LinkUp Addis Staff Writer
The practice of Yoga has been on the rise in Addis over the past few years, and Heran Tadesse one of the leading figures in this movement. Adopted to Netherlands at the age of 3, Heran came back to Ethiopia a decade ago in search of her roots. Since coming back here, she has cofounded the Regina Family Center, worked as a Yoga Trainer and started an initiative helping Ethiopian born adoptees find their roots. Enjoy this inspiring interview with the passionate and multi-skilled Heran.
Who are you?
I am a mother of 3 beautiful souls. I am a Pan- Afrikan repatriated (rematriated) Ethiopian Adoptee raised in the Netherlands, a Roots Searcher, a BSc Tropical Forestry Engineer, a Blogger, Writer & Poet, a Yoga Teacher, an Educator, a Wellness Architect & entrepreneur.
I was born in Ethiopia and adopted to the Netherlands by age 3. My roots have always I intrigued me. I returned to Ethiopia over 10 years ago. Initially, I worked with Addis Ababa University and several NGOs in the environmental sector. After I was blessed into motherhood, I started working part-time on my passion projects.
having lived your entire life abroad , how did you adapt to the Ethiopian Culture?
After being adopted and raised in the Netherlands, re-rooting into Ethiopia was mostly a steep learning curve in what is culturally appropriate. I did read a lot in advance to prepare myself, but I can share some funny examples of misunderstandings. It wasn’t hard to reintegrate, it just takes many years to start to understand the many cultural layers of a ancient sophisticated society like ours.
When I came in 2005-2006 for an internship, it was only my second visit to Ethiopia and by this time, my birth family had all moved to the UK, so I was staying with friends in Addis & I went to Injibara Kosober, close to Bahir Dar to co-write a management plan for a state forest.
In Europe, I looked dressed and acted like a forester. In Injibara, however, I was forced to wear a skirt, even while working in the forest! Initially, I hated it, but after a few years, I got more in touch with my feminine side, which is crucial to blend in and to live a more balanced existence.
I had read that when people offer you food, it’s very impolite to refuse. I ended up gaining 5 kg! Upon return to the Netherlands, nobody guessed that people could gain weight in Ethiopia, since the country is unfortunately branded with the image of famine.
Another problem I had was with communications. In the Netherlands people are very direct and they look into your eyes during a conversation. In Addis I kept being misunderstood by Ethiopian men, who thought I wanted something more, because I kept looking them in the eyes while talking.
People are very religious and spiritual here. In the Netherlands however, most Christians may go to church once a year for Christmas. My faith definitely deepened in Ethiopia!
“Most people would guess I am African; Nigerian or Jamaican (as if Ethiopia is a continent of its own).”
We have seen your name being repeatedly attached to Yoga and self-care. Why do you think is such activities important especially at this time?
Self care is really needed in these trying times. Protect your mental and physical health. Support your own wellness and healing. Self love starts with discipline, consistently and clear boundaries. Be in charge, intentional, awake and actively co-create the best conditions of abundance in health and wealth for you and your loved ones. Embody the best version of yourself. Do You! Impress yourself! Move right, love right, eat right, so you can think right and make the best choices for yourself and the larger community. Meditation and yoga may be the tools for you.
What are you passionate about?
Growing up abroad offered me an early exposure to Hatha yoga. Yoga became my lifestyle. The past 18 years I have been practicing and I started teaching yoga the past 6 years. I got certified as a pregnancy yoga teacher, and I also got trained and certified in Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) and Afrikan Yoga.
Education is the key to empower the future generation. I am a co-founder and active board member of the Regina Family Center. We focus on Early Childhood Education. The curriculum we follow is Waldorf-inspired and based on Ethiopian cultures. The children are engaged in gardening, horse riding, baking, painting, sculpting, music, puppet shows, story time and free play.
Our children are allowed to develop in their own pace, and daily, they spend time in nature to explore and develop their social skills and emotional intelligence. The materials we use are all either made from wood or fabrics, so the children will develop their many senses in a naturally tangible way. A carefree early childhood is the best foundation to then develop a higher IQ. – I am also passionate about writing poetry & songs. I play Kirar, and I have an online blog called the EthioYogaQueen. Hopefully, one day I will write my adoption story and about my successful reintegration after being uprooted from my motherland. Over the past three years, I have frequently recited at the Fendika Poetic Saturdays, in the What’s Out magazine, and I have performed three times at Alliance Française.
