post Patron Saint of Parchment

May 7th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 13:39

The Patron Saint of Parchment
To the Old Scribes of Ethiopia

Although I never met my grandfather, I still have an enduring image of him. He sits on a piece of wood, under a tree. Grey beard on his face, white turban on his head. Head bowed in concentration, writing on the parchment in his lap.

They say he used them all. Goat, cow, horse, antelope, sheep, leopard, as well as lion. In life, the lion has the top ranking - Sovereign of all Savannas. But in death, my grandfather favoured goat. With the words of the Saints and Apostles, he crowned the goatskin King. Gazelle was a favourite also, but gazelle was Crown Prince to the goat.

Goat hide though strong has a softness too. A good absorber of ink. Perfect ingredients for parchment.

Apparently, in the hides initial water treatment, the smell wasn’t easy on the nostrils. The odour of things being removed, went gatecrashing through the village.

Then the stretching. Hide taut on a wooden frame. Larger frames were constructed for horseskin. Horsehide being the number one choice for larger volumes; tomes of ecclesiastical topics. He used pumice, ejecting the remnants of skin and hair. Using knife and water to remove the residue.

After the cleaning, the frame is placed high against a wall; so the sun can shine upon it. A time to dry. Dry season time.

When the cleaning of the flesh side comes to an end, the shaving of the other side begins. The return of pumice use. Through the diligence of the cleaning, the sun waits patiently, to conclude the whole process.

After the final drying, it was cut to required lengths; ready to be written on.

I was told of his skill in ink-making, renowned throughout the area. Black ink, from this concotion and that one, all mixed with water. Charcoal of leaves from a certain tree, mingling with juice from another: fused with a brew of burnt barley. Or soot from the pot-bottom, mixed with gum, kneaded with a portion of wheat. An uncle once told me grandfather used red pepper and egg yolk, red earth and gum, mixed in a bowl and beaten in a mortar; the making of red ink. Red ink – the names of Jesus and Mary, the Angels and Disciples. Whether black ink or red, the process culminated in a cake. When needed, he would cut a piece of cake, dissolving it in water. Then exposed to the sun, stirred by a fragment of wood.

Down to the river he’d go. To cut the reed to carve the pen. Cut in bunches, left to dry, until their time of use.

Sitting to write, his ink horn beside him. Horn of goat, antelope or cow. Horn submerged in mud for seven days. To soften it for the cutting and shaving. The lower part shaped to a point, so grandfather could place it in the ground alongside him.

My mother said he often spoke of Emperor Kaleb, who gave up the honour and became a hermit. Of the Nine Saints, who he believed to be the Original Scribes. But most of all he spoke of St.Yared, great musician and first genius of Ethiopia. She said he liked to copy the words of Yared, more than anyone else.

I wish I could have seen his hands. To have watched them, to have held them, to have photographed them. At least I have that eternal image of him. Sitting in quiet concentration, under the Tree of the Scribe. The tree where he spent half of his adult life.

Because he had a reputation for kindness, his generosity something of legend, he comes to me like the Patron Saint of Parchment.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011

post Espionage Teens

April 17th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 14:40

Summra, 11 years old, wrote a book with a title “Espionage Teens” as she was 10. The book is recently published. We want to thank Summra that she shared her story with Lissan readers. Above all, we want to encourage her to keep on following her dreams and her literary talent.

Summra’s message
I’m 11 years old student of Elizabeth Lane Elementary School in Charlotte, NC. I want to encourage children by staying at school and to start working on what they want to be.

“The dictionary is one of the key ingredients of your knowledge”.


I wrote a fiction book called, “Espionage Teens” when I was 10 years old and published in February 2011.

“Like the fish’s bubbles in the water, ideas are popped up in the children’s mind”.

I’m dedicating this book to those children who do have a talent and don’t get a chance like me and to put and share their ideas in their own way. To all readers, especially my friends (children of the world) who read this book: we have the talent and skill to express in our own way and share ideas and take charge of our future by avoiding drugs, alcohol and adult films and controlling the time we spend in video games.

I wrote a book because I wanted children to know that no matter what you want to be, achieve your goal and don’t let people’s idea’s let you down but follow your dreams.


