"Stars of Ethiopia" shines at NYU Kimmel Center

MAHALET DEJENE | 5/25/2011, 9:23 a.m.

The large size of the portraits is no coincidence. Higgins and the curator of the exhibit, Lydie Diakhate, wanted to attract a larger audience. Diakhate believed the Kimmel Center Windows Gallery was "a border between gallery and public art," and wanted to take full advantage of the large space to focus simply on the people in the photographs rather than any other distractions.

"I'm always upset about how Africa is being portrayed in news, music and art. It's never good. I just wanted to show people the Africa I know," said Diakhate, who looked through 200 to 300 of Higgins' photos to select the 13 on display.

The exhibit calls attention to the diversity of the people of Ethiopia, who differ as much in apparel as they do in appearance and attitude depending on the region they inhabit.

"I wanted the people who walk by, the students and tourists, to engage in a direct dialogue with the portraits," said Diakhate, who believes the variety of racial groups of Ethiopia makes a commentary on the diversity in Africa.

"I worked with Chester Higgins to bring a new collective memory to the new Africa through Ethiopia," said Diakhate, who is pleased with the exposition.

Higgins' portraits, organized by the Institute of African American Affairs at NYU, will be on display until May 8.