In April, 2009, Majka finished a fourteen-month speaking tour around North America for Vertical Ethiopia. She continues to book Vertical Ethiopia events and also incorporates stories from Vertical Ethiopia into other presentations. Please read more about the Vertical Ethiopia Tour Below, and about Majka’s work as a speaker here. Vertical Ethiopia Tour: Possibility, Environment, and Adventure in the Horn of Africa. In March 2007, Majka Burhardt led a team of four women on an expedition to northern Ethiopia to climb virgin sandstone towers in a region of the world known primarily for its history of drought, famine, and war. Majka’s adventures and the people, politics, and potential of Ethiopia are chronicled in her book Vertical Ethiopia: Climbing Towards Possibility in the Horn of Africa, from Shama Publishing. Vertical Ethiopia is a large-format coffee table book featuring Gabe Rogel’s stunning imagery and a series of vignettes that together reveal what it means to climb, to travel, and to explore.
In conjunction with the publication of Vertical Ethiopia, Majka spoke to over forty-five audiences throughout the United States and Canada from January 2008 to March 2009. From the Seattle IMAX Theater, to a small independent book store in Miami Beach, from crowds of 30-300, Majka’s talks run the gamut. Her presentations combine a slideshow filled with images of climbing, culture, and the immense African landscape with a narrative behind the images. As a speaker, Majka is interested in exploring new ways of understanding Ethiopia in the midst of the current global landscape where religion, politics, and landscape continually interact and react. Majka explored Ethiopia while establishing first ascents on 600’ sandstone towers. Her presentation explores Ethiopia at its multiple points of intersection with the rest of the world.
Vertical Ethiopia is a unique collaboration with an Ethiopian publishing company, Shama, a company committed to presenting Africa and Ethiopia in a more positive and realistic light. Through working with Shama, Majka learned to navigate the Ethiopian press rules in a country that has been called one of the worst in the world for freedom of the written word. In her presentation, she shares the full story of her experience—discussing various obstacles the Ethiopian press rules presented to portraying the current military offensive towards Eritrea, recent kidnappings, and the Ethiopian anti-violence movement. Thus, Vertical Ethiopia is more than a story about Ethiopia. It is a story about the making of an Ethiopian product at a time when the nation is on the brink of becoming a global industrial player while trudging through the vestiges of its communist and corrupt past.