Industrial Work Dynamics: Report on a photographic exhibition

COMPTE-RENDU D’EXPOSITION / EXHIBITION REPORT

Industrial Work Dynamics

Portraits of Ethiopian workers

by Constance Perrin-Jolly (CFEE)

 

[in English]

“Industrial Work Dynamics – Portraits of Ethiopian workers” follows on from a first exhibition on work, “WOmen at work”, at the Ethio-French Alliance of Addis Ababa in January-February 2018.

This work falls within the perspective of social photography that aims to “show” social phenomena to a wide audience. This second exhibition also has a research objective: inspired by the photo-elucidation approach, where photography is used as a medium for interviews (Collier, 1967, Harper, 2002), the exhibition invites the visitor to share his impressions about the photographs. While the latter reveal the eye of a French sociologist of work, the participation of the audience will allow to give an account of the vision of workers in Ethiopia on these same work photographs.

  1. Questioning industrialization : presentation of the exhibition

To overcome the discourse about modernization which characterizes in particular the public speech valorizing the process of industrialization in Ethiopia, the exhibition wishes to emphasize the permanence in the activity and the concomitance of ancient and modern phenomena in work.

On the permanence side: ancient gestures and activities persist. The knack, the know-how, do not disappear with the division of labor and mechanization. On the concomitance side: a work still handcrafted meets current issues, related to the ecology and inclusion of all populations, including women. At the same time, industrialization tackles private companies with old but renewed problems: work insecurity (how to give permanent job for wage-earners in an uncertain world?), arduous working conditions (how to associate mechanization and activity with strong injunctions to job creation for a growing working population?)…

Implicitly, the pictured activities come to question the notion of industry by highlighting the permeability of its borders: between industry and agriculture, industry and handcraft. Finally, the exhibition opens the debate on the expectations of the population, particularly workers, towards private enterprise in Ethiopia.

Part of the exhibition in the Awash Winnery factory

 

  1. Research purpose

The exhibition is composed by 15 photographies, A0 (119 x 84 cm) sized panels, showing portraits of workers in private companies in Ethiopia. The public, especially workers in Ethiopia, is invited to answer a short anonymous questionnaire. This research device takes part into a broader questioning about relationships to and expectations from work.

Part of the exhibition in the Awash Winnery factory

The 17th of May, the exhibition has been displayed in the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies for the Opening. While the jazz band ‘Les Altruites’ was playing, the visitors have discovered the portraits of the 15 Ethiopian workers, hung up in different offices, in the library and in stores. Displaying pictures of work in a workplace introduces a mise en abyme. This is a way to value the work in its diversity and invite the viewers to compare different work pictures with what the workplace allow them to imagine about the work done where pictures are displayed.

Part of the exhibition in the CFEE, for the opening

Thus, aiming to gather as many different workers advices as possible, the exhibition has been displayed in different workplaces, usually in the restaurant or in the reception desk to make the exhibition as visible as possible. To collect visitor’s impressions a QR Code has been printed on the presentation board linking to a Google Forms questionnaire, in English and in Amharic, that can be filled while one visits the exhibition. Nevertheless, at this stage of the research, this device does not seem widely used. The questionnaire is also printed on paper and can be put back in a ballot box provided for this purpose.

The exhibition will continue to rotate from one workplace to another in the coming months. If you are interested to host it, please contact : cperrinjoly@gmail.com

 


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