post Dejazmach Gabra Sellase

December 30th, 2007

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 01:36

Dejazmach Gabra Sellase came from a famous old family living in the province of Tigre and was a close relative of Emperor John IV. It was a fortunate coincidence that he happened to be Governor of Tigre and Nebura’ed of Aksum at the time when Enno Littmann was working there (January to April 1906).

Dajazmach Gabra Sellase Barya Gabr (1872 - 1930)

Littmann could not have found a better friend and more responsible assistant. Much of the information which he provided found its way into the writings on Aksum by Littmann, Krencker and Lüpke.

In this context it is proper to remember those men in Aksum who cooperated with Littmann and his companions as scholars and transmitters of historical traditions, such as Mamher Gabra Mika’el, Bajerond Gabra Sellase and others who must remain nameless.

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

post Eduard Rüppell

December 23rd, 2007

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 13:30

Like Hiob Ludolf, Eduard Rüppell was from Frankfurt, and he too was all-round scholar, although he was far stronger as a scientist - as an astronomer, zoologist, botanist and geographer. In his home town, Frankfurt, he rendered great services to the Senckenberg Museum - one of the most important scientific museums in Germany - and to the Senckenberg Society of Natural Sciences from which it was born. Many of his expeditions were undertaken with a commission from this society, and his great collections are a precious possession of the museum today.

Eduard Rüppell (1794 - 1884)

After lengthy visits to Egypt, the Sudan (Nubia and Kordofan) and Arabia, he undertook a grand research tour of northern Ethiopia, lasting from 1830 to 1834, during which he investigated in particular the fauna and flora of Eritrea, Semen and central Begemedr. Rüppell’s interests, however, were very wide, and he also concerned himself with the culture and history of Ethiopia.

Of decisive importance for him was his meeting and friendship with Liq Atqum, the famous judge and scholar in Gondar, much of whose knowledge Rüppell incorporated into his works. In his book on Ethiopia Eduard Rüppell created for Liq Atqum a most remarkable memorial.

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

post Ye’Zare Hasabe

December 21st, 2007

Filed under: Literature Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 14:25

Article from Zethiopia Newspaper

Ye’Zare Hasabe
by Abeba

Haddis Alemayehu Tewlid

Years ago, I remember trying to break into a local festival that took place in an open area park. My sister and I walked away from the entrance and tried to get in from a walkway that was opposite from the main entrance and not in sight from the uniformed people who were collecting the entrance fees. W h a t we didn’t know at the time was that the area was well policed by nech-lebashoch (security) all around. Before we crossed to the main stage where Salif Keita was playing, there was a guy behind us saying “Excuse me”, “Excuse me”.

I was going to write about concerts and other works of artists that we don’t like paying for when another “Yezare Hasab” took over. I am cramming for a book club meeting that I have tonight and I am taken by this book. It is called ”Kinfam Hilmoch” - beTam (very) interesting short stories book. Initially, I was going to have my uncle read it and tell me the story so I can discuss it at the meeting since it has been a while since I picked up an Amharic book. In the end though with a friend’s encouragement, I decided to pick up the book and read it. To my surprise the book was very engaging and seemed like it was written for my current level and probably also for most of us out there who rarely read Amharic fiction.

Here is one of the stories I read in the book. I am no ‘book-reviewer’ so bear with me, I will just summarize what it was about.

The story starts with a letter from Habtamu who lives in Mankusa (countryside in Gojam) to his brother LeAndamlak who lives in Markos (city in Gojam). It is followed by other letters that form a chain. LeAndamlak then writes to his sister Senait who lives in Addis Abeba. Senait writes a letter to her fiancé Teklemikael who lives in Mississippi. Teklemikael writes a letter to his friend Tamene who lives in California. The story reflects human nature and mirrors our life as immigrants.It relates to us all who come from various background and who aspire to change our lives.

I don’t know much about BeEwketu Siyoum, the author, except what I read at the back of the book, the author was born in Mankusa and kind of lived in his story’s cities moving to Markos and Addis. I was surprised by entries in the letters and the name of the city Mankusa where Habtamu lives and the name of one of the characters. Mankusa is a village where some of the characters in ‘FeQir Eske MeQaber’ Haddis Alemayehu’s masterpiece live. The author also mentions other literary works and the Bible in the letters. The first letter (Habtamu’s) is long and the subsequent letters get shorter and shorter as we are moving farther away from the village life. ‘Habtamu’ (the rich) lives in poverty or thinks he needs to change his life. His counterpart in Mississippi envies Habtamu’s life. I was astounded by the book because it bit my expectations a hundred times over.

