband has to build a hut and live in his wife’s village for a year or more, tilling their father-in-law’s land. Divorce is accepted. The Berta decorate their faces with scarifications, usually three vertical lines on each cheek, which they consider to be symbols of God (each line is interpreted as the initial letter of Allah, the Arabic alif)