You have also told us yoiu are a Pan Africanist. What is pan Africanism for you? Why is it still relevant in the era of globalization?
Pan-africanism for me means looking at the world through an African lens and unlearning ethnocentric thinking. Because, I did not grow up speaking Amharic, I couldn’t easily be part of an Ethiopian community. In the Netherlands, I used to have friends from many different African countries. So, I was greatly influenced by people, who had fought for their independence after colonization.
The media in the West portrays black people usually in a negative light. So, in order to liberate my mind, I used to read a lot of books by African(-American) scholars. To grow from a feeling of being inferior, I studied to understand and realize that Africa is great. The mother of civilization, the cradle of humanity, the bread basket of the world, the birthplace of coffee and many more resources, like diamonds, gold, oil and hard wood to just name a few. With an insight on how many cultures were invaded and destroyed, one cannot help but to stand for Black Lives Matter all over the world.
Even though I really wanted to blend in and I adjusted to local attire and hair style, the way I carry myself, even before I open my mouth is a dead giveaway that I am not raised in Ethiopia. Most people would guess I am African; Nigerian or Jamaican (as if Ethiopia is a continent of its own). That used to upset me, until I learned to embrace it. I now love myself as an African first, then Ethiopian, then as Dutch too, since that’s where I was raised and the Dutch nationality allows me to get a visa & travel all over the world easily… Traveling broadens your perspective.
With globalization, many people all over the world used to look up to the U.S. Capitalism doesn’t respect indigenous people nor their resources. Materialism and greed exploits child labour and mother nature in an unsustainable manner. Many cultures and indigenous practices developed over ages in balance with the landscape and environment.
But, until the lion learns to speak, the tales of hunting will be weak. Racism, colourism, tribalism and neo-colonization needs to be tackled for Africans on and off the continent to live a dignified life. Unless we see our black brothers and sisters as allies, we alone cannot transform the current power structures in the world, which keeps us in a poverty trap; exporting underpriced raw products to the West and importing low quality Chinese products, we end up looking both ways. We need to add value to our products and focus more on Inter-African trade and build bridges with the Diaspora based on reciprocity and justice.
Tell us a bit about the Regina Family Center
The Regina Family Center has integrated many life skills. Going there allows me to spend quality time with my children, homeschooling, while being in nature and community. They connect to animals through horse riding and running around outdoors freely allows them to get more grounded. They are also engaged in gardening, arts, crafts and baking. Once a month I used to organize a Mindful Morning for our members. We would partake in hiking, yoga, meditation, sculpting or singing before enjoying a tasty, vegetarian brunch. Hopefully we can restart our activities in September.
You are a woman of so many passions and professions; how do you manage to have time for all these?
I feel blessed to raise my children in Ethiopia. With the support at home and a loving community, I do not have to carry the burdens alone. Most of my activities are part-time and integrated into my lifestyle. Like, I practice yoga & meditation daily and I teach a few classes a week, which helps me to stay fit. Meditation greatly improves my focus and efficiency.
Related to Ethiopian adoptees in the Diaspora, we are organized in online groups, so thanks to technology, communications do not have to take much time per sé.
As a co-founder and board member of the Regina Family Center, we used to meet weekly to support & improve the management. My tasks are usually related to writing, organizing & promoting events, which ends up taking a few hours on a weekly basis.
I try not to waste time on watching TV or on social media. Reduced screen time helps in time management.
Is there any project/cause you are significantly engaged in? Tell us about it.
Even though the Regina Family Center is currently closed for the public due to Corona, we have many pillars of focus, which we would like to expand. Since we have 5000m2 of land available, we hope the daycare will expand into a kindergarten and a wellness center; where people can take yoga and meditation workshops, enjoy the sauna and the green space of our parents’ cafe, while we focus on our healing and wellness. We would want to train nurses, midwives and teachers. Promote natural remedies and distribute organic vegetables and fruits in the near future.
Hundreds of adult Ethiopian adoptees in the Diaspora worldwide are united through a Facebook group, which I moderate. Many are still searching for their birth families. When these adoptees come to Ethiopia, they struggle with the cultural and language barriers. There is no professional support for them. International adoption adds to the braindrain and even though it officially stopped in January 2018, many are not in touch with their family of origin.
These passionate young people with a love for Ethiopia are an asset and just like any other Diaspora, they may invest, when they are given the support they need. I would love to open an Adoptee resource center, where they can reside, be linked to roots searchers, travel agencies, and language teachers to help them integrate.