I joined this book club to make a very passionate hardworking friend happy. This friend spends most of her time trying to change the lives of Ethiopians here in the community and also back in Ethiopia although she has a demanding full-time job. She told me about the authors back home who struggle to get published and who are very talented and that she and a bunch of other people imported books from Ethiopia with a lot of hassle and expense to help out the authors and were signing people up to join this book club called “YeEthiopian Metsaheft Kebeb” (Ethiopian Book Club). Reluctantly, I ended up paying the membership fee complaining that it was too expensive and joined the club. I still have problem paying for artists’ hard work I guess.

If you are picking this newspaper, you may be like me who surf Ethio-websites from time to time and read what is written about Ethiopia with some reservation. You may not be like my passionate friend, but if you are somewhat interested ‘join the club’ as they say.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated to the organizers although I would have been lucky to and this is not a marketing article. This is purely my Yezare Hasab (today’s thought).

Volume3| Issue 35 Zethiopia |

Statements and opinions expressed in this article herein are those of the authors. Lissan Magazine accepts no responsibility whatsoever for the content.

post About Haddis Alemayehu

December 21st, 2007

Filed under: Literature Corner — Getie Gelaye @ 14:05

Haddis Alemayehu was a true all-rounder who contributed to Ethiopia in many number of disciplines. First and foremost, he was arguably the single most talented Ethiopian novelist who wrote some of the most loved and admired novels to date in Ethiopia. He wrote from the heart and the stories in his novels have touched the hearts of many Ethiopians.

Haddis Alemayehu in his young years.

Among his great works, his 1968 novel - Love unto crypt - which is the Ethiopian equivalent of Romeo & Juliet is by far the most talked-about and admired Ethiopian novels ever. This masterpiece is now being read by English readers after its translation recently by Sisay Ayenew. The novel hit the shelves of numerous book stores worldwide in 2005. It was put at best book sections in New York Times’ August 14 issue.

The other Haddis Alemayehu was a true patriot who defended his country from the invasion of fascist Italy in the 1930s. After vigorously fighting the Italians, he was held in captivity for seven years in Italy. He went back to an independent Ethiopia in 1944, three years after Italy was decisively defeated at the Battle of Adwa. The young Haddis Alemayehu - prior to his fame as a novelist and a patriot – was a passionate teacher who believed in the power of education.

Mr. Haddis also served his country as a Foreign Minister from 1960 – 61 under the government of Emperor Haile Selassie. Haddis was a dignified selfless man that contributed to his country from defending Ethiopia at the frontline to protecting the country’s interests through remarkable diplomacy, and from educating Ethiopians to writing novels of highest standards.

He was awarded the Special and Gold Mercury Prizes of Emperor Haile Selassie Award Trust and also an Honorary Doctoral Degree by Addis Ababa University.

He died on 6th December 2003 at the age of 94 and was laid to rest on 7th December 2003 at the the Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.

post Review: FiQir Iske MeQabir

December 21st, 2007

Filed under: Literature Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 02:05

“FiQir Iske MeQabir” by Haddis Alemayehu
An Ethiopian Masterpiece

Review by: Haeran Fisseha

If there is a novel that is almost universally recognized in Ethiopia it is “FiQir Iske MeQabir”. Many of us have been captivated by Wegayehu Nigatu’s unforgettable reading of the book on Ethiopian radio (and would kill for a complete book’s on tape series). Some of us listened attentively as it was read in class, there may even be some of the over-achieving ones amongst us who chose this book for a school book-review project. For me “FiQir Iske MEQabir” had always been an intimidatingly thick volume, and a classical bit of literature that I would attempt to read some day … just not yet.

Some 16 years after leaving Ethiopia, it suddenly occurred to me, that after years of reading books by the great authors of Russia, Nigeria, India, Brazil, and America, I had yet to read what is probably the greatest Ethiopian novel. Ashamed by this realization and emboldened by my recent completion of a couple of other excellent Amharic books, I picked up Ato Haddis Alemayehu’s masterpiece.

