post Flower Farming Blooms

January 26th, 2008

Filed under: Environment — Lissan Magazine @ 12:52

Flower farming blooms in Ethiopia

By Amber Henshaw
BBC, Addis Ababa

Rows and rows of rose cuttings fill a vast warehouse in Alem Gena, a small town about 30km from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. They are being grown into small plants ready to be sold on. Ethioplants is owned by Dutch flower grower Felix Steeghs who moved here in September. He saw the potential in Ethiopia’s new flower market and was sick of the violence that he and his colleagues faced in Kenya - Africa’s current biggest flower producer - where he had worked for eight years.


“We were living in Naivasha - if you count all the Europeans you might get 150 to 200 people, and I think within 12 months there were 10 attacks on white people of which 5 were fatal,” he says. Felix started off in Ethiopia with 5,000 square metres, but he hopes to have doubled that by August, and says there is plenty more room for growth. British businessman Ryaz Shamji agrees: “I’m actually convinced Ethiopia has tremendous potential,” says Ryaz, who started production at his flower farm, Golden Rose, in 2000. He now produces 24 million roses a year but wants to increase that to 36 million.

“The industry has grown from 40 hectares productive to 250 hectares productive in the last three years, and is likely to hit 400 hectares productive by the end of this year,” he says.

Ecological worries

Floriculture already earns Ethiopia $20m a year. But environmentalists are concerned that growers are using chemicals which are damaging the environment and making workers ill. “The major concerns are social concerns - working rights and decent working conditions and environmental concerns,” says Negusu Aklilu, co-ordinator of Ethiopia’s Forum for the Environment. “For example, if you take the pesticide issue, pesticides are about workers’ conditions and also about the environment.”

The Ethiopian government is keen to encourage investors, offering them a five-year tax holiday and duty-free import of machinery. The government is also working with the environmentalists. Dr Tewolde Birhan, head of Ethiopia’s Environmental Protection Agency, says the government has introduced a new law. “The intention is to control pollution and it has three steps, as in all countries,” Dr Tewolde says. “Environmental impact assessment before you start your job; environmental auditing regularly to make sure you aren’t polluting the environment; and if you are unable to prevent pollution, you close down.”

Players in the industry like Felix Steeghs and Ryaz Shamji support these measures, realising that having everything regulated and above board can ensure Ethiopia’s flower industry a blooming future.

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

post Flower Worker

January 26th, 2008

Filed under: Environment — Lissan Magazine @ 01:14

Flower Worker Addis Fortune

Founded three years ago in Menagesha, Western Shoa Zone of the Oromia Regional State, Menagesha Flower Plc was established with a capital of 10 million Br. Having secured 50hct of land, of which five hectares have been developed for flower farming, its working capital has now grown to 30 million Br. While 15hct are used for agro-forestry, the company plans to continue expansion of its flower production business as it sees room for growth in the industry.

Speaking to Fortune, Solomon Sebihatu, general manager and owner of Menagesha Flower Plc, asserted that in one year’s time, Menagesha Flower Farm Plc will develop 20hct of land for expansion purposes and expects to increase yields and profits. However, not all interested parties are ecstatic about the progress of the industry as protection of the environment and safety of employees has been a challenge for the fledgling industry. Flower farms like Menagesha are facing pressing demands by their employees for security against the chemicals applied in the production process.

Yenesew Enley, 28, who lives with his parents in Debre Zeit (Bishoftu) where he was born and raised, is employed by one of the flower farms located along the route between Modjo and Shashemene. It is now three years since Yenesew started working for the flower farm and handling pesticide chemicals that he is responsible to spray on the farm. Yenesew told Fortune that in the particular flower farm that he works at, the farm owners give more priority to the flowers being produced than to the employees.

“Waking up on a daily basis before the sun rises, my colleagues and I begin the routine work of spraying the chemicals without proper equipment to protect ourselves from the possible chemical exposure,” said Yenesew. According to him, it is not uncommon to see co-workers vomit and collapse due to the exposure of these pesticide chemicals they handle regularly. “While I have been suffering from [these] symptoms on quite a number of occasions, some co-workers were forced to abandon their jobs for health reasons,” Yenesew, who must balance his better judgement of his own health with the need for employment, told Fortune.

Equipment used during the process of spraying chemicals does not get cleaned properly, except on some occasions where the materials are washed in a nearby stream, directly releasing the harmful pesticides into a local water source. However, the questionable environmental and labour practices have not stopped the sector from expanding rapidly.

Menagesha is one of the 60 flower farms that are now actively working in the floriculture sector. The flower industry is labour-intensive and currently employs 50,000 people, out of which 70pc are women. It is steadily expanding and industry analysts estimate that when most of the 200 licensed flower projects reach fruition, 72,000 people would be employed. A significant proportion of the floriculture farms in Ethiopia are located within a 50Km radius of Addis Abeba city limits, while the remainder operate in and around the Rift Valley. Growing annually at astonishing 100pc pace, the sector earned 60 million dollars from exports last year.

Though many laud the fast growth rate registered by the floriculture industry and the goodwill it gains from the government, concern about the delicacy of the environmental situation and the human factor have been voiced by a variety of stakeholders and concerned parties. The charge has been led for the past five years by the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Union (CETU) and the National Flower Alliance (Forum for Environment, Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and Panos-Ethiopia) along with other environmental groups. These interests were finally appeased when an agreement supposedly addressing their concerns was reached late last month. The 43-page Code of Practice proposed by the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers and Exporters Association (EHPEA) gained the support of those stakeholders seriously concerned about the issue. This document that was financed by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Agriculture was a product of an idea born from Ethio-Netherlands Horticulture Partnership in June 2006. The document was prepared by Myrtle Dense of Wageningen University.

The Code of Practice has three pillars that compose the basis upon which a memorandum of understanding was signed between concerned parties. Firstly, companies must be responsible to implement sustainable practices, provide suitable facilities and working conditions to protect their farm employees and safeguard their local environment and communities. Serving the economic interests, the Code states actors must protect and enhance the competitiveness of the Ethiopian flower sector in the international marketplace. The third pillar deals with the reputation of the flower market amongst Ethiopian society and the international consumers in order to promote a positive image.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) has already registered around 250 types of chemicals and pesticides, while the Crop Protection Department maintains a list of chemicals that enter the country. Since the floriculture industry is new, chemicals used in the sector are not necessarily included on the list, as they are imported using a special order from the Office of the Prime Minister.

There are around 120 chemicals that enter the country for the floriculture industry found on the World Health Organisation (WHO) negative pesticide list, while environmentalists have categorised some of these chemicals as having carcinogenic potential. A carcinogen element is any chemical, biological or physical agent that can potentially be a cause of cancer. The term is most commonly applied to chemicals introduced into the environment by human activity. Such hazardous chemicals like flucy thrinate, chlorothalonil, cypro-conolone, folpet and mancozeb are used in the flower farming sector in Ethiopia.

According to the new Code, the flower industry should not be applying such chemical pesticides that have hazardous effects to humans and the environment while accepted pesticides must be applied safely and effectively. Employees have to be equipped with necessary protection and work under clean conditions to avoid any possible harm in the processes of spraying the pesticides, asserted the Code.

Tewolde-Berhan Gebre-Egziabher (PhD), director general of the Federal Environmental Protection Authority (FEPA), told Fortune that the flower industry is in its infant stage in Ethiopia and therefore, the problem caused by the chemicals and other related environmentally unfriendly conditions are not severely damaging for now. However, in the future, these problems could have a large impact on the country’s environmental health, as well as develop into long-term health concerns for workers. The good news is that the launching of the Code grants an opportunity to address these issues before they grow out of hand; a process government agencies must play a productive role in, he added. Indeed, Negussu Aklilu, coordinator of the Forum for Environment, sees the Code as a first round victory.

“The Code is the product of a lot of hard work,” he told Fortune. “The battle now is for effective implementation.”

Companies that fail to implement the Code would face the consequences based on the country’s environmental rules and these companies would not be allowed to use EHPEA’s logo, sources disclosed. On his part, Tsegaye Abebe, EHPEA’s president, told Fortune: “We have launched the Code and will soon begin implementation, but we must enhance our capacity. This has required us to establish a training unit.” The Association has hired Glenn Humphries to head the training unit along with four other experts. Labour groups too, see their work cut out for them. “The presence of the Code gives us access to the employees of the flower farms in the country and makes it possible to begin organisation so that these people may come to understand the issues surrounding the industry, Kassahun Follo, president of CETU told Fortune. Even those profit motivated stakeholders have taken a reservedly positive outlook on the document. Solomon underscores, “With the Code in hand, the issue of the environment and labour standards would be addressed in a more appropriate and systematic manner. We can now proceed without the harassment that we have experienced at the hands of environmental activists so that we can penetrate European markets by meeting their demands.”

However, some of those coming with the most to gain from the Code, farm workers, are not even aware of its existence.
“I do not know about the Code. I just need protective clothing for my work,” Yenesew told Fortune.


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

post Is a Rose a Rose?

