Ethiopia is commonly associated with natural disasters and famine; as a result, very little attention is paid to the abundant cultural heritage, especially in the northern part of the country. For one, Ethiopia could be called “the cradle of humanity” thanks to the famous archaeological finding called Lucy—an incomplete skeleton of a Australopithecus afarensis, which has been put forward as the ”missing link” between African apes and humans.

Later, in the 1st century CE, the ancient civilization of Aksum inhabited what is now northern Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians believe that the Biblical Ark of the Covenant is kept in modern-day Aksum.

In Ethiopia, religion shapes people’s daily rhythm. Most religious Ethiopians are followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which has existed as an independent Christian tradition since the 4th century. The Christian culture of Ethiopia is famous for its temples carved in rock below ground level.

During a two-week trip across northern Ethiopia, I searched for inspirations in its culture and religion; I focused on the tradition of the Tewahedo Church, traces of the ancient Aksumite empire, and folk beliefs. Referring to the Far East philosophy of five elements (fire, earth, water, air, and wood), I attempted to depict the relationship between human life in Ethiopia and the powers of nature. The latter’s essential role is often expressed in Ethiopia’s tribal beliefs. Another subject that I reflected on in my visit was the origin of mankind as a point of contention between the religious and the scientific points of view.

In my photography, I follow questions related to the transcendental and supernatural aspects of human life. I also focus on the role of religious experience and spiritual development for the life of an individual and mankind in general. Personally, I place tremendous importance on the contemplative, inner-focused aspect of life; I believe it’s important to find periods of silence and isolation amid the hustle and bustle in order to remain insightful and focused.

Rather than a uniform narrative, “Seeking The Ethiopian God” is a collection of symbolic images that uses fragments of the outside world to depict the spiritual experiences and longings that accompanied me on my way through Ethiopia.

—Luke Pienkowski