Reading “FiQir Iske MeQabir” was more like a journey, an experience. Every night after a long day at work, Hadis Alemayehu transported me to Gojjam, to the villages of Mankusa, Dima, and Bichena, where I anxiously followed the lives of Bezabih, Gudu Kassa, Fitawrari Meshesha, Woizero Tiru Aynet and Seble Wengel. Ato Haddis’ writing makes his characters come alive and it was not long before I could vividly picture the villages and the people. His storytelling draws the reader into the story and elicits strong emotions. I could not help but pray for Bezabih, burst in outrage at Fitawrari Meshesha, cheer for Seble, high-five Gudu Kassa, and loathe Qes Mogesé (the “yes-man” of his time !) But in the process I also learned much about the experiences of Ethiopians, and our culture (the good, the bad and the ugly). I think I understand a little better about what has changed in our society and what still needs to change. I also have a better perspective on why it is so difficult to bring about change. Ato Haddis intentionally communicates some profound messages about our society even as he unfolds the greatest love story I have ever heard.

Ato Hadis spins a tale of a pure and innocent love between two young people, Seble and Bezabih, that is frustrated by the obsessions of Seble’s parents with maintaining/elevating their social class and lineage. This pursuit leaves Fitawrari Meshesha and Woizero Tiru completely blind to the true value of people, and renders them incapable of appreciating the depths of real love. In the process, they destroy the life of their only daughter. While telling this story, Ato Hadis gives us a glimpse of life in rural Ethiopia. Through his colorful characters and his amazing storytelling abilities, we get a flavor for the beauty and warmth of Ethiopian culture, the charity and hospitality of the average villager, and the courtesy, kindness, and love people in rural Ethiopia have for each other. Following Bezabih around from Qine Bet to Qine Bet, we get a picture of the life of Temé Temari in the villages of Ethiopia, as he progresses from a DiaQon to a famous LiQ and Qine Astemari and to being called Meri Geta Bezabih. We see how a temari depended on, and always received the support of his community in every village he went. We also see how a tired traveler could always count on the hospitality of villagers. When the mysterious Abba Alem Leminé is exhausted from days of walking, he bumps into a stranger who asks him if he knows anyone in the next village and they have this conversation “.. ye Igziabher ingida negn sil bet aynefigugnim biyé new inji, yemawQew sewis yelegnim”, the stranger replies “yemiyawQut sew kelelema iné bet yadralu, bet le’gzer new” (p509) The stranger then puts the tired Abba on his horse and walks home where he and his wife fuss over Abba Leminé, feeding him and washing his dirty and bloody feet.

But very importantly, Ato Hadis also shows us the ugly side of our history and culture, and the narrow-mindedness that would lead two parents who loved their daughter to rob her of her happiness. When Fitawrari Meshesha finds out that his daughter loves Bezabih he angrily says to her “Yené lij yan ikekam yelemagn geberé lij atwejim. Zeru babat benatu yeTera badebabay yemiyakora yetalaQ sew lij talaQ mekonin leminogn Qal seTiche meTichalehu” to which the normally quiet Seble replies “ geberém sew new. Ye geberé lijim yesew lij new. Ye mekwanint zer Tiru, ye geberé zer gudif mehonun awQo yemimerT yichegeribet ! Iné yegeberé lij yemilutin iwedewalehu”. Fitawrari Meshesha is incapable of understanding Seble’s love that transcends class and explodes “Ya metetam asmategna debtera, ya TenQuay, belijé asmat azurobat new beTenawa indih alhonechim ! Gidélem yinga !” (p 410- 411) and he launches a campaign to find and punish Bezabih and make him reverse his asmat. By now Seble has abandoned her usually courteous and deferential demeanor and she warns her father “Kezare jemirew yiweQut, nefsina sigayé abrew iyalu lemalfeligew sew minim bihon alisheTim ! Résayé waga ayaweTalachihum inji besu indefelegachihu teCHawetu”.

In addition to this narrow-mindedness, along the way Ato Haddis also illustrates other unsavory characteristics that were common in Ethiopian culture. The complete disrespect that the powerful showed to the commonfolk, and their disdain for them is evident in the way Woizero Tiru addresses Habtish, their maid. When ordering Habtish to stay with Seble while Bezabih tutored her, Woizero Tiru would routinely warn her “Wa, anchi Ahiya, Anchi Timbatam, kezih tilaweshina…” (p308). The abuse of power by those who were positioned to govern the people is shown in the way Fitawrari Meshesha reacts to a delegation of villagers who came to tell him that while they would continue to give him the customary gifts and fees, they could no longer keep up with his new demands. He reacts by planning to march on the villages and beat them into submission and he explains it thus “Balager adimo manin ashenifo yawQal ? Balager dekama aywedim, balager birtu yiwedal. Be balager lay ijihin maTenker bicha new yalebih. Ijih keTenekere balager talbo ayafejim, ganih iskimola litalbew tichilaleh” (p217). Ato Haddis also illustrates the Emperor’s disrespect for the people in Bezabih’s reflection on his experience eating ye Negus gibir. In an amazingly frank and bold criticism of the emperor, Ato Haddis talks to us via Bezabih “Ere lemehonu, mulu ItyoPyan iyegezu kezya yeteshale injerana woT aTtew new sewin be negarit Tertew indya yale neger aKirbew bilu yemilu ? weyis sewin indesew bayKoTrut new ?” (450)