January 26th, 2008

Filed under: Environment — Lissan Magazine @ 00:36

A Rose is a Rose…or Is It?
by Gregory Dicum
San Francisco Chronicle

Valentine’s Day, and because I want to show my wife how much I love her, I’ve been thinking a lot about flowers.

photo: admassu m. k.

I’m not the only one. This year, Americans will spend $20 billion on flowers and plants, with the bulk of cut flowers sold between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. The 180 million roses sold for Valentine’s Day account for a third of the yearly total. It’s a huge industry, on a par with something as ubiquitous as coffee. Yet compared to just about everything else in the supermarket, the cut flower industry lags behind in eco-friendliness. While food has been undergoing an organic revolution that is now solidly mainstream, and people are demanding—and getting - sustainable and socially responsible choices in many of life’s finer things, including wines, chocolate and diamonds, flowers aren’t there yet.

“The problem is that commercially grown fresh-cut flowers are produced with an extensive artillery of toxic fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides,” says Gerald Prolman, founder of Organic Bouquet, the first and only national online retailer of organic flowers.

“The government does not inspect flowers for pesticide residues,” he continues, “but at the same time, regulations require that flowers arrive at our borders pest free. So trade laws encourage the use of strong chemicals.” And that causes problems, and not just for fragile mountain ecosystems in South America. In countries like Colombia and Ecuador, which together produce the majority of cut flowers you’ll see in the United States, workers are affected as well. “Commercial flower production is more similar to industry than to agriculture,” says Nora Ferm, director of the Fairness in Flowers campaign at the International Labor Rights Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for the rights of workers in developing countries.

“Flower plantations are like sweatshops,” continues Ferm, who is based in Ecuador and visits plantations regularly. “The flowers are grown in greenhouses, which makes the use of pesticides especially dangerous to the workers. The pesticides stay inside the greenhouse instead of being dispersed into the air.” According to the ILRF, one in five of the pesticides used on flowers in Colombia is banned for use in the United States. Workers can be poisoned just by doing their jobs or, even more acutely, through lax safety standards. “In November 2003, there was a chemical spill at a plantation called Flores Aposentos in Colombia,” says Ferm by way of example. “More than 300 workers started showing signs of intoxication, such as strong headaches, nausea, swelling, rashes, diarrhea, and sores inside and around the mouth. For several weeks, the company refused to provide clear information about what the chemical had been and what had led to the spill.” It’s enough to put you off your bouquet. But it would be a mistake to dismiss flowers as something to be avoided altogether. Beauty isn’t frivolous: A sustainable world is a beautiful world, and flowers—the very symbol of natural beauty—are a part of it.

That puts people like me in a quandary.

“Because flowers are an aesthetic product, they really do have to look perfect,” says Mary Lois Hare, owner of Loop Group, a San Francisco design studio that specializes in wedding flowers. Hare has to make the decision about what kind of flowers to buy all the time—she buys thousands every year. “A lot of the public doesn’t like thinking about certain things,” she says. “The same people who buy organic food, thinking that it’s healthier, aren’t realizing that these pesticides are doing damage on a global level and that the workers are so poor that they don’t have any other choice.” But Prolman, of Organic Bouquet, is betting that once people know what is going on, they will shop for flowers differently. “Flowers are really simple, and there’s an assumption that flowers are grown naturally—people don’t realize the extent of the chemical use. But once consumers know that there’s an alternative, those people with a good conscience prefer the environmental choice.”

Prolman, who owned an organic food importing company in the 1990s and saw that industry mature from fringe to mainstream - his company was bought by Dole in 1994—is banking on the same thing happening in flowers. In fact, he wants to be the person to make it happen. “Organic flowers are important because they’re safe for the environment,” he says, “and the notion of organic floral production encourages healthy stewardship of the Earth. That’s at the heart of what we’re doing. But when I started this company in 2001,” he continues, “I began with the notion that our flowers need to be competitively priced to make this really work. And they are. And we have the same or better quality. But we have a major of point of differentiation, in that our flowers are organic.”

Still, Prolman acknowledges that flowers lag far behind food in organic consciousness. “There’s only one organic rose producer in the world right now—Rio Bamba, in Ecuador,” he says. This is the source for the more than 120 thousand roses Organic Bouquet expects to ship from its Miami fulfillment center for Valentine’s Day this year. (The company’s headquarters is in Marin.) “We would love a California supplier,” he continues, “since our first priority is local flowers, but Ecuador has the advantage at this time of year [because roses are in season there now].”

Organic Bouquet has developed a regionally diverse network of flower growers, starting with local sources like California and Oregon and extending to Ecuador, Colombia, Holland and Israel. Prolman now has some new projects in Mexico and is looking at Kenya and Ethiopia. Although his company has been growing at more than 50 percent per year, Prolman’s goal of creating a $100 million enterprise is audacious—it represents a 10th of the $1 billion of flowers sold online last year. But one company does not make an entire sustainable industry. With limited supply, individual florists like Hare have a tough time getting sustainable flowers, and they’re not likely to buy them online.

“When I’m buying flowers for a wedding,” says Hare, “I have to see them before I buy them. I can’t be laying down a bunch of money for hundreds of roses if I haven’t selected, each one myself.” But Prolman sees it as his mission to spread sustainability throughout the flower industry, and he says the work he’s doing with Organic Bouquet is helping growers make the change, which should improve supply for everybody.”There’s a reason why they use chemicals to grow flowers,” says Prolman. “The growers have to combat pests and fungus and all sorts of pressures that affect their crops, so going organic is not an easy decision for a grower to make. But it can be done. Our growers have proven that, and customers are really glad to get the products.”

To help spread his mission, Prolman has teamed up with Scientific Certification Systems, a third-party certifier of environmental claims, to create the Veriflora certification label. Designed to point growers toward sustainability by reducing chemical use, the Veriflora certification is a stepping-stone on the way to organic. “It’s a new standard for the fresh-cut flower trade,” says Prolman. “It will support growers in the process while they transition their farms to organic. And at the same time, it shows consumers there are stringent controls about social and ecological practices.” The label is just entering the marketplace now. “It will be everywhere by Mother’s Day,” says Prolman. “I believe that it will become the standard for the fresh flower industry.” Similar certifications, including organic, have been on the European market for more than a decade, and Ferm says she’s seen the difference they make on farms in South America. “It’s clear that conditions at certified plantations are better,” she says.

But Ferm adds that responsible chemical use is just one element of improving the lives of flower plantation workers. “Organic certification does not mean that labor laws and standards were complied with at that plantation,” she points out. Besides a list of abuses including irregular payment, forced overtime and sexual harassment, Ferm says that growers often force women workers to take pregnancy tests, and to avoid government-mandated maternity leave, fire workers they find are pregnant. So much for Mother’s Day. Veriflora certification requires growers to adhere to critical human rights measures, affirm the right to collective bargaining, undertake efforts to limit pesticide exposure and prohibit child labor. (According to the ILRF, up to a fifth of the flower workers in Ecuador are children.) But until the label is widespread, people like me who just want a bunch of roses to give on Valentine’s Day have limited sustainable flower options.

Ferm says organic is a good start. “It means that the workers who harvested your flowers were not exposed to toxic chemicals like most flower workers are.” When she can, Hare takes a different approach. “The best I can do for now,” she says, “is to get flowers from local growers who I know personally. But it’s tough because there’s not a lot of local flowers in February. Hydrangeas are local now, but roses aren’t. Ask your florist. That’s the first step.” Prolman says that asking is the key to changing the industry. “If people ask, growers will provide,” he says. “Growers are the most resourceful people I’ve ever met, and to the extent that the market demands sustainable practice, growers are going to respond.”

“Consumers can accelerate the movement by asking their florists or retail stores to carry organic flowers,” he goes on. “Write little notes when you go into the stores. Management reads them, and they’ll respond.” But where does that leave people like me on Valentine’s Day, when I suddenly remember I need to demonstrate the depth of my love but it’s far too late to order anything online? Is there a sustainable option for the disorganized? “Get them a potted plant—that’s the best solution,” says Hare. “They’re not shipped too far and the pesticides have to be at least approved in the U.S. And they last longer .”

And later this year, get your valentine a big, beautiful bouquet of locally grown organic flowers for Labor Day—that’s when Northern California’s flower bounty is really peaking. Plus, you’ve got more lead time.

Gregory Dicum, author of Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air, writes about the natural world from San Francisco. A forester by training.

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

post The Eunuch and the King’s Daughter

January 22nd, 2008

Filed under: Literature Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 22:14

The Eunuch and the King’s Daughter

By Waltenegus Dargie
Preface by: Richard Pankhurst, Professor



Waltenegus Dargie was born in Neghelle Borana, southern Ethiopia, in 1969. He is by profession an engineer. He is, however, also an already accomplished Ethiopian man of letters. His poem Miscarriage won him the Ethiopian Best Poem of the Year award in 1990.

His current work, the setting of which is perhaps influenced by his knowledge of the south of his country, is an exciting historical novel. In his opening chapter he transports us, as if by magic, into the conflicts, statesmanship and intrigues of the little-known petty states of nineteenth century south-western Ethiopia — states whose wealth was based on gold, ivory and slaves.

