Addis Ababa’s market is considered the largest in Africa. An organism full of life, with its own dynamics and rules, a real microcosm with peculiar sounds, colours and smells. A city within the city.
The market of Addis Ababa is open daily, starts at dawn and gradually reaches the height of the activities between 11am and 3pm and continues until dusk.
The soundscape of the market reveals a strong and well defined acoustic identity, in which there are both sounds from contemporary and past Ethiopia.
In Addis Ababa’s market, as well as in the rural ones, converge different generations, sexes and ethnic groups with their different ways of speaking and different ways of presenting their goods. The resulting picture is highly social, characterised by a network of relationships in which circulate not only products and goods but also, sometimes mainly, the signs of actual solidarity and organic interdependency, revealing a behavioural unity.
The market of Addis Ababa, as well as the rural ones, is organised in sectors. There are areas for fabrics, live animals, supplies, the food area is in turn divided into different sections based on the kind of food.
The layout of the market, as well as the merchandise sold, mirrors positions and hierarchies of the local societies. There are articles (farming machinery, tools etc…) that are prerogatives of male sellers, while groceries are a female prerogative.
In the market of Addis Ababa I performed 3 sound-walkings, both by myself and with a guy born in Addis Ababa, who led me through hundreds of crowded and narrow streets, dark and smelly alleys, streets with taxis and trucks, inside warehouses, small bridges over streams and sewers. A bomb of smells and voices, noises and colours, a sort of Dante’s circle labyrinth where it is easy to lose orientation.
The density of people attending the market is very high, the flow is often slow and it is easy to get stuck, packed with dozens of other people, or blocked by trucks unloading or loading goods.
The market’s sound level is high (compared to the rural markets). There are many streets crossing the market which are trafficked by cars, trucks, vans, donkeys and motorbikes. The presence of motor vehicles, although not present everywhere in the market, characterises the soundscape.