“Ethiopians should find thier own medicine.”
Prof. Haile Gerima said Ethiopians should find their own medicine as he has done himself for the cultural dislocation that he says is responsible for the “demented” course of Ethiopian modernization.
“What I am saying is that I am not going to tell other Ethiopians about their culture. I don’t have medicine for other Ethiopians. I am making my own medicine, “Teza”, “Adwa”, “Sankofa”. I am healed through the films I have made,” the filmmaker said in a wide-ranging interview with the monthly magazine, Focus.
Haile told the interviewer that his Adwa is his therapy, his medicine. “I made a medicine out of Adwa so that it helps me regain myself; the things I lost. I taped my father telling me things I missed. When the Derge came, it destroyed generational transactional relationship with our parents.So my father was here while I was in America.I had to snatch him, bring him here. I had to tape him a lot to understand what I lost,” he recalled.
Haile said it had been disheartening to see people obsessed with the western culture. “Why do Ethiopians under the equator worship Santa Clause? Under the equator you should melt down. He is for people who are In the northern snow, who cannot get out of the house who fantasized the idea of Santa but Ethiopians are so flipped up side down that they are walking around Christmas trees with the idea of Santa clause?” he wondered.
According to Haile starting from the British design of the Ethiopian educational system in the 1940’s, young people were contaminated by the false notion of Europeanizing themselves. “It was an invisible cultural colonialism teaching the children of Ethiopia to hate the past, to hate everything Ethiopian, to die and integrate the whole demented idea of modernization.
The American Peace Corps were teaching us about the American Revolution. We were studying Kentucky and Chicago rather than Gojjam or Jimma.”
Hence the disaster Ethiopia is facing up to now is the results of the displacement of traditional Ethiopian good culture, said Haile.
Haile also lambasted politicians who he says are “only liars.” “Politics is an art of deception,” he added.
Describing the influence his dramatist father Gerima Tafere had on him, Haile said it was basically from the point view of history telling. “He was a great story teller not only by writing plays, even in the town of Gonder he was known to be what I would call the wax and gold. He was very deep In the Amharic language and spoke in metaphors and symbolism about the political time, the community and the culture.’
Haile also acknowledged his grandmother “who is a Gondere and Wolloye and was my childhood story teller.”
Asked if he was “a bit eccentric’, Haile said “I don’t know. I have never heard of this but it is nice. I would like to think about it and know. At this time I would say to you, I’m not eccentric.”
Haile said he is a fun loving person. He likes jokes like his father. He doesn’t’ spend time in stupid parties or big weddings.
“I sit down with four, five Ethiopians and talk and have fun. I like to spend time laughing and I spend time cooking for my children. Is that eccentric? No, “ Haile concluded.
(Photo, Les nouvelles d’Addis)