We find ourselves in the imaginary kingdom of Mathi, whose neighbours are the historic polities of Kaffa, Hadiya, Gimira and Magi. We are introduced to the proud but ineffectual King Badar of Mathi, his three rival wives, and his beautiful young daughter Mersabel (the heroine of the story). We also meet an unfortunate English scholar whom the king has purchased as a slave, and who is unable to manufacture the rifles and cannons required by his master. A no less important figure in the story is the noble eunuch Marebath, who is the Head of the Guards.

As the plot unravels we see Mathi at war with its neighbours. King Badar and his advisers are, however, aware of the potentially greater challenge from the reforming Emperor Tewodros, whom Waltenegus presents in a sympathetic light. Tewodros’s kingdom, to their manifest relief, is, however, located too far away to the north to pose any immediate threat to the local status quo.

The king and his family have at the same time to take account of another potential source of trouble: the underlying struggle between adherents of the traditional gods - and goddesses, and believers in the Virgin Mary. Her creed has recently been introduced by Temari, a wily Christian monk from the North, whose ambition is to uproot Mithi’s sacred old Oak Tree…

Waltenegus’s plot keeps the attention of the reader throughout, and leads on to a dramatic dénouement.

post Jesuits in Ethiopia

January 22nd, 2008

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 21:20

The Jesuits in 16/17th-Century Ethiopia

The Christian kingdom that controlled the Ethiopian high plateau suffered a series of very deep political, economic, military and religious crises in the period between the late 15th century and the expulsion of the Jesuit missionaries in 1633. The Somali and Afari armies led by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim, called the Gragñ (or “left-handed”) seriously threatened the very existence of the Christian state from 1529 to 1543, when they were finally defeated by the Abyssinians with the help of a small Portuguese expeditionary force sent from Goa, India. Subsequently, parties of Borana and Barentuma Oromo pastoralists began raiding deeper and deeper into Abyssinian territory and, by the end of the 16th century, many had settled in Gojam and Shoa and had become the main adversaries of royal power in Abyssinia.

The Ethiopian king meets the Catholic patriarch Afonso Mendes.

The Portuguese military collaboration with the Christian Ethiopians served their own strategic interests in their regional rivalry with the Ottoman Turks for control of the trade routes in the Red Sea and the north-western sector of the Indian Ocean. But the Portuguese rulers, together with the Pope in Rome and the head of the Company of Jesus, had the additional intention of establishing a mission in Ethiopia to encourage the population to switch from their Orthodox faith to Catholicism – an intention that made sense in the light of the Counter-Reformation concerns in Southern Europe.

A Jesuit mission led by Father Andrés de Oviedo first entered the country in 1557, only to find that the conversion project was too utopian. They began visiting the royal court, where they participated in a number of theological discussions with the Orthodox clergy. But they were eventually persecuted and expelled to Tigray where, in May Gwagwa, they preached and gave support to the Portuguese community that had stayed in Ethiopia in the wake of the Gragñ wars. As the years passed and the Portuguese either dwindled in numbers or converted to Orthodoxy, the mission became almost extinct.

By the end of the century, when Philip II, the Emperor of Spain, inherited the Portuguese royal crown, he decided to revive the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia. A new priest, Father Pedro Páez , was sent from Goa. Once in Ethiopia, he forced his way into the royal court. Other priests joined him and together they gradually gained the favour of the new Ethiopian King Susneyos and, very importantly, converted his brother the Ras Sela Krestos to Catholicism.

In 1621, Susneyos publicly announced his adherence to the Latin faith, a strategy to reinforce his political power and his independence from the influential Orthodox clergy. A consequence of the public conversion of the king was the arrival of a growing number of Jesuit priests intent on rapidly introducing Catholic reforms into Ethiopia. In 1626, the Catholic Patriarch Afonso Mendes imposed a number of changes on the ancestral religious practices of the Ethiopians. Social unrest and civil war followed and Susneyos was forced to resign. His son Fasiladas, who succeeded him, rejected Catholicism upon his accession to the throne and, in 1633, expelled or killed all Jesuit missionaries.


post Languages of Ethiopia

January 22nd, 2008

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 20:17

Living languages

[aiz] 158,857 (1998 census). 129,350 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 155,002 (1989 census). North central Omo Region, southern tip of Ethiopian plateau, near the Hamer-Banna. Alternate names: Ari, Ara, Aro, Aarai, “Shankilla”, “Shankillinya”, “Shankilligna”. Dialects: Gozza, Bako (Baco), Biyo (Bio), Galila, Laydo, Seyki, Shangama, Sido, Wubahamer (Ubamer), Zeddo. Galila is a significantly divergent dialect. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[aar] 979,367 in Ethiopia. 905,872 monolinguals (1998 census). Population total all countries: 1,439,367. Eastern lowlands, Afar Region. May also be in Somalia. Also spoken in Djibouti, Eritrea. Alternate names: Afaraf, “Danakil”, “Denkel”, `Afar Af, Adal. Dialects: Northern Afar, Central Afar, Aussa, Baadu (Ba`adu). Related to Saho. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Saho-Afar

[alw] 126,257 (1998 census). 95,388 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 125,900 (1998 census). Rift Valley southwest of Lake Shala. Separated by a river from the Kambatta. Alternate names: Allaaba, Halaba. Dialects: Lexical similarity 81% with Kambaata, 64% with Sidamo, 56% with Libido, 54% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[amh] 17,372,913 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 14,743,556 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 17,417,913. Ethnic population: 16,007,933 (1998 census). North central Ethiopia, Amhara Region, and in Addis Ababa. Also spoken in Egypt, Israel, Sweden. Alternate names: Abyssinian, Ethiopian, Amarinya, Amarigna. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Amharic-Argobba

[myo] 500 (1990 SIL). Ethnic population: 1,000 (1990 SIL). Anfillo Forest, west of Dembi Dolo. Alternate names: Southern Mao. Dialects: Lexical similarity 53% with Shekkacho. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, Central

[anu] 45,646 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 34,311 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 45,665 (1998 census). Gambela Region in the southwest. Along the Baro, Alworo, and Gilo rivers and on the right bank of the Akobo River. Gambela town is the main center. Alternate names: Anywak, Anyuak, Anywa, Yambo, Jambo, Yembo, Bar, Burjin, Miroy, Moojanga, Nuro. Dialects: Adoyo, Coro, Lul, Opëno. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Western, Luo, Northern, Anuak

[arv] 4,441 (1998 census). 3,907 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 6,559 (1998 census). Extreme southwest, Omo Region, near Lake Stefanie. Alternate names: Arbora, Erbore, Irbore. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Western Omo-Tana

[agj] 10,860 (1998 census). 44,737 monolinguals. Population includes 47,285 in Amharic, 3,771 in Oromo, 541 in Tigrigna (1998 census). Ethnic population: 62,831 (1998 census). Fragmented areas along the Rift Valley in settlements like Yimlawo, Gusa, Shonke, Berket, Keramba, Mellajillo, Metehara, Shewa Robit, and surrounding rural villages. Dialects: Ankober, Shonke. It is reported that the ‘purest’ Argobba is spoken in Shonke and T’olaha. Lexical similarity 75% to 85% with Amharic. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Amharic-Argobba

[awn] 356,980 (1998 census). 279,326 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 397,491 (1998 census). Amhara Region. Widely scattered parts of Agew Midir and Metekel, southwest of Lake Tana. Alternate names: Awiya, Awi, Agaw, Agau, Agew, Agow, Awawar, Damot, Kwollanyoch. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Southern

[bsw] 1,010 (1995 SIL). Ethnic population: 3,260 (1994 M. Brenzinger). Alge village near Merab Abaya, halfway between Soddo and Arba Minch (390); Gidicho Island, Baiso and Shigima villages (200); and Welege Island on Lake Abaya (420), and the western shore of the lake. Alternate names: Bayso, Alkali. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Western Omo-Tana

[myf] 5,000 (1982 SIL). Beni Shangul Region, in and around Bambesi. Alternate names: Bambeshi, Siggoyo, Amam, Fadiro, Northern Mao, Didessa. Dialects: Kere, Bambassi. Lexical similarity 31% with other Omotic languages, 17% with Hozo-Sezo (Bender 1983). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, East

[bst] 57,805 (1998 census). 42,726 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 51,097 (1998 census). North Omo Region, on a plateau west of Bulki. Alternate names: Basketto, Baskatta, Mesketo. Dialects: Lexical similarity 61% with Oyda. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, West

[bcq] 173,586 (1998 census). 149,293 monolinguals. Population includes 10,002 She, 1,070 Mer. Ethnic population: 173,123 (1998 census). Kafa Region, in and around Mizan Teferi and Shewa Bench towns. Alternate names: Gimira, Ghimarra, Gimarra, Dizu. Dialects: Bench (Bencho, Benesho), Mer (Mieru), She (Sce, Kaba). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Gimira

[wti] 124,799 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 99,689 monolinguals including 4,146 Fadashi. Population includes 8,715 Fadashi. Population total all countries: 146,799. Ethnic population: 125,853 including 7,323 Fadashi (1998 census). Beni Shangul Region, the corner formed by the Blue Nile River and Sudan border north of Asosa, and Dalati, a village east of the Dabus River. Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Beni Shangul, Bertha, Barta, Burta, Wetawit, Jebelawi. Dialects: Shuru, Bake, Undu, Mayu, Fadashi, Dabuso, Gobato. Probably two or more languages. Fadashi may be separate. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Berta

[bxe] 19 (2000 M. Brenzinger). Ethnic population: 89 (2000 M. Brenzinger). One village on the west bank of the Weyt’o River, southeast Omo Region. Alternate names: ‘Ongota, Birelle, Ifa’ongota, “Shanqilla”. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Unclassified Nearly extinct.

