Frewayni’s Garden: Preserving Tigrayan Culture in a Period of Ethnocide
MFA in Design
The recent and ongoing genocidal war in Tigray, Ethiopia, has witnessed the looting and destruction of countless historical religious sites, ancient manuscripts, and artifacts, leaving Tigray’s remaining cultural heritage extremely vulnerable. Such cultural loss erases a shared understanding across generations, robbing them of their history and identity. My work seeks to safeguard Tigray’s cultural heritage and collective memory, informed by literature on cultural preservation efforts in post-war societies, and a series of interviews with Tigrayans in the diaspora and in Ethiopia.
Coffee is ceremonious in the Tigrayan household, representing a time of togetherness and intergenerational cultural exchange. This is embodied in my work in a series of distinct jebenas, traditional Tigrayan clay coffee pots, featuring near-field communication (NFC) technology—the same technology that enables wireless card payments. The NFC chip in the jebenas links to Frewayni's Garden, an interactive online archive of Tigrayan culture. Each unique jebena’s form represents a different time, place, or piece of history, directing viewers to its specific story in the garden via the NFC interface. Frewayni’s Garden is inspired by the community gardens Tigrayan refugees have created in Sudan since being displaced by the war, poetically symbolizing new life, beauty, and healing after pain. In this way, I illustrate how cultural heritage can be preserved, and passed down using the latest technology within traditional Tigrayan objects.