The refusal of both the powerful and powerless to listen to new ideas, and to entertain the possibility that maybe the status quo could and should be changed and improved is seen in the way Kassa DamTe, a noble by birth, is marginalized and labeled by the rich and poor alike. Kassa, who is referred to as Gudu Kassa for his progressive thoughts, explains to Bezabih “ Ayeh ? ketelemedew liyu ye hone hulu inde gud metayetu inkwa minim bihon ayQerim. Bicha yemiyasazinew ya ketelemedew liyu bemehonu gud yetebalew, liyunetu bemelkam weyis bekifu menged mehonun mamezazen bemaychil hizb mehakel menoru, melkamu ke kifu, yemiTeQmew kemigodaw sayley, ketelemdew liyu bemehonu bicha hulum bandinet tafino teshefino indihu meQretu new. Ketelemedew yeteleye melkam hasab weyim melkam sira, legizew inkwa bayagelegil, gizew siders indiyagelegil, teTebiQo, tesheshigo yemiQoy bihon, kasabiw weyim keseriw gar abro yemayalf bihon melkam neber” (p 369).

There is no question that Ato Haddis was way ahead of his time in his thinking. He speaks to us through his character Gudu Kassa, of the need to always re-evaluate ourselves and our society, to keep the good and discard the bad. He teaches us to never to resign ourselves to our fate as dictated by the norms of our society, but to aspire to change those norms when they are too narrow to appreciate the true value of people. He also wisely advises us that even as we change and improve we should never forget where we came from so we know how far we have come. He sees writers as having the role of reminding society of what had been, a task he himself has executed very well. In the MeQdim he explains “….yemiwdQew kifu limad kesira yiwegedal inji ketarik tsehafiwoch metsehafina kederasiwoch direst liweged ayigebawim. Yalezya beyegizew yemideregew yepoletikam hone yemahaberawi nuro meshashal kemin tenesto imin inde derese litaweQ ayichalim.”

Ato Haddis was a remarkable man. He was an anti-Italian guerilla fighter with Ras Imru and was imprisoned in Italy. He then returned to Ethiopia after Haile Sellasie was reinstated and served in various posts. One can only wonder if his prominence as a patriot is what allowed this novel, as radical as it was for it’s time, to be published. One also has to wonder how much has actually changed over the years. Sure for the most part the obsession with class and lineage is gone (though not completely), but how about Fitawrari Meshesha’s abusive attitude to the people he governed and his preference for the iron-fisted rule ? How about the Emperor’s disrespect for the people as illustrated by the way he treated them at ye Negus gibir (which by the way turns out to be mandatory)? Have we not continued to have rulers who fail to realize that their purpose is to serve the people not to use and abuse them ? In this colorful book Ato Haddis certainly also gives us some food for thought.

The irony of my reviewing an Amharic book in English is not lost on me. But given the sad fact that I can express myself better in English (for now), I had no other choice. I have hoped to capture a little bit of the flavor and message of Ato Haddis’ writing by quoting extensively from his characters, but I know I can hardly do his book justice. Despite his humble assertion in the MeQdim, that FiQir iske MeQabir “… Tiru dirsetoch yemibalut beyazut dereja inkwanis litiders indematiQerb awKalehu” his book is truly a masterpiece, both in its writing style and its content. We are blessed to have had Ato Haddis Alemayehu pen this story for generations to read and learn from.

Source: Seleda

Statements and opinions expressed in this article herein are those of the authors. Lissan Magazine accepts no responsibility whatsoever for the content.

post Vusi Mahlasela: “Woza”

December 20th, 2007

Filed under: Video Forums — Admassu @ 15:25

South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela was a crucial artistic voice during the fight against apartheid, and now in the new modern-day nation. Blending traditional African music with soul and blues, his music showcases powerful vocals and poetic lyrics.

