Kiri Kari by Sergio Bang

Posted by Stefan Henry on

For our latest interview I had the opportunity to talk with visual artist Sergio Martinez aka Sergio Bang. His latest series titled “Kiri Kari” offers a vivid and intimate perspective of Ethiopian culture through photography, film, as well as detailed drawings. During the opening reception at Minimal tattoo shop/gallery , one couldn’t help but be immersed by the beautiful imagery of the various tribes of Ethiopia. I was intrigued to learn more about Sergio’s experience abroad and am grateful for him taking the time to share space with me. After meeting Sergio it became clear why his images felt so warm and welcoming. His art and perspective is simply a reflection of who he is at the core. 

1.) In your recent series “Kiri-Kari” , you have a beautiful display of photography all based in Ethiopia. What inspired the trip to Ethiopia and how long were you there?

Sergio: Like all important discoveries, it began with love. I met a woman who was born and raised in Ethiopia, whose mother is Ethiopian and father is Ghanaian. We spent a lot of time together and became very close. We both learned a lot from each other. I taught her about Andalusian culture and gypsy life, and she spoke to me about Ethiopia.

I had always been interested in visiting Africa but didn't know where to go. I began to research Ethiopia more deeply and found that some tribes I had been interested in for a long time, due to their incredible artistic expressions, were from this southern part of the country.

2.) What does Kiri-Kari mean ?

Sergio: Kiri Kari is a word in the Suri language that means "let's go together."

3.) Were all of these images shot on film ?

Sergio: Most of them were taken with film, except for two of them which were digital.


4.) Out of curiosity, what camera/cameras did you shoot with as well as the lenses?

Sergio: I had a Leica M10 with a Sumilux 50mm lens, a Contax T3 35mm for quick shots, and a Fujiga for 120mm.

5.) Your work in this series seems to have a certain color story/theory. Can you tell me more about it? 

Sergio: I wanted the images to respond to the sensations that I had. This resulted in a selection of photographs that incline towards warm and sober colors.

6.) In your work I see mostly images of women and children , was there a particular reason why you chose them as subjects?

Sergio: One of the surprises upon arriving was that the most hospitable people, and the people with whom I became the closest, were the women, especially in the Harar region, Dere Dewa and Southern Nations. The strength and beauty of these women, along with the liveliness of the children, captivated me much more than that of the men.



7.) From looking at the images and videos, the tribes seemed to welcome you with open arms. How was your experience interacting with different tribes in Ethiopia and what did you learn from them? 

Sergio: I come from a very hot neighborhood and area in Spain, we are on the border with Africa and our climate and way of life is all about street culture, dance and closeknit community. That helped me a lot because people tend to notice when you have that
memory of the sun inside you and it made our connection deeper and interaction more open and direct. I found that we had more similarities than differences.

8.) Did your trip to Ethiopia and experiencing it’s culture shift your perspective on how you view American culture ? If so, can you specify any particular moments where this shift occurred?


Sergio: Definitely - I've been through this at many points. I remember the first time I arrived in the US, without realizing it I was getting drunk almost every day and I hated what I saw - the excess, the lack of direction, the lack of commitment and the production without a path. The second time was different, I felt a much greater commitment, deep within myself, of being a person with interests and talents in a place in the world where

carrying them out and developing them is possible.
In Africa, as well as in other places in the world, there are incredible talents, and it is very sad that they remain silent. This is how the world is, there is a definite luck factor in where you are born. It would be a such a shame and a waste for myself, as someone who has been fortunate enough to be given opportunities and skills, to not use them. and to not benefit those people with whom I laughed, danced and eaten with.
Now I respond less to giving into impulses and stupid obligations of immediate pleasures that I was more or less trapped in.

9.) Do you plan on returning to Ethiopia anytime soon ?

Sergio: Yes, now I am learning one of the main languages, Amharic, I am taking classes with a friend there via video call. I am planning to go for two months this time.

10.) Aside from photography, you’re also a tattoo artist. How long have you been tattooing ?

Sergio: I have been tattooing for 8 years.

11.) Are you working on any new projects or collaborations ?

Sergio: Yes, I have two.

12.) For those who may not know, where can we find more of your work ? 

Sergio: My work can be found via Instagram at @sergio.bang and for tattooing at @minimalnyc_tattoo