Home > Comment > “Ethiopians should find thier own medicine.”

“Ethiopians should find thier own medicine.”

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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)

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Categories: Comment
  1. Tsegaye
    March 2, 2009 at 9:57 am

    That is a good point.
    Not all Ethiopians but some confused people in Addis, thinking they are civilized are celebrating Santa but also valentine.
    They don’t even know what to do on Valentine day and there was a magazine has been prescribing of what to do for the day.
    But these are some self-styled modern people; the mass has no interest in this. Bless their heart.

  2. sin
    March 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

    it is poverty that is headache for ethiopians, not a goddoma culture!

  3. Yaya
    March 2, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I agree with Haile. We should take at least an hour a day to listen to our grandma and dad.

  4. Fikir
    March 2, 2009 at 10:58 am

    To be honest with you i stll belive that Spinoza is beter phillsopher than zerayakob.

  5. Laley
    March 3, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Haile doesn’t like santa and valentine.so we’ve got a taliban here.Tell him to move to Afganistan where he will recive a warm welcome.

  6. Tizita
    March 3, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Yah, Santa is None of Our Business. …

  7. Ermeyas
    March 7, 2009 at 5:24 am

    How about those who worship European footballers?
    They are a much more source of annoyance than those the few who pretend to take excitement in Santa celebration.
    We have young people who squander their thoughts and devotion to Manchester United and Arsenal than their daily affairs. Our radios and TV FMs dedicate the lion’s share of their pogroms to such commentaries.

  8. ETENU
    March 7, 2009 at 6:54 am

    HAILE GERIMA, PLEASE MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN TO ETHIOPIANS, I WANT MY CHILDREN TO KNOW THERE IS AN ETHIOPIAN FILM MAKER,I WAS SO ASHAMED OF MY SELF WHEN A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR FROM GHANA ADMIRED THE FILM ‘SANKOFA” AND ASKED IF I WENT TO DOWNTOWN SEATLLE TO SEE IT. I WAS SPEECHLESS WHEN HE MENTIONED THE FACT THAT IT WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY AN ETHIOPIAN. WHERE DOES MR HAILE LIVE AND HOW COULD WE GET TO SEE HIM, I AM TIRED OF MY KIDS ADMIRING DENZEL WAHINGTON, WILL SMITH, BRAD PITT ETC. HOW DO WE KNOW SUCH DYNAMIC ETHIOPIANS EXIST, SOME OF US ARE SO CONSUMED IN THIS CULTURE OF SANTA CLAUS, I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO GO BACK AND MAKE CHANGES. I WANT CHRISTMAS TO BE LIKE ”GENNA”AND EASTER TO BE LIKE FASICA. WE CHILDREN OF THE ETHIOPIAN DIASPORA NEED SOMEONE WHO COULD CONNECT US TO OUR PAST.MAY BE INDIVIDUALS LIKE HAILE SHOULD INCITE ALL OF US THROUGH SOME KIND OF NETWORK. I WANT TO WRITE HAILE, WHERE DOES HE LIVE?
    MANY THANKS HAILE FOR SANKOFA AND THE REST OF YOUR MOVIES, PLEASE MAKE MOVIES ABOUT OUR PAST GR8 KINGS, ATSE TEWODROS,MENELIK AND THE MAN WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE KING OF ETHIOPIA ”IYASU”. I JUST WANT TO SHARE WITH EVERYONE THAT I JUST FINISHED READING A BOOK ABOUT TEWODROS, ”TANGUT”IS THE NAME, IT IS IN AMHARIC, EVERYONE SHOULD OWN THAT BOOK, IT IS A MUST HAVE, IT IS ABOUT TEWODROS. MAY BE HAILE NEEDS TO READ IT, IT WOULD MAKE A GOOD MOVIE. AFFECTIONS

  9. Fabay
    March 11, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I agree with Haile100%!!! There is poverty in Ethiopia but we can over come with commitment and hard work! For once instead of focusing on what Ethiopia lacks, focus on what you can do or what you are doing to solve the problems!

  10. wongale zerihun
    November 12, 2009 at 7:36 am

    U r right pr.Haile and it is good to have a person like u but I am afraid that we Ethiopian’s have a poor understanding on history. What i want to say is that we like to talk about our history but we can’t reapt it. Talking is not doing so please weak up everybody!!! We have to develop our positive thinking, we have to appritiate our friends, our childrens…. it really brings hope for the next movement.

    Thank you for loving Ethiopia!!

  11. Swethio Trading
    December 13, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Prof. Haile Gerima god bless you !