Why you should listen to him:

Vusi Mahlasela has dedicated his life to using music and words to inspire change. As a young boy in South Africa, he was routinely watched by the police because of his anti-apartheid poetry and his open support of student protest. During the final fight against apartheid, his songs of protest and solidarity became anthems — stirring the South African people to create their new nation.His lyrics touch on themes of love, family, hope and pride. Working with his own band and an international crew of genre-bending musicians, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and fellow South African Dave Matthews, Mahlasela crafts a rich, propulsive sound that helps his words reach directly into the heart.His latest album is Guiding Star (2007), of which Dirty Linen magazine says:”Contributions by Dave Matthews, Australian didjeridu player Xavier Rudd, Welsh singer/songwriter Jem, and slide guitarist Derek Trucks transforms Guiding Star into an Earth-spanning celebration, but they only enhance Mahlasela’s Garfunkel-meets-Marley vocals, harp-like guitar fingerpicking, and mastery of his homeland’s diverse musical traditions.”

“Despite the fact that his songs are frequently filled with political subtext and despite his personal familiarity with the horrors of apartheid, his performances are optimistic and soulful, delivered with an intensity that captures the attention and embraces the heart.”

Don Heckman, LA Times

Source: TedTalks

post How to help Africa?

December 19th, 2007

Filed under: Video Forums — Lissan Magazine @ 15:03

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala:
How to help Africa? Do business there

Negative images of Africa dominate the news: famine and disease, conflict and corruption. But Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Finance Minister of Nigeria and now a director of the World Bank, says there’s a less-told story unfolding in many African nations: one of reform, economic growth and business opportunity.

Cracking down on corruption — and the perception of corruption — will be the key to its success. She tells how high-ranking Nigerian officials taking money illicitly have been jailed, and how citizens and prospective business partners are getting at least a partial picture now of where money flows.

Why you should listen to her:
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
, a director of the World Bank, was Nigeria’s Finance Minister and then briefly Foreign Affairs Minister from 2003 to 2006, the first woman to hold either position.During her tenure as Finance Minister, she worked to combat corruption, make Nigeria’s finances more transparent, and institute reforms to make the nation’s economy more hospitable to foreign investment. The government unlinked its budget from the price of oil, its main export, to lessen perennial cashflow crises, and got oil companies to publish how much they pay the government.Since 2003 — when watchdog group Transparency International rated Nigeria “the most corrupt place on Earth” — the nation has made headway recovering stolen assets and jailing hundreds of people engaged in international Internet 419 scams.

Okonjo-Iweala is a former World Bank vice president who graduated from Harvard and earned a Ph.D. in regional economics and development at MIT. Her son Uzodinma Iweala is the celebrated young author of Beasts of No Nation.

source: tedtalks

post Liq Atqum

December 19th, 2007

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 14:51

Liq Atqum was one of the last great representatives of the class which, in the closing years of the Gondar period, could justly be termed the “conscience of the Ethiopian Empire” - the men of learning and judges. In the midst of a period of decline and anarchy, in which Ethiopia was split up into several independent dominions (zamana masafint), he kept alive the notion of the empire’s unity and greatness. In his person he combined the sum total of Ethiopia’s scholastic traditions. Much of what was recorded in Eduard Rüppell’s work on the history and culture of Ethiopia originated from him.

Liq Atqum in Gondar (? 1772 - 1839)

Rüppell wrote: “The most interesting and estimable of all the people I came to know in Gondar was Liq Atqum; for he was not only a man of great culture, but possessed also true religious faith and a character which was honest to the last degree.”

Among the most highly valued treasures of the city and University Library of Frankfurt is a set of extensive compilations on Ethiopian history and copies of many important Ethiopian works, which Liq Atqum put together and wrote down for his friend Eduard Rüppell - books whose originals, owned by people in Gondar, were later burnt. We do not know what Liq Atqum looked like; might he perhaps be this scholar from Gondar, of whom Rüppell published a picture in his work?

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

post Hiob Ludolf

December 19th, 2007

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 13:51

Although other scholars had concerned themselves with Ethiopia before him - for instance, Johannes Potken of Cologn, who in 1513 had the first Ethiopian psalter printed - Hiob Ludolf can with justice be called the father of Ethiopian Studies in Europe. In his monumental work he paved the way for a better and more just understanding of Ethiopia, its culture and its history. Although he himself was never in Ethiopia, he had the good fortune to make direct contact with Ethiopian scholars in Rome. Of tremendous benefit for his research was his collaboration and friendship with Abba Gorgoryos, who visited him in Germany.

