Home > City Journal > Of Individual liberty and writing

Of Individual liberty and writing

A few days ago I attended a conference organized by Ethiopian Writer’s Assocation on the current status and prospects of Ethiopian literature.It was held at Yared Music School where the hall was filled to capacity.Academicians, writers, journalists, publishers and literary enthusists were in attendance.A number of papers that assess the past, present and future trends of Ethiopian literature were presented.

Literature cultivate, give expressions and make sense of our experiences in a more profound way than our habits and prejudices allow.This appears to be the reason why one of the presenters, Fedade Azeze, made a plea for reevaluation of certain, habitual ways of thinking.

Dr. Fekade, who is assocate professor in the Department of Ethiopian Languages and Literature at Addis Ababa University, spoke on principles of compostion and the need for the development of framework.It was a speech that stimulated us to stretch our thinking beyond collectivism that have thwarted us in recent years.

For him, the writing compostion prevalent in the country is characterized by a flawed ideologies, a kind that has its base on generalization and subservience of the individual to a group.

Dr. Fekade laments the habit of speaking collectively and treating people as homogenous entities which stifle individuality and diversity.He says people can and must have  autonomy if we are to create an environment in which individuals and neighbourhoods can thrive.

“Discussions about development, country, identity, human beings, Ethiopia and its people etc are made in a lopsided manner, damping indigenous knowledge, tradition and mores.When principles are imported from foreign countries, there is a tendency of adopting in the wholesale,” he argues. Adding that,”The educated class is alienated from the public that it aspires to change and reform.This way of thinking interms of generalization and labels bring about the act of presenting random and often bizarre opinions as the voice of the people.

Dr. Fekade states for the last three decades any talk of an individual progress and development was muted.”A lot more could have been achieved if individual voices were heard and diversity promoted.The public would have come with broad and vigorous ideas that take into consideration of the local context and situation.”says Dr. Fekade who is also a folklorist who has taught and conducted research on Ethiopian folklore.

One of his books is entitled  “Unheared voices:drought, famine and God in Ethiopian oral poetry.”

He calls this “herd mentality” resulted in producing a generation whose autonomy is constircted and embraced a dangerous notion_he or she has the solution to everyone’s problem.As individuals are denied thier freedom and liberty, ‘the production hasn’t fruitful’.

“The writer should aspire to bring this mess and crisis to light, show the upheaval struggle people make to rediscover themselves and identity, produce wrtings that go beyond carrying themes of lamentation and “My God, why me ” sort of mentality.

Besides, Dr.Fekade, adds we should aspire to produce works that aims not to lavish one another with flatter or praise but that encourages to open free inquiry and critical spirit.When it comes to integrity, we should muster the courage to call a spade a spade, he says.

Everything in our society just now emphasizes the conceptual, abstract, manipulative side of men.But only in litertature, in the courages novels and stories, plays, and essays and films, is justice done to a man’s inner life, full paradox of his condition, the uniqeness, and concretness of his being.

Categories: City Journal
  1. June 18, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Hi Aref,
    Nice post love all your entries is it true that you are no longer working for SSI?

  2. June 18, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I was really struck by the phrase “themes of lamentation” and I wonder how much of this is in the collective mentality. I recently visited Ethiopia and as a foreigner, I was disturbed by the prevalence of begging. I sincerely love Ethiopia and my own perception was of a country of awesome beauty and of people bubbling with the energy of potential. It saddened me to see the “poor me” attitude. I don’t by any means intend to deny the appalling suffering, but if any people lose sight of the immense dignity and power of the human spirit, the sparkling greatness within every individual, then they are lost. I got so many glimpses into the unique lives of Ethiopians quickly masked by a sort of false modesty and humility that I found difficult and frustrating. I would love to read more of your thoughts on this idea!

  3. June 19, 2007 at 4:13 am

    I love this post, thanks.
    When I was in Ethiopia, a year and a half ago, I was able to buy Dr. Fekade book, Unheared voices:drought, famine and God in Ethiopian oral poetry, it is a wonderful book, I highly recommend it.

    Kati correctly observed Ethiopian (some) begging mentality. I believe not only the citizens but also the government perfected this begging mentality or “themes of lamentation”.

  4. Yaya
    June 19, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    I think there is this “poor me” attiude because our conditions are so desperate, our consciousness filled by loss of hope. We tend to regard the present and the future in sad and somber terms.

  5. Arefe
    June 19, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks all.I’m truly pleased with the number of readers who are taking the time to post commments.For Kati’s question, the presenter of the lecture,Dr. Fekade is aware of this discussion and I hope he will drop in here to elaborate on his points.
    Menyelenal, I will call you and let you know what happpened.

  6. July 9, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Yaya expressed exactly what I find sad in Ethiopia. Yes, the conditions of too many are quite desperate. However, I also know that there are many individuals in Ethiopia filled with hope, who have claimed their individual power of creative energy, who continue to work, with the goals of expressing themselves, bettering their own lives and those of others around them. The “poor me” attitude is found in many variations everywhere in the world, in rich and poor. If all one’s focus is on what is lacking, one cannot hope to even see the great potential, the exciting energy and humour, the creative innovations that are possible. I saw this too in Ethiopia and want to encourage those who have turned their focus from “poor me” to fight on. Ethiopia has a great history, great resources, great traditions, great people and great natural beauty. Focus on that!

  7. Dagmawi
    July 12, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Despite the overwelming reality of economic decline :despite unimaigable poverty,Ethiopian cultural productivity grows apace.Popular literature, oral literature and poetry, dance ,drama, music and visual arts all thrive.

  8. July 12, 2007 at 2:30 pm

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  9. Beza
    July 18, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Your posts are always importand and a delight to read. Thanks.

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