Essay 558 • Jun 9th 2024

In Ethiopia, thousands, gathered in Addis Ababa to celebrate the historic baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River.

The holiday, called Timket, is an Orthodox Christian holiday, as all Ethiopian holidays are, and that also means that these holidays have the deep reverence of the people. Multiple choirs with embroidered clothing make their way down the streets chanting and singing in unison. Church hymns truly never sounded so festive. Priests, deacons, and musicians beating on drums make their way down as well, preparing the way for the ‘Tabot’ to arrive, a replica of the Arc of the Covenant that priests carry from churches all throughout Addis.

It is believed that the presence of God dwells there. All the church members from all the churches in Addis meet in an area called Janmeda, where they spend all night in prayer. People arrive early in the morning the next day to be sprayed with water that has been prayed over, expecting to be spiritually cleansed by it. The Tabots then make their way through the city to arrive back in the churches they came from surrounded by extravagance and the beauty of the celebration.


Hanna Leka is a first generation Ethiopian American self-taught photographer and fiber artist based in Southern California (LA/OC). With humans and her Ethiopian roots being at the center of her interests, portraiture is where she has found herself most curious, and is currently expanding her efforts towards a documentary style approach. Leka strives to continuously uncover the beauty and narratives of individuals that are made in the profound likeness of God. She has done conceptual projects that explore revelations of beauty and expose the nuances of Africanness.

In her work, Leka is drawn to usage of color and how it provokes specific emotions and feasts the eyes. She prefers looking into a moment rather than at it, and goes in with the same mindset when it comes to a person. Honesty is of importance in her work. She wants to offer viewers a new story; a new revelation of what beauty is, who people are, and what a place really is.

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