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Selam Mengistu,
...where are
you really from?  


Selam Mengistu,
..but where are
you really from?  

I am a second generation Ethiopian navigating my identity as a woman and a minority. I address this through my chosen medium of comedy and play into gender-based ethnic stereotypes that have shaped my identity.

I created this video montage playing on the juxtaposition of my 2 identities constantly juggling my Ethiopian heritage and Western upbringing whilst not fitting fully in with either. I start the clip of my journey of self-discovery this year whilst travelling through my motherland from December 2020 in a desert – June 2021 at the height of the pandemic. I juxtapose this with drawing out people’s assumptions and bringing this up to the forefront

I pretend I am not fluent in English and this clip is on the stage is juxtaposed with a clip of me travelling through the desert – in the land I hail from, Ethiopia. Confirming the stereotype but then changing my accent mid-performance and confusing the audience by highlighting their own bias, even though I was born in Sweden.

    Comedy as a medium allows me to engage directly and converse with audiences in a liberated sense and to get a response in real-time, the way for me to do this is through a deep introspective analysis of self and challenging the audience’s bias I enjoy making fun of people’s deep-rooted perceptions of an immigrant. “Taking all your jobs” “uneducated” “obedient”. 


My personal gender challenges manifest themselves as self-deprecation and a longing to be accepted and I understand through approaching the audience member and taking them on a journey with me. In order to fit in with British audience make myself smaller I often try to make myself overfamiliar not too foreign what I imagine they would expect of me as a migrant always at their mercy. I am not generalising the marginalised female immigrant experience more speaking about own experiences has become formed my stand up set.

A word on process

This was a really unique project to be part of, upon reflection the very loosely framed fluid brief was both a challenge and a blessing at the same time. As an artist I had full creative control when I thought what I wanted and required was more guidance on producing what I felt should be the “correct” end-product. This fluidity proved to be a great tool as it led to a wide variety of perspectives and lived experiences being shared from all of us in the within the  group work and the lack of restrictions allowed for an authenticity that otherwise may not have been shared.