The glory that was Ethiopia
This is an excerpt from the piece that I wrote for the Sub-Saharan Informer.I couldn’t link it as it isn’t online.
The topic may seem a little pretentious for such short article but I am hoping to expand it some time in the future.Veritas, I think this will resonate with some of the ideas you’ve raised.
For now, here you are.
Three decades after the country came around to the realization that the imperial era has irrevocably gone, a new, curious trend seems to be emerging.Books, songs, magazines, films, webpages, posters, and T-shirts are coming out in great numbers, carrying messages of past greatness, and loss of ‘those happy by-gone days.’
A cursory look at some of the films and plays that are being shown in the town may bear this out.One new Amharic film that was launched last week, March 30, ‘Icabod’, a Hebrew word meaning, ‘The glory has left’, pushes its dramatic exaggeration of melodramatic moments in word and image to recount how the country’s historic treasures taken oversees in the hands of collectors and are stored in Western museums.The viewer is inexorably dragged into a story of loss and redemption, as the fight between those ‘who commit an assault on thier country’s and those who try to stop it’ unfolds.How much this adaption represents or trivalizes the real facts could be a subject for debate but it is an interesting, telling example of the growing fascination with lost chattels and treasures.
Another stage play that is drawing a huge audience at the City Hall celebrates one of Ethiopia’s prominent historical figures, Etege Taitu.The play by the renowned director, Getnet Eneyew, is by no means a one-off in the theatre landscape -neither as far as current trends are concerned, nor from a historical perspective-although the public interest that accompnied the play make it an oustanding example of popular cultures ‘ preoccupation with historical figures.
In a pattern that fits this picture, Tatek Tadesse, a talented film director who surprised us with his premier film, Gudifecha (Adoption), is also coming up with a new film, ‘The Return of Grace’ with a theme on the revival of the ancient Axumite civilizations.
But cinema and theatre are not the only mediums where people are using to vent these feelings.Some are waxing nostalgic on the attire they are wearing.It is not uncommon to see young people wearing T-shirts, with messages like ‘Wa Gize’ (Oh, those glorious days) and the picture of Emperor Haile Sellasie.
Of course, the Lion of Judah is the most noticeable figure, reappering in books, now and then, his picture hanging in shops, bars and even on taxis.
If you visit bookshops, you will see that there are around major six books on his life that came out in the last two years, including the new one “Talak Zemen, Talak Negus, Ye Aba Tekl, Ayse Haile Sellasie (Great Times, Great King, the Rein of Haile Sellassie) that was the light of the day two weeks ago.To a degree some are finding it excessive, in some circle, Haile Sellasie being idolized; his name, image and person held in almost sacred regard.So much so that, anyone who dares to make the slightest criticism of his reign is likely to get a rebuke of the strongest type from his fervent supporters.
Considering the fact that young people who are now in mid-thirties were born the year he was deposed and even those who are in thier forties have a dim and distant memory of him, the present generation’s fascination with him seem quite curious but looking at all these, one feel that, whatever the historical importance of Ethiopia’s last Emperor, his record is having something of a permanence, something of intensity.