UW News

February 18, 2010

HFS staffer Yadesa Bojia celebrated for designing striking new African Union flag

UW News

It was a huge honor to have his design selected as the new flag of the African Union and to watch as the flag was presented at the recent African Union Summit, says Yadesa Bojia, a graphic designer in Housing and Food Services.

But Bojia — whom campus friends call Yaddi — said the true extent of the honor was made even more clear the day after the ceremony.

“I was going the next day to the African Union for a meeting and there was this marching band that played for the presidents (of the African nations), and as I was passing by they stopped what they were playing and ran over — they all wanted to take photos with me. And their leader was right in front of them.”

The band breaking ranks for his attention was only part of a whirlwind experience that included Bojia, his wife, Hewan, and young children Becca and Isaiah meeting the president of Ethiopia and his attending the African Summit. Bojia said he also stood right behind Libyan President Mouammar Kadhafi, outgoing president of the African Union, as he hoisted the new flag for the first official time.

The African Union is an intergovernmental organization created in 2002 from the former Organization of African Unity. The union comprises 53 states and is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bojia said he created his design in response to a 2006 worldwide announcement that the union was seeking a new flag. In all, 116 potential flag designs were submitted and a committee overseeing creation of the new flag chose five finalists, including his design. Then his was chosen from among the finalists.

Bojia’s winning flag design shows the continent of Africa silhouetted against a background of lush green, surrounded by thin shafts of light and ringed with a circle of stars. He said he wanted his design to be “forward-looking” rather than to dwell on the past. The flag, he said, is meant to symbolize “a new day for Africa” — as well as “unity, hope and prosperity” for the African Union. He said he sketched out four or five ideas before deciding on a final design.

Bojia was born in Ethiopia and came to the United States in 1995. He earned an associate of arts degree in graphic design from Seattle Central Community College and then a bachelor’s degree in visual communication from Seattle Pacific University.

In addition to his design work for Housing and Food Services, Bojia also helped design and illustrate the Pacific Science Center’s 2008 Lucy’s Legacy exhibit. A painting of his titled The Invisibles also was used as a poster by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and another painting, The Messengers, hangs in the Supreme Court of Washington’s Temple of Justice.

Bojia said he got interested in art as a child, and the murals in Ethiopian Orthodox churches — filled with bold lines and vibrant colors — captured his imagination.

He said if there’s anything that took him by surprise, it was the level of feeling regarding an Ethiopian design being chosen as the flag to represent all of Africa. “I did not realize the amount of pride that it brought to Ethiopia,” he said, clearly pleased.

His colleagues at Housing and Food Services are pleased for him, too — and proud. “We couldn’t be more excited and proud of Yaddi,” said Pam Schreiber, HFS director. “He is such a talented designer and it is so appropriate that he received this recognition. HFS is fortunate to have him on our team!”