  12. Yoseph Aklilu
    February 9, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    AS TO ME, HAILES’ EYEGLASS SHOULD BE WORE BY EACH AND EVERY ETHIOPIAN TO GET SUCH KIND OF CLEAR PERSPECTIVE AND FIND “OUR OWN MEDICINE’ TO THE KIND OF MISAPPREHENSION THAT IS GOING ON IN AND AROUND EACH OF US!!

  13. J
    March 21, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Ethiopia is large and complex nation.
    This complexity was handled well by great leaders i.e. Teodros, Minilik and the like.

    However, now we are seeing the most unvisionary kind of leadership that totally shorsighted, the notion of having a great nation as Ethiopia run on a federal or “divide and rule tactic” is but suicidal to the future existence of current ethiopia.

    Mark my word, unless we return to the One Ethiopia, One Nation frame of Mindset and reclaim that Identity and control, we are but heading to a divided, rootles, defragmented Eth – iop – ia …people.

    Get Back that Right.

  14. Safiya
    May 1, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Haile Gerima is a man from a privileged background in Gondor. Many Ethiopians of his generation did not have the opportunity to be educated at all and he complains that he was educated by peace corp volunteers about the American revolution!! Does he not understand that many poor ethiopian kids would have loved to have the opportunity to go to school even if it is one designed by the British? Be thankful the peace coprs volunteers bothered to educate you and prepared you for better things in America.

    Had his educated peers paid attention to the details of the American revolution maybe they would not have been drawn to the chaos of Marxism Leninsm-look at the problems this caused our country. If we a revolution like the American revolution, we would have been a better country.

    Also, the history we were taught about Ethiopia is either false or destructive anyway a Do you really think we descended from Solomon and Sheba? how more false can that get? What do we have to learn from Tewdros or Minilik but war lordism and imperialism. I admire George Washington-he was a giant-a military genius who gave up his presidency after two terms so democracy can flourish. Can you imagine Tewdros or Minilik doing that?

    As for Santa Claus and so on-well I have to agree to a certain degree with him, but Santa harmless as is Valentine’s day. Haile sounds like the character in Teza who was criticizing a lady who was wearing make up during a student self criticism session LOL.

    I wish I can like you haile, but every time you speak, I feel sad and realize you are just another confused diaspora Abesha dreaming about the glories of our inglorious past and ranting about the westerners.

    Selam beterefe

  15. Semai Mesfin
    October 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Teaching the masses about what is sociologically considered Ethiopian and differentiating that from other societies, i.e. western, not only shows that we have an appreciation for our history but it also solidifies us as individuals by giving us a place to start from. For most Africans, history starts with slavery or colonial times, because we are bombarded by hard documents rather than ‘afe-tarique’. Every story that is told about how we came to today should be critically examinied by each of us and we should all adapt our own truths, but our first teachers should be our first caregivers. I find it much easier to see myself through another Ethiopian, rather than someone whose reality is far from mine. I look around me and I see westerners whose understanding of their history is readily available for them at the touch of a keyboard or with the accessibilty of family members that surround them, and suddenly I find myself lost. I choose to be here for now, but I know I have a war to settle within myself. Haile has his movies as weapons and I will soon have my own. Haile, you are a gem!

  16. henok haile
    December 1, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Prof. Haile, we are proud of you! [[Ysayinsum medhanit lamenebet new yemiseraw!!!!]] {Teza}

  17. December 20, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Simple wonderful truth are expressed here.
    When was this article written?

  18. December 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

    This article expresses concisely why we need ETHIOPIAN MEDICINE from one of the many viewpoints … I love this article

  19. yOHANS BArak
    March 6, 2012 at 10:07 am

    We have our own medicine aND WE HAVE TO PRACTICE IT,BUT i HAVE DOUGHT ABOUT THE PRISTS OR MERIGETAS OF ETHIOPIA THEY HAVE FULL OF MIKENGNET THEY HAVE TO SHARE THE KNOWLEDGE WHAT THEY SHARE FROM THE THE OTHER PASSED PEOEPLE.iF IS PRACTICED THROUGHLY IT WILL BE GOOD TO CREAT AND DEVELOP NEW MEDICINE….

  20. DANIEL TILAHUN
    June 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Prof. Haile Gerima! VIVA!!!…maybe one day if GOD say so…WE ARE ABEL TO PRODUCE OUR OWN MEDICINE SOON OR LATER…IT DOES NOT MATTER, BUT I KNOW IN MY HEART THAT WE SHOULD BE SOME WHAT BETTER FROM WHAT WE ARE NOW!!!..MUCH SICKENS IS GOING HERE AND THERE IN THE NATION…..OH GOD SEND US A MEDICINE TO CURE THE PAIN OF MAMA ETHIOPIA!!!

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