Summra Akale
April 16, 2011

post The Barefoot Man

April 17th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 13:22

Song of the Barefoot Man
to the Karanga of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean 31st Independence Anniversary Celebrations. To Christine Chambers also, for her guidance through the African School O.Y. P. A. accreditation process.

It is time to remove my shoes again, to make the sacred journey. Drought is upon us, so I must go again to Matonjeni Shrine. I go to represent my people; to intercede for the Karanga. We are a group within the Shona. I go to plea for rain. I go without food or water.

Ascending the hill, reverance controlling my every movement. I place my offerings, donated by the villagers. Then kneeling, facing away from the entrance of the cave. I ask the Creator, who we call Mwari, to remember us and bless us with rain. I am the messenger, titled Manyusa. I am the Ambassador of Rain. Because we dream of corn and yearn for sadza.

We have been builders of state and empire. Great Zimbabwe, Mwenemutapa; the Rozvi state of Changamire Dombo. But still I must go with unshod feet, to the hills we call Matobo. I am the chosen one, the message-bearer. So there will be pumpkin and also cucumber. I go to speak of rain. The delegate of drought, sent by the Karanga.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post Gourd and Goatskin

April 17th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 12:29

When we talk of the Senegambia and it’s people, we tend to think only of the Mandinka, Wolof and Fulani. Here is something about the Jola and their ancient instrument of strings.

Gourd and Goatskin
to the Jola of Senegal

To make her heart ting-a-ling
He’s been practising when he can.
In between help in the rice fields
He’s been playing Akonting.

Neck made of bamboo
Body of gourd and goatskin.
Instrument of three strings
For his verses of love brand new.

Ancient ‘banjo’ of the Jola
Will it help the young man tonight?
A gift of song to his beloved
Prayers to Ata Emit the Creator.

The Jola have been here forever
Peaceful makers of palm oil.
Centuries before the Fulani
Who came in after Mandinka.

For her parents he’s bought palm wine
A songbook of melodies for her.
Of two people moving together
Eternal ballad of intertwine.

On the banks of the Casamance River
While Ata Emit is painting sunset.
A young man sings his heart out
To his dream of a lifetime partner.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post The Humble Barber

March 29th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 18:32

The Humble Barber

to the people of Ile-Ife

I’m just a humble barber
Yet Ogun always blesses my tools -
The scissors and the razor.
Spirit of iron and metallurgy
Of he who hunts the antelope
And he who drives a taxi.

Watching over my cutting in the morning
Still awake
When I cut at night.
Above me
Watching over the engine
And the pilot of the flight.

He of the mighty machete
Who cut the path to Ile-Ife
Heartland of the Yoruba.
I hear them calling his name;
The blacksmith and the mechanic
The engineer as well as the butcher.

At the shrine in my house
I celebrate him every day
Before the jobs of cut and shave.
I have done so since I remember
I’ll continue to do so
Until they take me to my grave.

At the annual Olojo Festival
The biggest of all our festivities
All of Ife remember him.
Some bringing palm wine
Others kola nut or plantain
I with a gourd of roasted yam.

To thank him for giving me customers
As well as a steady hand
So there’s always food for my family.
Heading the procession are the priests
Plus the dignitaries
Preceded by the Ooni.

In a field this morning
I heard the hunters
Singing their songs called Igala.
And in this procession now
Someone leads the singing
Accompanied by the drummers.

They lay their offerings first
The Ooni and the others
Those first in the line.
When laying my roasted yams
My heart wells up
Kneeling at Okemogun Shrine.

I feel privileged to be a Heartland Man
A resident of Ile-Ife
Where Oduduwa first laid his earthly head.
I’ll never be a rich man
But I am a contented one
Working in my barbers shed.

So I pray to the Great Master of Metals
Lighthouse to the ship
Watchtower to the incoming plane.
To watch over the Yoruba
Keep a vigil over Nigeria
Till I come to Okemogun Shrine again.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post Honoured by the Ashanti

March 17th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 11:07

to the Akan of Ghana

No one will cut me today. Those without breath shall not be placed within me. For they say I was created on Thursday: by God whom they call Nyame.

No farmer will use his hoe. Nor shall any tree be felled. Because today is the day of my ‘birth’. They call me Asase Yaa; some know me as Mother Earth.