[bwo] 19,878 (1998 census). Population includes 144 Gamila; 2,276 second-language speakers including 45 Gamila; 18,567 monolinguals including 77 Gamila. Ethnic population: 32,894 including 186 Gamila (1998 census). Southwest Amhara Region, near the Blue Nile River. Alternate names: Bworo, Shinasha, Scinacia. Dialects: Amuru, Wembera, Gamila, Guba. Related to Kafa. Scattered dialect groups. Lexical similarity 46% with Shekkacho. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, North

[bji] 35,731 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 29,259 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 42,731. Ethnic population: 46,565 (1998 census). South of Lake Ciamo. Also spoken in Kenya. Alternate names: Bambala, Bembala, Daashi. Dialects: Lexical similarity 41% with Sidamo (closest). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[dox] 6,624 (1998 census). 4,955 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 9,207 (1998 census). Omo Region, west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Dobase, D’oopace, D’opaasunte, Lohu, Mashile, Mashelle, Masholle, Mosiye, Musiye, Gobeze, Gowase, Goraze, Orase. Dialects: There is a dialect chain with Komso-Dirasha-Dobase. Lexical similarity 78% with Gawwada, 51% with Komso, 86% with Gollango, 80% with Harso, 61% with Tsamai. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Dullay

[cra] 6,932. 5,556 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 6,984 (1998 census). Central Kafa Region, just north of the Omo River. Alternate names: Ciara. Dialects: Lexical similarity 54% with Wolaytta. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Chara

[dsh] 32,064 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 31,368 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 34,564. Ethnic population: 32,099 (1998 census). Lower Omo River, along Lake Turkana, extending into Kenya. Also spoken in Kenya. Alternate names: Dasenech, Daasanech, Dathanaik, Dathanaic, Dathanik, Gheleba, Geleba, Geleb, Gelebinya, Gallab, Galuba, Gelab, Gelubba, Dama, Marille, Merile, Merille, Morille, Reshiat, Russia, “Shangilla”. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Western Omo-Tana

[dim] 6,501 (1998 census). 4,785 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 6,197 (1998 census). Kafa Region, north of the Omo River, just before it turns south. Alternate names: Dima. Dialects: Lexical similarity 47% with Banna. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[gdl] 50,328 (1998 census). 41,685 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 54,354 (1998 census). Omo Region, in the hills west of Lake Chamo, around Gidole town. Alternate names: Dhirasha, Diraasha, Dirayta, Gardulla, Ghidole, Gidole. Dialects: Part of a dialect cluster with Komso and Bussa. Lexical similarity 55% with Komso. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Konso-Gidole


[mdx] 21,075 (1998 census). 17,583 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 21,894 (1998 census). Kafa Region, near Maji town. Alternate names: Maji, Dizi-Maji, Sizi, Twoyu. Dialects: Related to Sheko, Nayi. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Dizoid

[doz] 20,782 (1998 census). 9,905 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 28,990 (1998 census). Mostly in North Omo Region in and around Chencha, but a significant community is in Addis Ababa. Dialects: Lexical similarity 82% to 87% with Gamo, 77% to 81% with Gofa, 80% with Wolaytta, 73% to 75% with Kullo, 54% with Koorete, 48% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

Ethiopian Sign Language

[eth] Classification: Deaf sign language

[gmo] 1,236,637 (1998 census). 1,046,084 monolinguals including 597,130 Gamo, 259,633 Dawro, 189,321 Gofa. Population includes 690,069 Gamo, 313,228 Dawro, 233,340 Gofa. Ethnic population: 1,292,860 (1998 census) including 719,847 Gamo, 331,483 Dawro, 241,530 Gofa (1998 census). Omo Region, in and around Arba Minch, and in the mountains west to Lake Abaya. Dache is a place name, not a language. Dialects: Gamo (Gemu), Gofa (Goffa), Dawro (Dauro, Kullo, Cullo, Ometay). Subdialects of Dawro are Konta (Conta) and Kucha (Kusha, Koysha). Gamo has 79% to 91% lexical similarity with Gofa, 79% to 89% with Wolaytta, 82% to 87% with Dorze, 73% to 80% with Dawro, 49% with Koorete, 44% with Male. Dawro has 76% with Gofa, 80% with Wolaytta, 73% to 75% with Dorze, 48% with Koorete, 43% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[gza] 5,400 (2004). Ethnic population: 6,291 (2000 WCD). Western Oromo, near the Blue Nile. Alternate names: Ganzo, Koma. Dialects: Related to Hozo-Sezo (Ruhlen 1987.322). Lexical similarity 14% with Omotic languages, 6% with Mao. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, West

[gwd] 32,698 (1998 census). 27,477 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 33,971 (1998 census). Omo Region, west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Gauwada, Gawata, Kawwad’a, Kawwada. Dialects: Dihina (Tihina, Tihinte), Gergere (K’ark’arte), Gobeze, Gollango (Kollanko), Gorose (Gorrose, Korrose), Harso (Worase). Lexical similarity 78% with Bussa, 73% with Tsamai, 77% with Harso, 92% with Gollango, 41% with Komso. Harso has 80% with Dobase, 56% with Tsamai. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Dullay

[drs] 637,082 (1998 census). 438,958 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 639,905 (1998 census). Central highland area, southwest of Dilla and east of Lake Abaya. Alternate names: Geddeo, Deresa, Derasa, Darasa, Derasanya, Darassa. Dialects: Lexical similarity 60% with Sidamo (closest), 57% with Alaba, 54% with Kambaata, 51% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[guk] 120,424 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 88,192 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 160,424. Ethnic population: 121,487 (1998 census). Near Metemma on Sudan border south through Gondar and Gojjam, along Blue Nile and south into Wellaga and Didessa Valley up to Leqemt-Gimbi Road, and villages southwest of Addis Ababa, around Welqite (possibly 1,000). Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Bega-Tse, Sigumza, Gumuzinya, Gumis, Gombo, Mendeya, “Shankillinya”, “Shankilligna”, “Shanqilla”, Debatsa, Debuga, Dehenda, Bega. Dialects: Guba, Wenbera, Sirba, Agalo, Yaso, Mandura, Dibate, Metemma. There are noticeable dialect differences, and not all dialects are inherently intelligible. Mandura, Dibate, and Metemma form a distinct dialect cluster. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Gumuz

[hdy] 923,958 (1998 census). 595,107 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 927,933 (1998 census). Gurage, Kambaata, Hadiyya Region, between the Omo and Billate rivers, in and around Hosaina town. Alternate names: Adiya, Adiye, Hadiya, Hadya, Adea, Hadia. Dialects: Leemo, Soro. Lexical similarity 82% with Libido, 56% with Kambaata, 54% with Alaba, 53% with Sidamo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[amf] 42,838 (1998 census). 38,354 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 42,466 (1998 census). South Omo Region, near the Omo River, and north of Lake Turkana, in the southwest corner, near the Kenya, Uganda, Sudan borders. Alternate names: Hamar-Koke, Hammercoche, Amarcocche, Cocche, Beshada, Hamer, Hammer, Hamar, Amer, Amar, Ammar, Banna, Bana, Kara Kerre. Dialects: Hamer and Banna are separate ethnic groups who speak virtually the same language. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[har] 21,283 (1998 census). 2,351 monolinguals. 20,000 in Addis Ababa, outside Harar city (Hetzron 1997:486). Ethnic population: 21,757 (1998 census). Homeland Eastern, traditionally within the walled city of Harar. Large communities in Addis Ababa, Nazareth, and Dire Dawa. Alternate names: Hararri, Adare, Adere, Aderinya, Adarinnya, Gey Sinan. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Harari-East Gurage

[hoz] 3,000 (1995 SIL). Western Oromo Region, Begi area, 50 or more villages. Alternate names: Begi-Mao. Dialects: Related to Bambassi (Bender 1975). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, West

[ior] 280,000. Population includes 50,000 Endegeny. West Gurage Region, Innemor and Endegeny woredas. Alternate names: Ennemor. Dialects: Enegegny (Enner). Part of a Gurage cluster of languages. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

[kcx] 4,072 (1998 census). 1,002 monolinguals including 816 Kachama, 186 Ganjule. Population includes 2,682 Kachama,1,390 Ganjule; 419 second-language speakers including 223 Kachama, 196 Ganjule. Ethnic population: 3,886 (1998 census) including 2,740 Kachama, 1,146 Ganjule. Kachama is on Gidicho Island in Lake Abaya. Ganjule originally on a small island in Lake Chamo. Ganjule have recently relocated to Shela-Mela on the west shore of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Gats’ame, Get’eme, Gatame. Dialects: Ganjule (Ganjawle), Ganta, Kachama. Lexical similarity 46% with Wolaytta. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, East

