In this autobiographical VR, carried along by nostalgic Ethiopian tezeta music, the user drifts through Ethiopian-American director Ainslee Robson’s personal memories of both Cleveland and Addis Ababa. The 3D images are made using photogrammetry and are composed of countless colored spheres, so that people and objects slowly become abstract as you get closer.
Floating through the pointillist reconstructions, which form, deform, and disappear, thus merging seamlessly one into another, we experience the fragmentation, elusiveness, and fluidity of both memory and Robson’s mixed-race identity.
Robson counters this in a voice-over addressed to Empress Taytu, namesake of her parents’ restaurant in Cleveland—one of the few places where she feels completely at home—and a proud symbol of Ethiopia. In that country, to her frustration, Robson is addressed as a ferenj, a foreigner. This is an experience she also wishes to share with visitors to this VR—they enter her world as a ferenj and grasp its layers to differing extents depending on their own backgrounds.