GENESEO — When Brenda Yager is not commuting between her homes in Geneseo, Chicago and Alexandria, Va., she is satisfying her passion for traveling to distant lands.
After retiring from the federal government several years ago, she started pursuing what she loves — “my music (piano and organ) and travel.”
Some of the items from her trip to Ethiopia in 2016 will be featured in a display that will open Sunday, Sept. 17, and close Tuesday, Oct. 10, at RutabagA, The Heart of Regional Art, at 108 North State St.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The public is invited to an opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17.
Miss Yager’s travels sparked an interest in folk art, which she now collects, she said. “I love crafts that are still done in local traditions, particularly textiles and masks, and I have a collection of nearly 50 masks, along with puppets from various countries.”
Although she found no masks or textiles in Ethiopia, she did return with many interesting items that will be showcased in the display at RutabagA, including a large basket that also can be used as a table, an older basket covered with goat skin that is used as a lunch box, a dress worn by women in the north to attend festival days at church, and fly whisks made of horse hair.
Many of her collection of photographs also will be on display at RutabagA.
“Ethiopia fascinated me,” Miss Yager said. “It is so diverse and so different from other countries in Africa. The country has mountains, the fertile Rift Valley, beautiful lakes and desert.”
The northern portion of the country is historic, she said, with places and ruins that existed before the time of Christ. “Many sources believe that one of the Wise Men was from Ethiopia,” she said.
The southern part of the country has various and diverse tribes, “and there are no paved roads; no electricity with the exception of the hotels, which have limited generators; and there is no mail service. Times are changing, and I wanted to visit before it all changed.”
“The cultures and the activities are so different from anything we see in the Western world. While some things are difficult — besides the food, no toilets while traveling, only bushes; low water pressure in hotels; and one night a tent — what is disturbing for me is how women, children and animals are treated.”
Miss Yager chose January to travel to Ethiopia so she could be there for the Timkat Festival, which happens on Jan. 19 of each year.
“I was in Addis Ababa, the capital, on that date,” she said. “The Ethiopian Orthodox church believes the original Ark of the Covenant resides in Axum in the northern part of the country. There are replicas of the Ark in every church.”
“It is brought out on that date and paraded through the cities and towns,” she said. “In Addis, they closed down a four-lane highway for people to march behind the Ark. The women usually wear white dresses with colors of the Ethiopian flag — red, gold and green.”
“Addis also has the largest market in all of Africa. No one knows how large it is, but some say it takes up well over one square mile. One can buy spices, clothes, jewelry, food, tools, boxes, and there is even a recycling area. Many shoes are made out of old tires.”
She has been to more than 100 countries and islands and has flown around the world on two occasions.
“I love the history, beauty of places in western culture in the U.S., Canada and Europe, but I am even more intrigued with places that have such different cultures, beliefs and activities. … Some places just seem to reach out to me, and Ethiopia was one of those places,” she said.
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