[koe] 4,120 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD). Southern Ethiopia-Sudan border, Boma Plateau in Sudan (Kacipo). Dialects: Balesi (Baale, Bale), Zilmamu (Silmamo, Zelmamu, Zulmamu, Tsilmano), Kacipo (Kachepo, Suri, Western Suri). Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southwest, Kacipo-Balesi

[kbr] 569,626. 445,018 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 599,188 (1998 census). Kafa Region, in and around the town of Bonga. There may be some in Sudan. Alternate names: Kaficho, Kefa, Keffa, Kaffa, Caffino, Manjo. Dialects: Kafa, Bosha (Garo). Related to Shekkacho. Bosha may be a separate language. Manjo is an argot based on Kafa (Bender 1983). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, South

[ktb] 606,241 (1998 census). 345,797 monolinguals including 278,567 Kambaata, 51,541 Timbaro, 15,689 Qebena (1998 census). Population includes 487,655 Kambaata, 82,803 Timbaro, 35,783 Qebena. Ethnic population: 621,407 (1998 census). Southwest Gurage, Kambaata, Hadiyya Region. Durame is the main town. Alternate names: Kambatta, Kambata, Kembata, Kemata, Kambara, Donga. Dialects: Tambaro, Timbaro (Timbara, Timbaaro), Qebena (Qabena, Kebena, K’abena). Qebena may be a separate language. Lexical similarity 95% with Timbaro dialect, 81% with Allaaba, 62% with Sidamo, 57% with Libido, 56% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[kxh] 200 (1998 M. Yigezu). South Omo Region, upstream from the Daasanach, riverside settlements near the Hamer-Banna. Alternate names: Kerre, Cherre, Kere. Dialects: Dialect or closely related language to Hamer-Banna. Lexical similarity 81% with Hamer-Banna. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[gru] 254,682 (1998 census). Ethnic population: 363,867 (1998 census) including 4,000 Gogot. Gurage, Kambaata, Hadiyya Region, just southwest of Addis Ababa. Alternate names: Soddo, Soddo Gurage, North Gurage. Dialects: Soddo (Aymallal, Aymellel, Kestane, Kistane), Dobi (Dobbi, Gogot, Goggot). Not intelligible with Silte or West Gurage. Dobi speakers’ comprehension of Soddo is 76%, and Soddo speakers’ comprehension of Dobi is 90%. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, n-Group

[xom] 1,500 in Ethiopia (1975 Bender). South and west of Kwama. Alternate names: Madiin, Koma, South Koma, Central Koma. Dialects: Koma of Begi, Koma of Daga. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

[kxc] 149,508 (1998 census). 138,696 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 153,419 (1998 census). South of Lake Ciamo in the bend of the Sagan River. A few migrants in Kenya. Alternate names: Konso, Conso, Gato, Af-Kareti, Karate, Kareti. Dialects: Lexical similarity 51% with Bussa, 41% with Gawwada, 31% with Tsamai. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Konso-Gidole

[kqy] 103,879. 84,388 monolinguals (1998 census). About 60 Harro families in Harro village on Gidicho (Gidicció) Island. Ethnic population: 107,595 (1998 census). In the Amaro mountains east of Lake Abaya, Sidama Region. Alternate names: Amarro, Amaarro, Badittu, Nuna, Koyra, Koore, Kwera. Dialects: Lexical similarity 54% with Dorze, 53% with Wolaytta, 52% with Gofa, 49% with Gamo, 48% with Kullo, 45% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, East

[xuf] 2,000 (2000 M. Brenzinger). West of Lake Tana. Alternate names: Kunfäl, Kunfel, Kumfel. Dialects: Related to Awngi. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Southern

[kmq] 15,000 (1982 SIL). Along Sudan border in southern Beni Shangul Region, from south of Asosa to Gidami, and in Gambela and Bonga. 19 villages, including one (Yabus) in Sudan. Alternate names: Takwama, Gwama, Goma, Gogwama, Koma of Asosa, North Koma, Nokanoka, Afan Mao, Amam, T’wa Kwama. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

[xwg] 103 (1998 census). 73 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 173 (1998 census). Kuchur village on the western bank of the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. Alternate names: Koegu, Kwegi, Bacha, Menja, Nidi. Dialects: Yidinich (Yidinit, Yidi), Muguji. The dialects listed may not be inherently intelligible with Kwegu; it may be a name for several hunter groups. Lexical similarity 36% with Mursi. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Kwegu

[liq] 36,612 (1998 census). 14,623 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 38,096 (1998 census). Hadiyya, Kambaata, Gurage Region, northeast of Hosaina. Alternate names: Maraqo, Marako. Dialects: Syntactic, morphological, and lexical differences from Hadiyya. Lexical similarity 82% with Hadiyya, 57% with Kambaata, 56% with Allaaba, 53% with Sidamo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[mpe] 15,341 (1998 census). 10,752 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 15,341 (1998 census). Southwest. Mainly within a long, narrow belt between Bure (east of Gambela) and Guraferda to the south. Covers part of Gambela, Oromo, and Kafa administrative regions. They have been scattered, but are now settling in villages. Alternate names: Mesengo, Masongo, Masango, Majanjiro, Tama, Ojanjur, Ajo, Ato Majang, Ato Majanger-Onk. Dialects: Minor dialect variation. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, North, Majang

[mdy] 53,779 (1998 census). 40,660 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 46,458 (1998 census). Omo Region, southeast of Jinka. Dialects: Lexical similarity 48% with Dorze, 46% with Gofa, 45% with Koorete, 44% with Gamo, 43% with Wolaytta and Kullo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo

[mym] 56,585 (1998 census). 51,446 monolinguals including 4,553 Bodi. Population includes 4,570 Bodi. Ethnic population: 57,501 (1998 census) including 4,686 Bodi. Central Kafa Region, the Tishena in and around Bachuma, the Bodi in lowlands to the south, near the Omo River. Not in Sudan. Alternate names: Mekan, Mie’en, Mieken, Meqan, Men. Dialects: Bodi (Podi), Tishena (Teshina, Teshenna). Tishena is inherently intelligible with Bodi. Close to Mursi. Lexical similarity 65% with Surma, 30% with Murle. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Pastoral, Me’en

[mfx] 20,151 (1998 census). 13,264 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 20,189 (1998 census). North Omo Region, in and around Malo-Koza, northeast of the Basketo. Alternate names: Malo. Dialects: Related to Gamo-Gofa-Dawro, but may not be inherently intelligible. The Language Academy said it should be considered a separate speech variety. Lexical similarity 70% with the majority of Ometo language varieties. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[mvz] 25,000 (2002). West Gurage Region, Mareqo woreda, principle villages: Mikayelo, Mesqan, and Hudat. Alternate names: Masqan, Meskan. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

[mur] 200 in Ethiopia (1975 Tournay). South of the Akobo River. Olam is in southwest Ethiopia and on the Sudan border. It is between Murle and Majang culturally and linguistically (Bender 1983). Alternate names: Murele, Merule, Mourle, Murule, Beir, Ajibba. Dialects: Olam (Ngalam, Bangalam). Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southwest, Didinga-Murle, Murle


[muz] 3,278 (1998 census). 3,155 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 3,258 (1998 census). Central Omo Region, lowlands southwest of Jinka. Alternate names: Murzi, Murzu, Merdu, Meritu, Dama. Dialects: Close to Suri of Sudan. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Pastoral, Suri

[noz] 3,656 (1998 census). 1,137 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 4,005 (1998 census). Decha Awraja, Kafa Region, and scattered in other parts of Kafa. The nearest town is Bonga. A few in Dulkuma village of the Shoa Bench Wereda, and Aybera, Kosa, and Jomdos villages of Sheko Wereda. Alternate names: Na’o, Nao. Dialects: Related to Dizi, Sheko. Lexical similarity 58% with Dizi. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Dizoid

[nus] 64,907 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 61,640 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 64,534 (1998 census). Along the Baro River, in Gambela Region. Alternate names: Naath. Dialects: Eastern Nuer (Ji, Kany, Jikany, Door, Abigar). Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Western, Dinka-Nuer, Nuer

[nnj] 14,177 (1998 census). 13,797 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 14,201 (1998 census). Extreme southwest corner of Ethiopia, Omo Region. Two settlement centers: Omo River and Kibish River. Transhumance into the region of Moru Angipi in Sudan. Alternate names: Inyangatom, Donyiro, Dongiro, Idongiro. Dialects: Inherently intelligible with Toposa and Turkana. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Eastern, Lotuxo-Teso, Teso-Turkana, Turkana

[lgn] 301 in Ethiopia. 235 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 307 (1998 census). 5 villages along the Sudan border north of the Anuak and Nuer. Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Opo-Shita, Opo, Opuo, Cita, Ciita, Shita, Shiita, Ansita, Kina, Kwina, “Langa”. Dialects: Lexical similarity 24% with Koma. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji

