A man stands with his back to the camera on a now demolished street in Arada
Arada has recently made international headlines, with the historic soul of the city being completely demolished. Credit: Adelaide Di Nunzio.

Arada has recently made international headlines, as a drive to regenerate the area has resulted in devastation, with the historic soul of the city being completely demolished in March this year. Many people did not have prior warning that their homes and businesses were going to be destroyed.

Now, to preserve some of the stories and memories from the area, the Arada//Street Smart project is bringing a special exhibition to Centrala in Birmingham city centre. The project is led by Dr Marco Di Nunzio, Associate Professor in Urban Anthropology at the University of Birmingham and photographer and visual artist, Adelaide Di Nunzio.

A cafe doorway in Arada with a person walking in front at night.
Credit: Adelaide Di Nunzio.

Dr Di Nunzio, who has researched Arada and Addis Ababa, said: “The destruction of Arada is something that should concern us all. It is about the tragic impact of large-scale demolitions on communities, livelihoods and individuals. This is unfortunately a common story in Addis Ababa as well as in Birmingham.

“These kinds of interventions in the urban form are the result of a lack of imagination about how we can make our cities more just and liveable for residents. This exhibition is an attempt to re-imagine our cities by listening to the experiences of those who lived in Arada, a place where generations of people have experimented with meanings and ways of being urban. By portraying what once was, remembering Arada becomes an act of resistance.”

A destroyed building in Arada.
Credit: Adelaide Di Nunzio.

The exhibition opens on Tuesday 7th May and will run until 18th May. It will display a selection of portraits of Arada and feature a short documentary called A Day in Arada that combines still-image cinematography and participatory storytelling.

Marco and Adelaide will be joined at the official opening by photographer Vanley Burke, and development studies scholar from the University of Oxford Dr Biruk Terrefe. They will discuss photography and how to document inner cities during times of radical change and unjust developments. The event will be moderated by Anita Shervington.

Dr Di Nunzio added: “We look forward to sharing the stories of Arada and the Aradas in Birmingham. Whether you have visited Arada before, used to live there, have family and friends there or have never been to Addis Ababa before we encourage everyone to come and explore the stories of a vibrant place and the equally vibrant community that called it home.”

The exhibition is funded by the University of Birmingham and has been organised in collaboration with the PRISM Photography Network.