Hiob Ludol (1624 - 1704)

Hiob Ludolf was not only a brilliant linguist (he mastered more than 25 languages) and historian: he was also a truly all-round scholar and politician. He entered into correspondence with great figures of his time: he exchanged treatises with the philosopher Leibniz and tried to win over Louis XIV, King of France, for the project of Suez Canal. In Frankfurt, where he spent the last years of his life, he was not only well known as a distinguished scholar, but also served as the diplomatic representative of German princess.

His works remain important sources to this day, notably the Historia Aethiopica (written in Latin and soon afterwards translated into several other European languages) and the inexhaustible Commentarius ad suam Historiam Aethiopicam. If, in addition, we bear in mind his Lexicon Aethiopico-Latinum, Grammatica Aethiopica, Grammatica Linguae Amharicae and Lexicon Amharico-Latinum, then his epitaph does not sound an exaggeration: “Vir ingenio maximus, fama immortalis” - “A man of genious and of immortal fame”.

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

post Abba Gorgoryos

December 10th, 2007

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 12:45

When it is said that Hiob Ludolf was the founder of Ethiopian studies in Europe, it is generally forgotten that Abba Gorgoryos (refered to in European literature as Abba Gregorios) has an equally valid claim to this title. Without him, much of Hiob Ludolf’s enormous work could never have been written, and he was always a friend and partner of equal rank. With the fine portrait reproduced here, which Hiob Ludolf chose as the frontispiece for his Commentarius ad suam historiam Aethiopicam, he created an immortal monument to Abba Gorgoryos - a monument of gratitude and friendship, marking the beginning of Ethiopian-German academic collaboration.

Abba Gorgoryos (1595 - 1658)

Abba Gorgoryos (to give him his ecclesiastical name) was born in about 1595 in Makana Sellase in the celebrated Amhara Province - one of the great centers of classical Ethiopian culture. He belonged to a family of “makwanent”. After receiving an excellent education in his home country, he became a page in the service of Emperor Susenyos, who had tied his fate entirely to that of the Catholic church. Like other Ethiopians attached to the Catholic cause, he left Ethiopia after the abdication of the Emperor and traveled via India to Rome.

There, in the gardens of the Vatican, he met Hiob Ludolf in the spring of 1649 - an encounter which was of a decisive importance not only for the two men but also for Ethiopian studies in General. Later, in 1652, Abba Gorgoryos visited his friend Hiob Ludolf in Gotha, where the latter was then living, and they were able to devote several months to intensive scholastic collaboration. Then Abba Gorgoryos set out again for Ethiopia. He was drowned off the coast of Syria in 1658.

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

post Marcus Samuelsson: Celebrity Chef in New York

December 9th, 2007

Filed under: Who is Who? — Waltenegus @ 00:36

Marcus Samuelsson
Celebrity Chef in New York City

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by adoptive parents, Marcus Samuelsson has always bridged cultures and cuisines. The critically acclaimed chef rose to prominence in New York for his cooking at Aquavit, the Scandinavian fine-dining destination, and now owns two additional restaurants in New York: the casual AQ Café, at Scandinavia House, and the Japanese-American fusion restaurant, Riingo.


Marcus Samuelsson is no stranger to traveling. He could have opened a restaurant anywhere. Today home is New York City, where he is chief creative director for New York City-based Townhouse Restaurant Group, which operates Aquavit and new, pan-African brasserie Merkato 55.

The creative force behind Aquavit and Merkato 55 shares his views on what makes America an exciting place to be a chef.

Q. You’re one of the chefs who participated in the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America event in September. How do you define American cuisine? What differentiates it from what you see elsewhere?
A. What you have is true diversity in this country. You have true diversity of landscape, true diversity of climate and true diversity of its people. There’s also the history of the country; the idea that people are constantly moving here means that the food is constantly changing. With that, you don’t always have to be cutting-edge, but you always have to be aware of your surroundings.

Q. You could have opened a restaurant in any city. What keeps you cooking in New York?
A. What makes New York City exciting is that it’s constantly challenging in the sense that new people are coming, new restaurants are opening. You always have to keep working in New York City just to be mainstream. And that’s what makes it very exciting on a food level. But also you have the diversity of your customers.

Q. What is the biggest change you see in how Americans eat today versus how they ate five or 10 years ago?
A. There are a couple of big changes. When I started fine-dining cooking, it was only a matter of French restaurants. Now France is one of many inspirational countries. What you want your restaurant to be conceptually goes beyond one specific country. Then the customer has changed, and with that, customer demands [have changed]. People want more flavor. They want the experience to be quicker. Customers are telling us all the time what they want.

