Curated by photojournalist Irene Fertik, “Toward Freedom” 40 image collection features Ethiopian communities in Los Angeles and Jewish Ethiopians in Israel. The exhibition will be on view from October 1, 2015 through January 3, 2016 at the California African American Museum (CAAM).

Focusing on Jewish Ethiopians in Israel and the Ethiopian community in Los Angeles, the collection features images dating from 1992 through 2012 that depict the settlement of these groups to unfamiliar new homelands. Known as the Beta Israel, Ethiopian Jewish communities inhabited isolated mountain villages in northern Ethiopia (especially Gondor and Tigray provinces) since around 1400 A.D. Beginning in 1980, however, the Israeli government conducted two large-scale resettlements of the Beta Israel: Operation Moses (1980-84) and Operation Solomon (1991).

With whole communities migrating to their new homeland, Fertik, who first traveled to Israel in 1992, had wondered if, “Israelis would be any more welcoming, as a nation, than any other country in the world, to Africans settling in their midst?”   As part of her research, Fertik began engaging with the growing Ethiopian community in Los Angeles, immersing herself in its culture and traditions, stating, “To know it (Ethiopian culture) is to greatly admire it! Moreover, Fertik was interested in how these two groups were integrating into their respective new societies: technologically, culturally, and socially.

In 2000, the Ethiopian leadership and business community in Los Angeles organized together to designate a four-block area of Fairfax Ave., from Olympic down to Pico Blvd., as Little Ethiopia. The city of Los Angeles officially recognized this area on the Westside as Little Ethiopia in 2002. Historically, Little Ethiopia became the first African country to have an area within a city named after it.

Ethiopians in Los Angeles celebrate the annual “Little Ethiopia Day” as part of their New Year’s celebration, which officially occurs on Sept. 11. The celebration includes live bands, traditional dancing, speakers, children’s rides, vendor booths and much more. This year, the all-day event was held on September 13 and stretched from Olympic Blvd. to Whitworth Dr.

CAAM exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. CAAM is located at 600 State Drive, Exposition Park. Parking is $10 and located at 39th and Figueroa Streets. Take Los Angeles Metro’s Expo Line and exit the Expo Park/USC station. For more information on CAAM visit www.caamuseum.org or call 213.744.7432.

Artist Reception and Exhibition Walkthrough

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Exhibition Walkthrough 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

Artist Reception 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Join photographer Irene Fertik as she walks guests through the Toward Freedom exhibition and discusses her time spent documenting Ethiopians in Los Angeles and Jewish Ethiopians in Israel.