I always give them yam and plantain. But today is my day of rest. The farmer and I will awake tomorrow; shining at our best.

Blood is poured on me. The flesh is mixed with yam. At the four corners of the farm, they deposit this fusion. It is planting time, so they have come to ask permission.

Like dutiful children they come to me; their humble petition. For protection from snakebite. To assist in cultivation. They come with a gift of water. To pay homage by libation.

And when a girl begins to become a women. Her mother will go around, informing the village of that new fact. Then she’ll return to pour wine over me. Invoking Nyame, myself and her ancestry.

They ask permission also, when it is time to put someone inside me. In a hole called peace. I become tomb. So many inside me. I am the Final Room.

When someone’s word is in doubt. Needing to prove themselves right: before their blood begins to boil. They get on their knees and touch me; their lips against the soil.

They have another name for me. They call me Aberewa – the Old Woman. But they are always respectful, reverential. The People of Gentle Petition.

I’m glad to be their Mother. To nourish and to nurture. I know I’ve been blessed by Nyame. So I’ll enjoy my sacred day celebrations. Honoured by the Ashanti.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post The Girl and the Sapling

March 7th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 21:27

The Girl and the Sapling

A Poem for Voices
to the Ndembu of Zambia

Brother: My sister’s breasts have begun to grow. So it’s time for her Nkanga: creating excitement throughout the villages.

Nkongu: I am the chosen woman. The Nkongu, chosen to guide her out of girlhead. Under the young mudyi tree and in seclusion; from there on into womanhood.

Mother: We have trampled an area around the special sapling. A circle consecrated, waiting to receive you. Come little heartbeat of mine. It is your turn now. We are here, to escort you through to womankind.

Nkongu: Into the matrilineage.

Ist Woman: Times to celebrate.

2nd Woman: Times to cry.

3rd Woman: Sometimes girl, you’ll wish that you could fly.

Brother: My own transistion, from boyhood to the beginning of manhood, also began there. Under the mudyi tree. They cut me there, in my time called Mukanda.

Mother: I will be complicit in your death today, little heartbeat, to raise you again at nightfall.

1st Woman: Wrapped in a blanket, she must lay all day and she cannot speak.

2nd Woman: Yes, she must lay all day, no food between her cheeks.

3rd Woman: Lay all day; immobile as funeral teak.

Nkongu: We will sing around her; our invitation to an initiate

Mother: We will dance around her; our welcoming party to womanhood.

Nkongu: Under the tree that will bestow white sap. Until twilight, she will lay quiet and still like stone. Soon, both the girl and the sapling, will be offerers of milk.

Mother: Under the mudyi, the Sacred Milk Tree; where our ancestress slept and received the first instruction, the original blessing. Watch over her Nzambi. Ancestress, please help her when she asks you for it. Let there be respect always, between her and her husband. Let her heartbeat not cease before mine.

Nkongu: And after this, onward to the place of seclusion.

1st Woman: Away from this spot of suffering, called ihungu.

2nd Woman: To the teachings from us and the great Nkongu.

3rd Woman: To emerge sometime later, a woman of Ndembu.

Mother: I shall prepare cassava and beans.

1st Woman: We shall brew millet beer……

2nd Woman: To make libation……

3rd Woman: For all to enjoy and share.

1st Woman: So women of the next village……

2nd Woman: And those in the next village to you……

3rd Woman: We invite you to celebrate with us, a new woman of Ndembu.

Brother: She will be gone from here soon and I will miss her, my younger sister. After today,she’ll go to seclusion, then onto marriage; to the house of betrothed husband. Alongside blood, there must be milk.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.

post Magicians of Indigofera

March 1st, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 11:46

Magicians of Indigofera
to the Master Dyers of Kano

We’ve become Magicians Of Indigofera.
Those of us who have worked long,
At the pits of Kofa Mata.

I was seventy-five two days ago.
And since the age of six,
I have worked the dye pits of Kano.

Everyday I have dipped and soaked.
To embellish the turban,
The robe and the cloak.

Here comes the Tuareg man.
Here comes the men of the Emir.
Here comes the humble Mallam.

These pits five centuries old.
Indigo, water, potassium and ash;
The craft of working blue gold.

