Mihret Kebede: Connecting people through art

We talk to Ethiopian artist, Mihret Kebede about her Slow Marathon project, which all began with a pile of used shoelaces.

From the Series

Ethiopian artist Mihret Kebede uses her art to bring people together. Whether it is photography, art, film, performance art or design, Mihret Kebede is interested in communicating a greater message through her work. In this video interview, we talk to her about her Slow Marathon project, which all began with a pile of used shoelaces.

Kebede’s love for materials and the stories they tell fuelled her fascination with shoelaces she found on the streets at home. She uses the laces as a raw material to create artwork and because they can be found everywhere, it’s a material that she associates with her country and its people.

During a three-month art residency in Scotland, Kebede ignited a movement called Slow Marathon. The idea was based on her plans to walk 5850 miles from Ethiopia to Scotland. Border restrictions, visas and deserts made the journey impossible so she got 225 people in Scotland and Ethiopia to metaphorically walk the distance for her.

Before the marathon, participants fill in tags attached to shoelaces. The tags from Scotland are sent to Ethiopia and vice versa. Each participant walks with a foreign participant’s tag and connects with that person at the end of the race via email.

The marathon is an act of solidarity and highlights the fact that we cannot reduce our carbon footprint when travelling long distances because a realistic alternative to the norm does not exist.