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Steven W. Thomas, a Wagner College English professor, recently conducted an interview with Roba Bulga, the subject of a new documentary, “Jeans and Martò,” made by Italian directors Clio Sozzani and Claudia Palazzi. The documentary was featured at the African Film Festival, held last month in Manhattan.

Roba belongs to the Karrayyu tribe of the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia. He recently completed a graduate degree in Italy and currently works in Ethiopia for Slow Food International. He is one of the founders of Labata Fantalle, an organization that addresses the effects of poverty, environmental change and economic development on pastoralist communities.

In the interview, Roba and Professor Thomas discuss the economics of food production in an era of rapid globalization, as well as questions of identity, culture, poetry and film.

The interview is part of a new June 2013 issue of the webzine, Ogina: Oromo Arts in Diaspora. On Ogina’s website, you can see all of the contents of the June 2013 issue, including an essay by Steve Thomas about Ethiopia’s Red Terror. Ogina was created by the International Oromo Youth Association in 2008. Professor Thomas serves on its editorial board.

The interview with Roba Bulga was also part of a special class Professor Thomas taught this spring, which linked classrooms at Wagner’s Staten Island campus with students in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The class was created with the help of several organizations and institutions in Ethiopia: Sandscribe Communications, the Gudina Tumsa Foundation, the Mekane Yesus Seminary and Rift Valley College.

The subject of the class was “Movies, Media and Global Citizenship.” The class included 25 students from Wagner College and 25 students of Sandscribe Communications in Ethiopia. Using WebEx, an online conferencing utility, and Moodle, a course management program, the class facilitated both live and written communication between engaged learners on Staten Island and in Addis Ababa.

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