Q. Do you feel a “celebrity chef” pressure to make yourself visible in your restaurants?
A. I never look at myself as a celebrity chef. I don’t think I ever will. I don’t spend time figuring out how I am viewed. I came to this country to cook; I’ve been cooking all of my life, and I’m going to continue cooking. It’s very basic for me. My story keeps evolving because I keep working on it. As long as you do that, you always have something to communicate.

Q. You partnered with Starbucks to develop new coffee blends and promote your latest cookbook, “The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa” (Wiley, 2006). Will you continue working with Starbucks?
A. It was a promotion we did for this year, and it was a lot of fun. I got to travel the country and talk about pairing coffee with food. Coffee has different flavors, and it’s not just in the roast. That’s the story we know with wine, but we might not know it about coffee.


Q. Is this an example of how the role of a chef has changed? Do you need to know details about all of your ingredients?

A. The consumer is very demanding; the consumer wants to know. So you have to be prepared. You have to be committed and passionate, and I think a lot of chefs are. I feel that young chefs in particular are very committed.

Q. What guidance can you offer to the next generation of chefs?

A. It’s basic: Keep working, keep traveling. If you can get a cheap ticket, you get it and go. Because whether you stay in California, Hawaii, Miami or New York City, you can always come in, talk to the chef, roll up your sleeves and work. It’s not like a major law firm where you need credentials. Here your credentials are yourself and your attitude.

Q. How would you describe your latest restaurant, Merkato 55?
A. It is the first major pan-African restaurant in New York City. I’m very excited to introduce African food into a fine-dining experience. I hope Merkato 55 can be an introduction to the continent of Africa, just as I felt that [Douglas Rodriguez’s now-closed restaurant] Patria introduced Latin food into the fine-dining vocabulary. Which it well should be. It’s fantastic food.

Source: R&I Restaurants and institutions

November 1, 2007
Interface: Marcus Samuelsson

By Kate Leahy, Senior Associate Editor

Link to recipe videos


Samuelsson’s just-released book, The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, finds him exploring the culinary traditions of his homeland. From Morocco to Ethiopia and Senegal to South Africa, Samuelsson spans the continent, feasting on home-cooked meals and street foods, and then adapting those recipes for the American kitchen.


Here, Samuelsson shares travel tips and highlights from his African adventures, and tells Fodor’s where to find the best Ethiopian cuisine in New York.


For those of you who visit or live in New York, here are the addresses if you want to give it a try and have a special culinary experience.


Merkato 55
55–61 Gansevoort St., New York, NY 10014
nr. Greenwich St

AQUAVIT — Scandinavian
65 East 55th Street (between Park and Madison), New York, N.Y. 10022

AQ Café — Scandinavian
58 Park Avenue (at 38th Street), New York, N.Y. 10016

RIINGO — New American and Japanese
205 East 45th Street (at 3rd Avenue), New York, N.Y. 10017


December 8th, 2007

Filed under: Literature Corner — Waltenegus @ 23:28

By Rebecca G. Haile


“Part travelogue, part history, part memoir, Rebecca Haile’s Held at a Distance shines a bright and unique light on Ethiopia, a country in whose fortunes we as Americans and Westerners have been concerned for some time, but which remains in large part a mystery to many of us. . . . Today, Ethiopia, for far too many people, is synonymous with poverty and warfare; but for generations of African Americans, it was the font of black civilization itself, the spiritual source of visions of a united and prosperous Pan-Africa, the living testament to the glories that were Black Africa. In her bold new book, Haile moves far beyond the one-dimensional headlines that encapsulate Ethiopia in the Western press to provide as rich and nuanced a portrait of her native land as I have seen. It’s an important and beautifully written volume.”
HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR., Harvard University

“This is the story of an Ethiopian child who became an American adult, and then returned to rediscover her country of origin after 25 years. What she discovers is the difficulty and dangers of defining identity in our contemporary world, a well-nigh universal problem. This is a memoir that reads like a novel, and encourages thoughtful reflection on our dilemmas.”

post Ethiopian-American wins Guardian 1st Book Award

December 8th, 2007

Filed under: Literature Corner — Waltenegus @ 00:32

A novel that tackles fraught questions of identity, dislocation and loneliness through the life of an Ethiopian émigré in the US has taken this year’s Guardian First Book Award.

Dinaw Mengestu’s Children of the Revolution tells the story of Sepha Stephanos, a man who fled to America to escape the violence of Ethiopia’s communist revolution after witnessing his father’s death at the hands of junta soldiers. Seventeen years later, running a struggling convenience store in a once grand but now dilapidated neighbourhood of Washington DC, Stephanos is still trying to find his place in the new world.