Recognised trademark of the Hausa
To the blue- robed black- turbanned men,
Away across the Sahara.

These pits six metres deep,
Have bestowed upon me dignity,
Blessed my children with peaceful sleep.


Many elders have seen their last sun.
Ancient skills gone elsewhere.
Where are their sons and grandsons?

The Battles of the Foreign Fabrics
Have taken them away from here,
To try other trades and tactics.

Though the foreign cloth is cheaper,
Magnet for the poor man;
Our hand-woven cloth is stronger.

So many pits lying fallow,
Full of rubbish and of stones;
I cry for you great Kano.

I work beside the crumbling walls.
Alongside the disused pits,
Diminished piles of indigo balls.

Ancient Brew of Indigo Blue.
From the dye pits of Kofa Mata,
From the weaver to me to you.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post The Beautiful Gatherer

February 20th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 18:58

The Beautiful Gatherer
To the Hadza of Tanzania, amongst the last of the hunter-gatherers of Africa

I think of Amama as the Beautiful Gatherer. Although she could forage better than anyone else, she would still work at the task, longer than any other woman. But she could never eat it all. My Amama gathered to give. So everyone could eat baobab fruit and undushipi berries.

She made me dolls of clay. I saw them emerge from nothing. I thought she had sprinkled them with secret dust and chanted a special blessing. I’ve always treasured those dolls; hoping my children will value them also.

Amama, scarred by snakebite and thornbush. Scarred by the loss of Koku. Too old to climb; fell from a baobab tree, trying to bring her a gift of honey. In my culture, husbands and wives often come and go, but Amama and Koku stayed together. The Beautiful Gatherer and the Valiant Hunter.

She was there throughout the Mai-to-ko. I was covered in animal fat, bedecked in beads. She laughed with me, as I sang and danced. She was there at the cutting. Holding me after, as I wept, then smiled. Things never seemed so bad, when you were in Amamas embrace.

Animal fat again. Used this time, to soften antelope skin. My first skirt of impala, embellished by shells and beads. Beads chosen by me, sewn on by Amama. I walked around in radiant parade, shining like the Ishoko.

I still wear the necklace that she made for me, using zebra bones, Maasai beads and porcupine quills.

I remember the many times, weaker-muscled, helping her pound baobab seeds and marula nuts; then falling asleep in her arms.

Today, we laid her in her hut and set it on fire. Then we turned and walked away, leaving that place.

Over time, we have become experts of movement. To a place of berries or a colony of weaver birds. To a place over there where the tubers are. To a site we have settled before. But today, we moved because of Amama. My Amama, who remains my guiding star: throughout the Serengeti, along the shoreline of Lake Eyasi. My template for dignified womanhood.

People liked to be in her presence; they gathered around her. When they didn’t have enough, she would give fruit or a tuber. My Amama, the Beautiful Gatherer.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.

Amama – grandmother
Koku/Akaye – grandfather
Mai-to-ko – female puberty ritual
Ishoko - Sun

post To the Most High

February 13th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 20:11

To the Most High

St.Giyorgis Cathedral,
In Addis Ababa,
After League of Nations betrayal.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Approaching and Kneeling
Praying to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
Broken by the lie
Praying to the Most High.

Sacred Lalibela,
The mountains called Lasta,
The worst days of his life.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Bowing and Kneeling
Calling to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
Water in his eye
Praying to the Most High.

Ethiopian Church,
Old Jerusalem,
The start of his exile.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Prostrating and kneeling
Pleading to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
The groan and the sigh
Praying to the Most High.

Somerset England,
Geneva Switzerland,
Fighting for Ethiopia.
I saw Tafari Makonnen
Praising and Kneeling
Appealing to the Most High.
I saw Ras Tafari
Head towards the sky
Praying to the Most High.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2006

post Songs of Ndongo

February 1st, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 02:35

Songs of Ndongo

A Poem for Voices

1st Voice
I was a slave
Running from Luanda
Finding sanctuary
Alongside Queen Nzinga.

2nd Voice
We ran from Luanda
We ran from Benguela
From the ships to Brazil
The ships to Cuba

1st Voice
I ran and ran
To be a free man

2nd Voice
All the way to Matamba;
To fight with Queen Nzinga.

