New Media

  • Abyssinian Cyber Vernaculus
    Miriam Hillawi Abraham

Miriam Hillawi Abraham, "Abyssinian Cyber Vernaculus," 2019. 3-D generated terrain of Lalibela region in Ethiopia. Courtesy the artist

The project seeks to activate architectural landscapes while it uncovers and reinstates the presence and power of those marginalized by the dominant conservative ethos of Ethiopian society. It emerged as three distinct virtual reality (VR) journeys driven by the player who assumes the role of each “hero,” and navigates through their shared terrain of the Medieval monolithic churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia. Each hero represents the hegemonic narratives put forth by the self-proclaimed experts of the historic site: Kentucky Johnson (the white savior), Yohannes (the God-fearing Ethiopian), and Sebi (the hotep, i.e. woefully misinformed afro-diasporic man). In the uncharted universe of VR, players can occupy other bodies, treacherous terrains can be traversed within minutes, time can be reversed, and spirits can be awakened. The aim of this project is not only to spark discourse around spatial praxis for Africans but also to claim the territory of VR as a Black lens.

Miriam Hillawi Abraham is a multidisciplinary designer and artist from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With a background in architecture, she employs digital media as well as architectural and experiential design techniques to explore themes of futurism (particularly Afrofuturism and equitable futures), experimental conservation, vernacular architecture, and intersectional feminism. She holds an master’s of fine arts in interaction design from the California College of the Arts and has received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Glasgow School of Art. Additionally, she holds Part I of The Royal Institute of British Architects License. She is currently working as the game-code instructor at Bay Area Video Coalition where she infuses social justice and futurism into her curriculum. Her work has been featured in The Funambulist magazine and exhibitions across San Francisco including Institute for the Future, California Academy of Sciences, Hubbell Street Galleries, as well as Investec in Cape Town, South Africa.