Hisab (Ethiopia: 2011)


Ezra Wube

Cast list

Maaza Haile

Ashebir Kastro

Addisu Tedese


To make Hisab, Wube used paint on a single canvas. After painting a scene he photographed the finished work. In Wube's own words, "each frame was painted on top of the previous one, each scene triggering the following scene."

This short film was documented as a part of the Story Project, which was supported by the Donis A. Dondis Travel Fellowship, from Massachusetts College of Art.


Hisab is an animated film based off an Ethiopian urban folktale. This folktale tells the story of three animals, a goat, a donkey, and a dog. According to the folktale, each animal joins a shared taxi ride; the goat does not end up paying the taxi fare, while the donkey pays the exact fare, and the dog overpays. For these reasons, goats are known for running away from taxis (cars) because they're afraid of being confronted for what they owe. Donkeys stand in front of taxis (cars) and block traffic, because they believe they are even with the drivers, and dogs run after taxis (cars) in order to ask for their change back. Wube uses a vast array of colourful paints on a single canvas to bring this folktale to life. Ezra Wube created this film in order to juxtapose the traditional and modern aspects of Ethiopian culture and cities. The animals are now situated in the developing and changing environment of Addis Ababa, as seen by sharing a taxi with humans, yet their temperaments and instincts remain the same as the folktale has long described.


"This Ethiopian folktale has been told for generations (since early in the last century) to explain why certain animals act the way they do around motor vehicles. Thus dogs chase cars as if saying “You owe me money; I want my change”; goats run from cars as if plagued by persistent guilt; and donkeys, having paid the full fee, feel they have nothing to fear, and are entitled to take their time and calmly block the passage of any oncoming vehicles.

This folklore has been simultaneously preserved and given new life in the form of artist Ezra Wube’s stop-frame animation video Hisab."

Full review can be found at This Is Africa


Herrmannsen, Kyla. “Rejecting the ‘Exoticism’ of African Art / Ezra Wube at Dakar Biennale 2014.” This Is Africa Lifestyle, 23 Jan. 2018, thisisafrica.me/lifestyle/rejecting-exoticism-african-art/.

Other movies from Ethiopia made in

Title Country Year Director More infos
Hisab Ethiopia 2011 Ezra Wube
El somriure amagat (The Hidden Smile) Ethiopia 2011 Ventura Durall
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