[gax] 3,634,000 in Ethiopia. Population total all countries: 3,827,616. South Oromo Region. Also spoken in Kenya, Somalia. Alternate names: Afan Oromo, Southern Oromo, “Galla”, “Gallinya”, “Galligna”. Dialects: Borana (Boran, Borena), Arsi (Arussi, Arusi), Guji (Gujji, Jemjem), Kereyu, Salale (Selale), Gabra (Gabbra, Gebra). Harar is closely related, but distinct enough to need separate literature. In Kenya, Gabra and Sakuye may have significant dialect and language attitude differences from the Boran dialect. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

Oromo, Eastern
[hae] 4,526,000 (1998 census). Eastern and western Hararghe zone in northern Bale zone. Alternate names: “Qotu” Oromo, Harar, Harer, “Qottu”, “Quottu”, “Qwottu”, “Kwottu”, Ittu. Dialects: Close to Borana Oromo, but divergent. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

Oromo, West Central
[gaz] 8,920,000 in Ethiopia (1998 census). Ethnic population: All ethnic Oromo are 30,000,000 in Ethiopia. Oromo Region, West and Central Ethiopia, and along the Rift Valley escarpment east of Dessie and Woldiya. Also spoken in Egypt. Alternate names: Afan Oromo, Oromiffa, Oromoo, “Galla”. Dialects: Western Oromo, Central Oromo. Subdialects are Mecha (Maccha, Wellaga, Wallaga, Wollega), Raya, Wello (Wollo), Tulema (Tulama, Shoa, Shewa). Harar and Boran are different enough to need separate literature. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

[oyd] 16,597 (1998 census). 6,244 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 14,075 (1998 census). Northwest Omo Region, southwest of Sawla. Dialects: Lexical similarity 69% with Wolaytta, 61% with Basketo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[ahg] 1,650 in Ethiopia (1998 census). Ethnic population: 172,327 (1998 census). Northwest Amhara Region, north of Lake Tana. Communities of Qwara or Kayla are near Addis Ababa and in Eritrea. None in Sudan. Also spoken in Eritrea. Alternate names: Kimanteney, Western Agaw. Dialects: Qimant (Kemant, Kimant, Kemanat, Kamant, Chemant, Qemant), Dembiya (Dembya, Dambya), Hwarasa (Qwara, Qwarina, “Kara”), Kayla, Semyen, Achpar, Kwolasa (Kwolacha). Distinct from Awngi, Bilen, and Xamtanga. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Western

[ssy] 22,759 in Ethiopia (1998 census). Tigray. Alternate names: Sao, Shaho, Shoho, Shiho. Dialects: Irob. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Saho-Afar

Sebat Bet Gurage
[sgw] 440,000. Population includes Chaha 130,000, Gura 20,000, Muher 90,000, Gyeto 80,000, Ezha 120,000. West Gurage Region, Chaha is spoken in and around Emdibir, Gura is spoken in and around Gura Megenase and Wirir, Muher is spoken in and around Ch’eza and in the mountains north of Chaha and Ezha, Gyeto is spoken south of Ark’it’ in K’abul and K’want’e, Ezha is spoken in Agenna. Alternate names: Central West Gurage, West Gurage, Guragie, Gouraghie, Gurague. Dialects: Chaha (Cheha), Ezha (Eza, Izha), Gumer (Gwemarra), Gura, Gyeto, Muher. A member of the Gurage cluster of languages. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

[sze] 3,000 (1995 SIL). Western Oromo Region, near Begi, north of the Hozo. Alternate names: Sezo. Dialects: Related to Bambassi (Bender 1975). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, West

[sbf] 400 to 500 (2000 M. Brenzinger). Ethnic population: 600 or more (2000). Kafa Region, between Godere and Mashi, among the Majang and Shekkacho. Alternate names: Shako, “Mekeyer”, “Mikeyir”, “Mikair”. Dialects: Apparently a hybrid. Distinct from Sheko. Lexical similarity 30% with Majang, 12% with other West Cushitic (Omotic) languages. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Unclassified

[moy] 54,894 (1998 census). 36,449 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 53,897 (1998 census). North Kafa Region, in and around Maasha. Alternate names: Mocha, Shakacho, Shekka. Dialects: Close to Kafa. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, South

[she] 23,785. 13,611 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 23,785 (1998 census). Kafa Region, Shako District. Gaizek’a is a monolingual community. Bajek’a, Selale, and Shimi are multilingual. Alternate names: Shekko, Shekka, Tschako, Shako, Shak. Dialects: Dorsha, Bulla (Daan, Dan, Daanyir). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Dizoid

[sid] 1,876,329 (1998 census). 1,632,902 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 1,842,314 (1998 census). South central Ethiopia, northeast of Lake Abaya and southeast of Lake Awasa (Sidamo Awraja). Awasa is the capital of the Sidama Region. Alternate names: Sidámo ‘Afó, Sidaminya. Dialects: Lexical similarity 64% with Allaaba, 62% with Kambaata, 53% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[xst] 827,764 (1998 census). Ethnic population: 900,348 (1998 census). About 150 km south of Addis Ababa. Alternate names: East Gurage, Selti, Silti. Dialects: Enneqor (Inneqor), Ulbarag (Urbareg), Wolane (Walane). Not intelligible with West or North Gurage. 40% or less intelligible with Chaha (Central West Gurage). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Harari-East Gurage

[som] 3,334,113 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD). 2,878,371 monolinguals. Southeast Ethiopia, Somali Region. Alternate names: Standard Somali, Common Somali. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali

[suq] 19,622 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 19,269 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 20,622. Ethnic population: 19,632 (1998 census). Southwestern Kafa Region toward the Sudan border. Some are west of Mizan Teferi. Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Surma, Shuri, Churi, Dhuri, Shuro, Eastern Suri. Dialects: Tirma (Tirima, Terema, Terna, Dirma, Cirma, Tirmaga, Tirmagi, Tid), Chai (Cai, Caci). Lexical similarity 81% with Mursi. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Pastoral, Suri

[tir] 3,224,875 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 2,819,755 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 4,449,875. Ethnic population: 3,284,568 (1998 census). Tigray Province. Also spoken in Eritrea, Germany, Israel. Alternate names: Tigrinya, Tigray. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, North

[tsb] 8,621 (1998 census). 5,298 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 9,702 (1998 census). Omo Region, lowlands west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Ts’amay, S’amai, Tamaha, Tsamako, Tsamakko, Bago S’aamakk-Ulo, Kuile, Kule, Cule. Dialects: The Tsamai say Gawwada is difficult to understand. Possibly related to Birale. The most aberrant Dullay variety. Lexical similarity 56% to 73% with Gawwada dialects, 61% with Bussa, 31% with Komso. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Dullay

[tuv] 25,163 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD). Southwestern region west of the Omo River. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Eastern, Lotuxo-Teso, Teso-Turkana, Turkana

[udu] 20,000 in Ethiopia (1995 W. James). Large refugee camp at Bonga, near Gambela town, Gambela Region. Some still in Sudan (1995). Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Twampa, Kwanim Pa, Burun, Kebeirka, Othan, Korara, Kumus. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

[wal] 1,231,673 (1998 census). 999,694 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 1,269,216 (1998 census). Wolaytta Region, Lake Abaya area. Alternate names: Wellamo, Welamo, Wollamo, Wallamo, Walamo, Ualamo, Uollamo, Wolaitta, Wolaita, Wolayta, Wolataita, Borodda, Uba, Ometo. Dialects: Zala. Dorze, Melo, Oyda may be dialects of Wolaytta or of Gamo-Gofa-Dawro. Lexical similarity 79% to 93% with Gamo, 84% with Gofa, 80% with Kullo and Dorze, 48% with Koorete, 43% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[xan] 143,369 (1998 census). 93,889 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 158,231 (1998 census). North Amhara Region, Avergele District and Lasta and Waag zones, 100 km north of Weldiya. Alternate names: Khamtanga, Simt’anga, Agawinya, Xamta, Xamir. Dialects: Low inherent intelligibility of Qemant. Lexical similarity 45% with Qemant. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Eastern

[jnj] 81,613 (1998 census). Ethnic population: 165,184 (1998 census). Oromo Region, recognized as separate district, northeast of Jimma, southwestern Ethiopia, Fofa, and mixed with the Oromo in their villages; Sokoru, Saja, Deedoo, Sak’a, Jimma. Alternate names: Yem, Yemma, “Janjero”, “Janjerinya”, “Janjor”, “Yangaro”, “Zinjero”. Dialects: Fuga of Jimma, Toba. Fuga of Jimma may be a separate language. Lexical similarity 24% with Mocha language. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Janjero

[zwa] 4,880 (1994 SIL). Ethnic population: 4,880. Shores of Lake Zway and eastern islands in Lake Zway. Alternate names: Zway, Lak’i, Laqi, Gelilla. Dialects: No dialect variations. Lexical similarity 61% with Harari, 70% with Silte (M. L. Bender 1971). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Harari-East Gurage

[zay] 17,800 (1998 census). 7,530 monolinguals including 7,371 Zayse, 159 Zergulla. Population includes 10,172 Zayse, 7,625 Zergulla. Ethnic population: 11,232 (1998 census) including 10,842 Zayse, 390 Zergulla. Omo Region, west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Zaysse. Dialects: Zergulla (Zergullinya), Zayse. Close to the Gidicho dialect of Koorete. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, East


