Dawit L. Petros
Dawit L. Petros is a visual artist, researcher and educator. He was born in Asmara, Eritrea and lives in Chicago. He combines extensive research and travel into a practice informed by constructions of modernity, theories of diaspora, and narratives of migration. Petros’ photographic language draws liberally from sculptural, moving image, sound, performative and painterly forms to examine the space between political and aesthetic imperatives. Petros completed an MFA in Visual Art as a Fulbright Fellow at Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; a BFA in Photography at Concordia University, Montreal; a BA in History at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon and the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum in New York City. Recent exhibitions include the Bamako Biennale in Mali; Prospect.4 in New Orleans; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the National Museum of African Art in Washington; the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and H & R. Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute.
The Stranger’s Notebook
In 2014 I began a 13-month journey across West and North Africa, and Western Europe. Travels informed by extensive research of boundaries of geography, history, and culture. Traversing this complex network of borders enabled a unique purview to critically analyze the disjuncture between contemporary experiences of mobility and their prevalent narratives. In passing from Nigeria to Senegal, I confronted the absence of a critical response to Africa’s long history of international migration and extensive cross-border flow. In moving from Mauritania to Spain, I examined the recent transformation of the Mediterranean from a site of transcultural exchange into an impenetrable cultural and ideological barrier between Spain and North Africa. Italy’s history of multi-directional migration formed the bulk of the research conducted in journeying from France to Italy. I negotiated these crossings always conscious that I came from elsewhere. From ‘there’ not ‘here.’ My position as a stranger was situated within the framework of myriad other embodiments of distance and proximity; each existing simultaneously at the intersection of multiple histories and memories. The “Intimate Stranger” position became the place from which work was produced. And relationships forged. Some subjects were travel companions. More frequently, the journey provided a platform to establish familiarity with others traveling for myriad purposes. These led to short and long-term collaborations. Locations were chosen for their proximity to historical events that have shaped the contemporary experiences within those spaces. Materials & forms were chosen for symbolic and cultural resonance. This project has enabled me to situate my work within an expanded field that converges distant geographies, and histories, linking the immense expanse of migratory spaces. I’ve acquired a more nuanced understanding of the entanglements of mobility wherein the legacies of colonial histories are legible as enmeshed in events unfolding today. The impact has demanded the development of a restless formal vocabulary and flexible mode of approach in my work. The modes of signification I employ have become increasingly fragmented to better address experiences that remain incomplete, while reinforcing an ethical commitment to a politic characterised by openness to discontinuity.

The Addis Foto Fest (AFF) was established in 2010 by award-winning photographer and cultural entrepreneur, Aida Muluneh. The festival is organized by Desta for Africa Creative Consulting PLC. AFF is a biennial international photography festival held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has previously featured exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conferences, projections and film screenings in many different renowned venues. It is also the first and only international photography festival in East Africa.