Mbundu Man
From the Kingdon of Ndongo
Enslaved by the people
From the Kingdom of Kongo.

1st Voice
They tricked the Mani Kongo
With their words
And their brand of Christianity.
Needing numbers
For their sugar trade
On the isle of Sao Tome.

Church and Crown
Church and Crown

2nd Voice
Slavery made easier
With those two around.

Crown issued the license

1st Voice
Levied the tax

Church gave the blessing

1st Voice
Morality lax.

1st Voice
Her brother the King
Sent her to Luanda
To speak for Ndongo
The trusted Ambassador.
Turned to Christianity
The name Anna de Souza
The Portuguese Governor
Her new ‘godfather’.

2nd Voice
A great diplomat
Signed a promising treaty
Governor changed his mind
The continuance of cruelty.

1st Voice
The Portuguese invader
Was a skilled manipulator.
He tricked the Mani Kongo
He tricked the Ngola
Outdoing the brother
But couldn’t ensnare the sister

3rd Voice
Heard her brother committed suicide
Is it true?
Is it true?

2nd Voice
Ndongo was weak
Nzinga is strong
Time to build anew

Watching the Kwanza flow,
She sat by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.

1st Voice
She sat for awhile
Delaying as long as she could
The entrance into exile

Queen Nzinga
Great River Kwanza
I shall return
But now I have to go.
I shall return
The question is when
The answer I do not know.
River and land
Beautiful land
Time to leave Ndongo.

Into the place called exile
She led them by the hand

Queen Nzinga
This is war
This the first battle
We shall return to Mbunduland

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.


1st Voice
So off they went
Into Matambaland
Taking the Kingdom
Of Matamba man.

2nd Voice
Exodus of Ndongo
Mbundu citizen
Some stayed with the puppet man
Puppet King of Lisbon.

1st Voice

2nd Voice

3rd Voice

Queen Nzinga
How could he call himself Ngola?
When the only voice he hears
Is that of the Portuguese governor

1st Voice
But they came
To fight alongside Queen Nzinga
From the Portuguese army
The African defector

2nd Voice
Men who became slaves
Running from Luanda

3rd Voice
Soldiers for hire -
The Imbangala

3rd Voice
The Imbangala
Dislocated through drought
Raiding and killing
Rout after rout
They worked for the Portuguese
So Ndongo would cease
The feared mercenaries
Who founded Kasanje
From the central highlands
Around the Kwango River
Once our enemies
Now allied with Queen Nzinga

1st Voice
Young people in her army

A force called Kilombo

2nd Voice
Left family ties

To join a Kilombo

3rd Voice
Fighting together

Freedom Kilombo

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.


3rd Voice
She married the Imbangala chief
A bonding
A treaty of defiance
Brand new attempt
Of the vision of alliance.

2nd Voice
But then betrayal
Imbangala invaded Matamba
Husband against wife
Kasanje fighting Nzinga

1st Voice
He tried a few times
To beat this fighter
But he couldn’t dethrone
The Queen of Matamba.

1st Voice
Then one day
The Dutchmen came
Conquering Luanda

2nd Voice
Queen Nzinga
In another alliance
Dreaming of old Kabasa.

1st Voice
She fought the puppet King
Alongside Netherlander
At the stronghold of Mansango
At the Battle of of Kombi
Leading her soldiers
Dreaming of Ndongo.

2nd Voice
But the daylight changed
Return to nightmare
Reinforcements from Brazil
With the Dutch defeated
She was forced to return
To sit on Matamba Hill.

3rd Voice
She won at Ngolome
But lost at Kayanga
They captured her sister
And drowned her in the Kwanza.
Her soldiers wept beside her
On the return to Matamba

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.


1st Voice
She ruled her people
For forty years
Queen of no surrender
She stopped the invader
From going further
Invading the interior.

2nd Voice
After all the battles
Often leading from the front
She died a peaceful death
Dying in Matamba.

1st Voice

3rd Voice
Military strategist

2nd Voice
A great freedom fighter

We salute you Queen Nzinga.

