Clemens-Tobias Lange, “Mechachal: Shewa Ber”

“Oromo Market” image page: chine collé and letterpress printed on fabric


“Private House” image page: chine collé and letterpress printed on fabric


Detail of “Animal Market” image page: chine collé and letterpress printed on fabric


Coptic binding


Text pages (Arabic, Amharic and Latin alphabets) letterpress printed on BFK Rives paper


Artist: Clemens-Tobias Lange (Hamburg, Germany)

Title: Mechachal: Shewa Ber

Medium/technique(s): Intaglio, chine collé and letterpress on composed textiles and cotton paper, dressed bamboo board.

Edition size: 25

Number of pages: 84

Dimensions, open: 14 1/8  x  14 3/4 in

Dimensions, closed: 14 1/8  x  7 3/8  x  2 1/2 in


Artist Statement:

Every age and place where my life is leading me I am thirsty for different things. I may have tried to reveal the beauty or spiritual reflection in the beyond in some everyday moments, now in this work, Mechachal: Shewa Ber I follow my need for peace and comprehension amongst humans, living different lifestyles, and different religions, evolved in historic and geographical and political conditions.  I keep my focus always on exploring the form of the “book” as a cultural entity, using texts. I like manual printing techniques and adapting materials and different papers to create a poetic positive impact with the senses of the reader. I prefer a natural approach – not a digital.

Brief description of  Mechachal: Shewa Ber
Visiting Ethiopia I was impressed by two things:
1. The relationship between nature/animals and culture/men –
2. The peaceful life of a religious population, half Christian, half Muslim, a situation contrasting to what journalists make us believe, the positive power of faith. The second was growing to the concept of Mechachal : Shewa Ber, the first may lead up to a future book project.  The term “Mechachal” is often used in Harar, in schools, churches, mosques and in the street. Its meaning is pointing on relationships in couples and between complementary cultures: “Respect each other, accept each other with love”. In a country with more than 50 ethnics and especially a half Christian, half Muslim belief – lots of them marrying in another religion – this ‘ Mechachal’ is a key for a peaceful life.  The second part of the title of my book is “Shewa Ber.”  The Shewa Ber is the name of the market in Harar, in former times the largest market of East Africa. At Shewa Ber not only goods and multiple colours mix, it is the place where all the different people meet every day, with all their languages religions and and habits and some goats and chicken in the middle.

Different aspects give the form to the book and its contents.  Couples of textiles stay together in every image-page, couples of cultures bump into each other in the images : photographs taken in the marketplace and of the beautiful Qu’ran editions that were written more than 1000 years ago in the city of Harar.  Textile pages face pages made of paper, alphabets and religions meet on each sheet, languages too.   You may not be able to understand all the written texts, because I used English, Amharic, Arab, German and Italian language.  The type of binding of the book has a relation to Ethiopia too:  this “coptic binding”, is used in the early editions for orthodox christian bibles in north-east Africa where it gets is name from. The binding emphasizes the combination of materials used in the book and gives him a sculptural presence.

Ethiopia has no poetry festival, like Colombia, Italy, Japan… Many people read the bible and the Qu’ran regularly and use it for surviving the hardship of the everyday life.  This is the reason I include texts of the Holy Bible and the Holy Qu’ran in the book, and three prayers. The text of the bible in Amharic language and alphabet, which is the considered to be the alphabet with the oldest roots, still used in the world.   With the help of the canadian/argentiian writer Alberto Manguel I have been finding eight suras of the Qu’ran that are containing the word “salam”, commonly translated with “peace”. The meaning of the word peace carries a world of meanings. In each of the times used in the Qu’ran there is another meaning:
Sure 37:79 : SALAM = harmony
Sure 37:130 : SALAM = modesty
Sure 37:120 : SALAM = patience
Sure 36:58 : SALAM = humility
Sure 97:5 : SALAM = faith
Sure 37:181 : SALAM = hope
Sure 37:109 : SALAM = charity
Sure 10:10 : SALAM = peace