///Dinaw Mengestu. Photograph: Linda Nylind///

Reviewers have been quick to point out the parallels between Stephanos’s life and Mengestu’s own. Born in Addis Ababa in 1978, Mengestu was just two years old when he and his mother and sister followed his father - who had been forced out by the revolution two years earlier - to the US. From there, however, their lives diverge: where Stephanos is trapped by his immigrant status, Mengestu attended Georgetown University and graduated from Columbia University’s MFA program. His clean, spare sentences and ability to deal with tragedy in a controlled and meticulous way won the judges’ unanimous praise.

The Guardian First Book Award, worth £10,000 to the winning author, is unique among literary prizes in that it is open to all debut writers regardless of genre. Previous winners have included Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer. Children of the Revolution was joined on this year’s shortlist by two other novels (Tahmima Anam’s A Golden Age and Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost), Rosemary Hill’s biography of the architect Augustus Pugin, God’s Architect, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s account of the lurid blunders of America in Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

Speaking after the award was presented at a ceremony in central London last night, the Guardian’s literary editor and chair of the judging panel Claire Armitstead said that while each of the shortlisted books had their champions, the economy and power with which Mengestu depicted the dead-end lives of his characters saw him emerge as the winner. “Unusually for a first novel, there is no slack in his writing, no authorial vanity to interfere with his evocation of immigrant life in 21st-century America,” she said.

In addition to the Waterstone’s reading groups, represented on the panel by Stuart Broom, Armitstead was joined in the judging by the presenter Mariella Frostrup, journalist and author Simon Jenkins, Phillippe Sands, QC, the Guardian’s features editor, Katharine Viner, and the novelists Maggie O’Farrell and Kamila Shamsie. As well as applauding the novel’s “beautiful writing”, Shamsie praised the “many different layers of loss in the book, from the brutal to the barely-glimmering”. It is, she said, “a book of quiet and haunting power, impossible to shake off long after you’ve turned the last page.”

Mengestu, who is currently living in Paris and writing a second novel set in a small town in the American midwest, accepted the award with visible delight. “It’s amazing,” he said. “I’m still stunned”.

Source: Guardian Unlimited (Sarah Crown)

post 300 Years Ethio-Germany Academic Collaboration

December 7th, 2007

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 23:34

To pay tribute to the historical figures of Ethiopia and Germany who managed to establish peaceful academic collaborations, LISSAN will present some of this personalities from both countries and inform about their extraordinary achievements.

The articles are fully taken from a booklet written by Eike Haberland (born 1924 - died 1992).

///photo: admassu m. k.///

Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration
This booklet is intended to draw attention to an aspect of Ethiopian studies which is almost always overlooked - the collaboration between people of two nations. In this context, many questions apparently remain open. How, for example, did famous books come into existence? With whom did the authors actually speak? Who were their friends and collaborators? Were they merely “informants” or true partners? The other side of this coin is the impression that Ethiopia’s closed society often takes hardly any notice of a stranger: he is received with hospitality, people are eager to answer his questions or collaborate with him - be it in Ethiopia or in Germany - but does he leave behind any lasting trace? “Ships that pass in the night”?

This booklet aims to show that this was not and is not so: the history of the last three centuries provides numerous instances of the fruitful collaboration and exchange of ideas which has taken place between Ethiopians and Germans. The selection made here can of course be only an arbitrary and fortuitous one. Arbitrary, because in view of the confined scope of this undertaking it was necessary to impose certain limits, so that many people who deserve to feature here do not do so. Fortuitous, because the existence or absence of documents and pictures determines who has been recorded for posterity. Thus the documentation concerning the first German to live and work in Ethiopia - Peter Heyling(1607 - 1652), who undoubtedly left a strong mark - is so fragmentary and half-mythical that we prefer not to deal with him. The absence of a particular name, therefore, does not on any account mean that the person concerned was considered “uworthy” of inclusion in this booklet.

Despite all these imperfections, I believe that we have been able in this booklet to draw attention to aspects which go beyond the mere question of academic collaboration - namely, partnership and friendly human intercourse. The respect and affection expressed in the letters between Hiob Ludolf and Abba Gorgoryos, in the letters of Alaqa Taye to Eugen Mittwoch or the obituary written by Enno Littmann for Naffa Wad Etman speak for themselves. Here scholars of two nations have formed friendships and built bridges between continents.

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

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