Watching a river flow,
She would sit by herself,
Singing songs of Ndongo.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2008.

post 30 Pieces of Prayer

January 26th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 23:56

30 Pieces of Prayer
from the churchyard of St. Giyorgis Church, Bahir Dar

I saw the big grin on his face, after he’d raised himself from receiving a blessing, from the purple robed, black turbanned priest.

Two elderly priests, quietly conversing, wrapped in faded white cloth, on a wooden bench, under some trees of shade; thier prayer sticks laying beside them.

The little old nun, bent over double, who came to pray by a sapling. Then hobbled away, her prayer stick as support. Her yellow turban, radiant as her devotion.

A young man, almost motionless, sitting on a log, his head raised towards the shrine, his eyes on the face of Jesus.

A white-bearded priest, attired completely in white, spotless white, down to a pair of white trainers. His prayer stick painted white also.

6am. Everyone wrapped in white on Christmas morning. Against the church walls and on the steps. Some reading their bibles, others bowing at the shrine. Gathered together in quiet meditation. A solitary candle burns in a central window.

A youth in red top and blue jeans, wheels his bicycle into the yard, props it up against the church steps, walks up them, crosses himself three times, then goes down on his knees to pray.

The young novice takes her arm, helping the elderly, slow-stepping nun across the courtyard, to her place of peace.

A little boy assists his grandmother as she seats herself on the church steps. He is watchful and attentive like a faithful servant.

Young man in a green and yellow tracksuit top, praying against the church. Placing his hands on the pale yellow walls.

Four white-clad worshippers, raise themselves from their log of contemplation, to recieve a blessing, from a favoured priest passing by.

An old man in a cream mackintosh, places his walking stick on the ground and begins to pray, placing his bony forehead on a massive church pillar.

A very tall man, topped by a red gold and green woolen hat, goes from wall to wall, paying homage in the same way. Hands upturned, arms raised, towards the cross on top of the church.

Two barefoot nuns, sitting on the threadbare grass. One, white turbanned in light green apparel. The other, dressed in white, a dark green turban on her head. They are facing away from the little gatherings; quietly fingering their prayer beads.

A young girl, maybe two years old, in a new white dress. Following her father in worship; a little bridesmaid for Christ.

I see them congregating in the shade, the elderly priests and nuns. Talking and giving of food. Everyone with a sack that is full, empty water bottles, and a walking stick. Sharing the pilgrimage towards peace: basking in the rest of destination shrine.

The youthful novice, massages the legs of the old priest, who sits with his back against a tree.

The young man parks his bike, kisses a step of the church, then the feet of Jesus, then wheels his bike away.

The old nun, clothed and turbanned in yellow, bows to me, while I bow to her, wishing each other ”Selam”.

Buses, vans and a taxi in the churchyard. To return the pilgrims of yesterday, depositing new ones today.

A boy in red gold and green shorts, carrying a long stack of wood on his shoulders, manages to bow and cross himself, before continuing on his business.

A girl, around five years old with intricately plaited hair, leads her tiny brother, maybe two years of age, on their little adventure, throughout the churchyard. Their very own, enchanted communion with Amlak.

A youth group. The young men mainly in tee-shirts and jeans: the young women, their upper halves wrapped in white shawls, raise themselves from the benches, where they have been sitting in a shaded grove. Chanting together, they cross themselves and sit again. Then a young man, enveloped completely in white, cream sandles on his feet, leads them in song and prayer, then begins to preach a sermon.

The silver cross, swinging like an incense burner, from the neck of the elderly nun, as she bends over, to retrieve something from her bag.

Young woman in a bright green shawl, sits alone against a tree, overhung with dark green leaves. Reminding me, of the solitude of Saint Yared.

Here comes a man of some importance, radiant in red gold and green robes and a yellow turban. Attendants beside him, retinue behind. Ending this little procession, their is an old priest, tall, majestic, in a flowing black gown.

The original church of stone construction, centuries old. Ancient catalogue of prayer.

A man in a red woolen hat cleans the windows. Two women, brightly attired, sweep the steps of the church. They seem happy to perform these tasks.

Two women from the youth group. offer me bread and orange juice, then bow and return to the gathering.