Extinct languages

[gft] Extinct. South Blue Nile area. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, n-Group

Geez (Still used in the orthodox church and in religious manuscripts)
[gez] Extinct. Also spoken in Eritrea. Alternate names: Ancient Ethiopic, Ethiopic, Ge’ez, Giiz. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, North

[mys] Extinct. Gurage, Hadiyya, Kambatta Region. Dialects: Related to West Gurage. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

Rer Bare
[rer] Extinct. Wabi Shebelle River around Gode, eastern Ogaden, near Somali border, and along the Ganale and Dawa rivers. Alternate names: Rerebere, Adona. Classification: Unclassified

[woy] Extinct. Ethnic population: 1,631 of whom 1,519 (93%) speak Amharic as first language, others speak other first languages. Lake Tana Region. Alternate names: Wayto, Weyt’o. Dialects: The former language was possibly Eastern Sudanic or an Awngi variety (Bender 1983), or Cushitic (Bender, Bowen, Cooper, and Ferguson 1976:14). Classification: Unclassified


post Master of “Ethiojazz”

January 21st, 2008

Filed under: Music Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 00:35

Film Puts a New Focus on the Master of ‘Ethiojazz’
By BEN SISARIO (NYT); The Arts/Cultural Desk
The New York Times

From the moment Mr. Jarmusch first heard it, about six years ago, the music got under his skin, he said, and he began seeking it out wherever he could find it. “When I was writing ‘Broken Flowers,’ ” he said by phone from his home in the Catskills, “I was listening to a lot of his music, and I was thinking, ‘How do I get this music into a film that’s set in suburban America?’ It even led me to make the character of Jeffrey Wright of Ethiopian descent.” In the film, Mr. Wright’s character, Mr. Murray’s next-door neighbor, gets him started on his journey and hands him the disc. Several songs by Mr. Astatke are used prominently in the film, and are on the soundtrack album, released by Decca.


Mr. Astatke, a vibraphonist and bandleader, had a suitably cosmopolitan upbringing for a music that blends jazz with funk, Latin music and traditional Ethiopian five-tone scales. Born in 1943 in the western Ethiopian city of Jimma, he was one of the few musicians of his generation to be educated abroad. He went to the Trinity College of Music in London, where he studied clarinet, harmony and theory, and in the early 60’s attended the Schillinger House of Music in Boston, now the Berklee College of Music.

“My whole idea,” he said by phone the other day from his home in Addis Ababa, “was sort of fusion with Ethiopian and jazz and modern music. I started at Berklee this idea of the ‘Ethiojazz’ business. From there I came to New York and I had this group, and what I wanted to do, I did it there.”

His group in New York, the Ethiopian Quintet, was mostly Puerto Rican. He recorded two albums in the 60’s on a small New York label, Worthy. He jammed with Dave Pike, who was Herbie Mann’s vibraphonist at the time, and remembers his time here fondly.

“We had all these big bands,” he said. “And the Village Gate, the Village Vanguard, the Palladium - there were all these clubs around at that time.” He was surprised and delighted to learn that the Vanguard is still in business. “It’s still around?” he said. “Fantastic! Wow!”

Mr. Astatke returned to Ethiopia in the late 60’s and took part in a fertile musical scene there in the waning years of Emperor Haile Selassie, who was deposed in 1974. Establishing himself as a jazz ambassador, he brought the Hammond organ and vibraphone to Ethiopia. “I changed the whole Ethiopian music,” he said without shyness, “combining jazz and fusion with the Ethiopian five-tone scales. Since then my name has been on the very, very top of the Ethiopian musical scene.”

The music of that period, influenced by American funk and soul, is being collected in “Éthiopiques,” a series of albums on the French label Buda Musique, which since the late 90’s has run to 20 volumes. Mr. Astatke’s disc, Vol. 4, is its best seller and has seen a bump in sales since “Broken Flowers” was released in August. It is now selling about 1,800 copies a week, said a spokeswoman for Allegro, the albums’ American distributor; that is equivalent to the sales of a new album by a world music star like Youssou N’Dour.

Last year the Either/Orchestra, led by the saxophonist and composer Russ Gershon, performed in Addis Ababa and met Mr. Astatke. The group has since brought him to the United States for concerts twice, the first times Mr. Astatke had performed in New York in many years. After performing at Joe’s Pub tonight, they will go on a brief Northeastern tour, traveling to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.

Mr. Astatke said he had been following news of “Broken Flowers” by e-mail (”I’m very far away”) but had not yet seen them film in its entirety. He added, with a laugh, “I’m going to see it in New York.”
Source: The New York Times


Broken Flowers

by Jesse Kornbluth, for

I’m not seeing the Jim Jarmusch film until tonight, but acting on a tip from a friend with great taste, I bought the soundtrack yesterday. Talk about ‘heavy rotation’ — I’m already in danger of wearing this CD out. And all because of an aging Ethiopian musician I’d never heard of!


Bear with me on this, because the ingredients sound…odd. Mulatu Astatke grew up in Ethiopia but went abroad to study jazz in America. He was influenced by Miles Davis and John Coltrane — and by the organist Jimmy Smith. What he brought back to Ethiopia was a blend of soul and jazz. Which he then proceeded to blend, once more, with traditional Ethiopian music.

The result is easy to listen to and hard to describe. The horns play cool jazz figures; you could almost mistake them for clarinets. But under that is a groove that could have been created by Booker T and the MGs. And connecting the two are some Ethiopian chords that sound exotic, space-changing, hypnotic.

Think desert cha cha. Cuba goes to Memphis. Desert trance music.

Like nothing you have ever heard before.

Mulatu Astatke is the man in charge of all of it: He writes the music, arranges it, and plays piano, organ, vibes and percussion. Although the Golden Years of this Ethiopian music were ancient history — from 1968 to 1974 — Astatke is still a major figure in Ethiopian music, regularly playing and teaching.

Happily, Jim Jarmusch is one of those directors who not only listens to a lot of music, but looks for a way to integrate it into his films. “Music often leads me,” he says. “I discovered Mulatu Astatke’s music maybe seven years ago, and I was blown away by a few things I found that he had recorded in the late sixties. I was on a hunt for a number of years: I bought some vinyl; some of his jazz stuff; some Latin jazz recorded in the states; other Ethiopian stuff. And then I was like, “Oh, man, how can I get this music in a film? It’s so beautiful and score-like.” Then when I was writing, I was like, “Well, this neighbor [Jeffrey Wright] is Ethiopian-American, I can turn him on to the music.”

There are other musicians on the soundtrack — and four songs by Astatke. I’m told they’re crucial to the feeling of the film. I already know they’re crucial to my jaded ears, which perk up as soon as his songs start. And I feel quite sure I’ll be ordering a CD with much more of his music: the highly-regarded ‘Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974.’

You’ll want to be the first on your block to hear this music. Not because of the ‘hip’ factor, though I won’t pretend that’s unimportant. But because of the pure pleasure — this is very happy music, and happy in a smart way. Each time you listen, you hear a little more. With a hundred encounters, you may actually get what this genius is doing.

— by Jesse Kornbluth, for

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

post Addis Ababa Art Scene

January 20th, 2008

Filed under: Art — Lissan Magazine @ 16:38

Addis Ababa Art Scene Revisited
by Esseye Medihin

//untitled, by: Ayele Assefa, oil on canvas//

Three decades ago, the art scene of Addis Ababa was dominated by the three maestros: Afewerk Tekle, Gebre Kristos Desta, and Skunder Boghossian, recipient of the Haile Selassie I fine arts award. Afewerk was important for his contribution as the first to introduce contemporary techniques to Ethiopian subject matter and content, Gebre Kristos for being responsible for introducing non-figurative art into Ethiopia and Skunder for trying to give the linear-graphic ancient Ethiopian art a new image. All three were European-educated, which was typical at that time. Many others did not achieve that status in imperial Ethiopia, and even today are not honored and recognized by their compatriots, as they should be.

//Bale Gariw, by: Behailu Bezabeh, oil on canvas//

At the beginning of this century, the Christian Ethiopian painting that had flourished for hundreds of years in the churches and monasteries of highland Abyssinia was fading and giving way, leaving behind a unique form of art for a new kind of artistic representation. The forerunners of this new genre of painting were the many church-trained dissident painters and other self-taught artists, some of whom enjoyed commissions for their works. These artists, along with those whose art education was in Europe in the 1920s and ’30s, brought about a new tradition in the visual arts culture in modern Ethiopia. By the 1930s, the members of this new class of painters were hired by the government and recognized as professionals. And by the 1960s, the number of painters following the first graduating class of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School, and those coming from abroad with a new kind of painting, (known as international style) grew steadily. As a result, three main traditions of painting developed.

//Black Sun, by: Getachew Yosef, oil on canvas//

The first is the realistic or naturalistic style that describes both Ethiopian pathos and glamour. Like the literature of the time, the subject matter of these paintings was based on a new reality–Nationalism. Second is the myth of Abstractionism, Expressionism and Surrealism, the inquest of spirituality in the style of the Western avant- garde movement, which, in most instances, turns out to be an assertion of Ethiopian/African identity through the visual arts. The last is represented by an impressionist, expressionist and social realist style intended to be sentimental and political in nature with its depictions of the cluttered, shabby streets of the cities, urban scenes and the downtrodden masses. These three main artistic traditions existed side by side until 1974 with the overthrow of the emperor.