The youth group stands in unison, hands upturned, arms raised, chanting a final thanks, to end their communion with Amlak.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post Beloved by One and All

January 26th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 23:37

Beloved by One and All
By: Natty Mark Samuels


Beautiful to sit in the churchyard of St. Giyorgis Church, amongst the trees, when the sun is shining, while the youth group stand together, chanting and singing. So I begin to think of Saint Yared.

Yared of sixth century Axum, beloved by one and all; deified by common consent.

Yared, whose singing brought Emperor and commoner, rushing to listen.

When we watch the swaying and the playing of the ancient instruments, by the priests of Lalibela, that to is Yared. For it is he, through divine inspiration, who began the choreographed movements of the priests, alongside the use of the sistrum.

Yared who wrote the first church music; such as Zema – the chants that continue to enchant us. I saw a goatskin parchment of his writings, in

Ge’ez, in the Menelik and Taitu Museum, Entoto Hills, outside of Addis Ababa. This house of celebrated time, is a repository of religious and royal relics, adjacent to the former palace and also the private residence of the Imperial couple.

Everywhere he went, people were mesmerised by his music; so he would stop and teach them. Sharing his bountiful gift. Beauty and blessings for everyone.

He brought the drum, called kebero, into the music of worship. I saw early examples of these, in the monastries of Lake Tana, on Christmas Day.

Yared who ended his days as he wished – teaching, studying and praying.

When walking around the National Museum in Addis Ababa, you will see a great painting of Saint Yared, by the artist Daniel Touafe. Of beloved Yared looking to the skies, chanting and playing the sistrum.

Enthralled by the voices of the youth group, echoes of the first song by St.Yared; I take my leave, thanking them for beauty and for the bread and orange juice they gave me.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

post Abeba Goes to Bed

March 3rd, 2010

Filed under: Literature Corner — Admassu @ 14:36

An Ethiopian Children’s Book
Written by: Fitsame Teffera, Meron Feleke and Fikirte Addis

An initiative mail from author Fitsame Teferra reached us about two months ago in which she asked us if we would like to read and give our comment on her new children’s book. Shortly after we expressed our enthusiasm, she sent us a copy of the book as she promised.

The cover of “Abeba Goes to Bed”

The first positive impression of the book was the result of it’s colourful appearance and an image of a cute smiling kid bidding good night to all of us. Though I was still not confronted with her story, I couldn’t help expressing my first reaction by wishing Abeba a beautiful night full of happy dreams.

“Abeba Goes to Bed” is a story about a small kid who is bidding good night to each member of her huge family before she goes to bed. The story is written in four languages simultaneously: Amharic, English, German and French.

Firstly, I enjoyed reading the book because it reminded me of the typical childhood most of us had back home. And secondly, I enjoyed reading it to my three years old daughter because I saw from her shining eyes, how she liked the story. “Abeba Goes to Bed” was written with simple and understandable manner. Most of Ethiopian readers will surely be reminded of their own childhood: a childhood that was part of a big family filled with many family members of different generations. This book helps us to transmit essential social values to our children.

I want to recommend “Abeba Goes to Bed” to all parents, who want to show and teach their kids about the lifestyle of modern Ethiopian family which is still deeply attached to the older traditions.

This book is also recommendable for foreigners who have adopted children from Ethiopia.  It will be a great help for them to show their adoptive children the tradition of their birth place in simple and visual way.

Please contact the author if you want to know more:

ISBN 13 :9780979627170

post Vertical Ethiopia

November 26th, 2009

Filed under: Literature Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 10:46

Vertical Ethiopia: Climbing Toward Possibility in the Horn of Africa.
By Majka Burhardt, Photography by Gabe Rogel

VERTICAL ETHIOPIA documents a climbing expedition to unexplored sandstone spires in northern Ethiopia. In March 2007, four women traveled to Ethiopia to discover if climbing might be the next frontier for this continuously evolving country.


Told through a series of vignettes that reveal what it means to climb, to travel, and to explore, Vertical Ethiopia looks closely at the intersections between adventure and culture, history and opportunity.

Vertical Ethiopia was published by Shama Publishing, an Ethiopian Publisher. The book is thus a collaborative African product with over half of the first print run having been sent to Addis Ababa for in-country sale. Majka talks about her commitment to this collaboration, and her experiences with working with Ethiopia press rules and regulations, on her book tour.


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