In 1977, when the country mobilized its professionals for a cause, the newly organized Ethiopian Artist’s Association show opens at the Addis Ababa City Hall Gallery as a testament to its solidarity with the “Ethiopia Tikdem” motto of the Derg. Out of nationalistic feelings and hope for a better future, even such figures as Maitre artists Afewerk Tekle and Gebre Kristos Desta submitted their works to the show. With few exceptions, all artists were involved in one way or the other in the dubious future of the socialist revolution and were therefore producing an Ethiopian style of socialist realism in painting and sculpture. This kind of artistic practice dominated in the late 1970s and 1980s. The very few who adhered to the previous artistic tradition were the odd men out. Either they were not understood or were left to practice their passion alone. Thanks to their political astuteness and knowledge of how to survive, artists like Woku Goshu , the late Tassew Chernet , Zerihun Yetmgeta ,Teshome Bekele, and Tebebe Terfa risked their lives in their quest for individual expression. However, they were fortunate to be able to show their works frequently to keep the tradition of the late ’sixties and early ’seventies alive. With the exception of lesser-known artists’ shows, which were taking place here and there in Addis Ababa, supporters of socialist realism were not interested in showing their works, but were instead encouraged to conform by a system of rewards and privileges through commissions. Many, like the respected artist Abdel Rahman M Sherif saw this sort of compensation as a “fulfillment, genuine enough, of their professional ideals.”

//Coffee Ceremony, by: Tesfaye W. Selassie, oil on canvas//

Although explicitly political art had been created in Ethiopia since the end of the Italian occupation, it reached a peak during the Derg era. The military government of was the first to try systematically recruiting and training artists for propaganda and other specifically political purposes. The comrade militants, who believed that art would help advance their principles, advocated an artistic language that would deny and overlook the complexity of the country and the peoples’ collective psychological make-up. Later, the Ministry of Culture became the mobilizing force. With the help of the socialist-oriented Ethiopian Artists Association, it tried in vain to instill socialist realism in the artistic culture. The artistic freedom and experimentation that flourished during the imperial government was discouraged. The concept of religious, spiritual or historical values and the subjective psychology of the artist were totally rejected. The result was a body of work that was merely hot-headed and pompous. The only works worth mentioning from this period are the murals in Debre Ziet at Gegnoch Amba by Afewerk Tekle, Besrat Bekele and Demissie Sheferaw, which are, of course, too political for the artistic tradition of the country but in accord with general aspirations of the time. All said, any truly artistic approach did not come directly from above in the form of governmental instructions or policy, but from peer pressure at the sides. After the formation of the Workers’ Part of Ethiopia in 1984 and the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 1987 North Korean artists took over the primary role of the Ethiopian Artists Association at least tacitly. They set about immediately to embellish the image of Mengistu Hayle Maryam–the party leader on all of their work.

Today, not even a decade later, these propagandistic art works are considered as nothing more than archeological or historical objects, far from inspiring the masses as they were intended. The artistic situation of the late 1970s and 1980s has dissolved once and for all. However, since the new generation of artists is affected and was even a result of the tumult of the recent past, the mind-set as to what to do and how to define what is done still lingers. Nonetheless, the creative force of freedom seems to have taken the upper hand and transformed the artists for the better. Themes, techniques and subject matter repeat themselves in endless yet lively variation in an attempt to gain a sort of approval and recognition. The urge and the passion to match the efforts of the past, to catch up with lost time (not so much vis-a-vis the international art movement–but as painter Taddesse Mesfin puts it vis-a-vis the time wasted during their own “self-imposed slavery”) is so evident that most found it essential to regroup and find comfort and reassurance within themselves. Since 1993, the silence of the Ethiopian Artists Association has forced many young artists to defend their profession on their own. Artist/painter groups are sprouting up in all forms like never before.

//Galler Wise, by: Geta Mekonnen, mixed media on paper//

These groups are not specifically formed to enhance one type of art style, approach or artistic philosophy. Instead, they are simply alliances of artists who have something in common–social problems and situations that in themselves do not encourage or foster artistic activities. Without sacrificing their individuality, as a group they hope to be more visible in order to approach cultural centers, or institutions for help and sponsorship of exhibitions and exhibition spaces. As a group they also hope to be taken seriously in their attempt to teach the people about art. Among the many artist groups formed in the last seven years, the most visible are the FOWA, the Point Group and the Dimension Group. Addis International which was one of the first groups to be formed, organized a show of the works of about 40 artists in 1991, but has since curtailed its activities while newcomers like the Double Blue group are becoming increasingly active.

FOWA (Friendship Of Women Artists), with its motto “We are more than one,” informally named 36 Ethiopian women artists in the early ’90s as members, the first group of its kind in the country. At present, it is left with only 12 members. In September of 1997 it released a 40-page Amharic and English language catalogue which contained a kind of manifesto. The Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia, Pact, Alliance Ethio-Francaise, the British Council and Goethe-Institute and numerous individuals helped finance the publication of the catalogue. It includes color reproductions of all 12 members’ works and their pictures, along with a fascinating interview with each artist. Each one has a sensible and contemporary outlook about art in general and about the role of Ethiopian women artists in particular. As indicated in the catalogue, the purpose of the group is to encourage and enhance the opportunities of underrepresented women artists of all ages. The group’s objectives are to promote Ethiopian women artists in any way possible, nationally as well as internationally, and elevate the artistic awareness of the Ethiopian female.

Members of the FOWA group include
: Embet Aweke (b. 1955), exhibition expert at Addis Ababa Fine Arts School; Embet Belete (b.1968), art instructor at the Greek Community School; Fanaye Tesfate (b.1968); Kelemua Hailu (b.1969); Ketsela Mengistu (b.1969); Mahelet Abrham (b.1969); Mihret Dawit (b.1969); Mahlet Worku (b.1957); Naomi Tesfaye (b.1968); Selamawit Aboneh (b.1968); and Senafkish Zeleke (b.1967), all graduates of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School, as well as Sofia Asefa (b.1954), who studied at the Surkov Academy in Moscow and is presently an instructor at the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School. The group had its first exhibition at the German Cultural Center in Addis Ababa in March of 1998.

//Forest, by: Emebet Aweke, oil on paper//

Embet Aweke, a mother and the most recognized artist of the group, and whose late father was also an artist, addressed the role of mother and artist (in a conversation with Assfaw Damte in 1997), saying that “each of the two roles is very difficult by itself. Obviously, playing both roles simultaneously and maintaining an appropriate balance between them is doubly difficult. In order to succeed, one needs patience and unwavering commitment. Otherwise, either one or the other will be sacrificed.” The president of the FOWA group, Embet Belete, who thinks that patrons of fine arts in Ethiopia are mostly foreigners, says that an appreciation of beauty and the visual arts among Ethiopians needs to be encouraged early in the schools. Embet, along with the rest of the group, hopes that the catalogue, “will inspire other women artists and women of all ages who are interested in the fine arts.” Women artists are in a much more precarious situation than their male counterparts; however, given the right situation, they can overcome their disadvantages to be on equal footing with male artists.

//Seated Figure, by: Muze Awel, wood//

The Point group was formed in the early ’90s by a group of artists in their 30s. These artists are all graduates of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School except Ayele Assefa (b.1958), whose education was in the former Soviet Union. Point group started with nine artists but currently numbers seven members, including Addisu Worku (b.1964), art instructor at the Indian National School; Gebreleu G Mariam (b.1965), graphic artist in the ministry of Health; Luel Sahele Mariam (b.1966), art instructor at Addis Ababa Fine Arts school; Mesfin H Mariam (b.1966) artist s with Mega Art Production; Samuel Sharew (b.1966), the only artist in the group and probably in the country who earns a living as a painter, and Tesfaye (Tesfu) W Selassie (b.1966), art instructor at Addis Ababa Fine Arts School. This group gained wide recognition with its first show at the Alliance Ethio- Française in 1992 as well as its successful show in 1994 at the National Museum. They seek to bring about a change in art activities and situations. As Tesfay W Selassie states, “The Point group’s motives are not to foster an elitist attitude, with the indifferent multitudes lost in oblivion, but rather to impress and influence it without any mystification whatsoever.” By so doing they hope to cultivate their audience and grow with them. Beyond their love of popular culture and their mingling with the contemporary life of the people, they show an abiding interest in both the historical and traditional iconography of Ethiopia and Africa. According to Ayele Assefa, the group doesn’t adhere to any specific artistic style or philosophy, nor does it discriminate against any artistic style. It is open- minded and is interested in discussion and analysis of any form of art, past or present.

The next group, called Dimension, features another nine artists, in their 30s and 40s. All but three received their art education in the former Soviet Union. This group includes: Geta Mekonnen (b.1965), a studio artist and commercial video producer, who studied in Great Britain; Muze Awal (b.1961) , instructor at Addis Ababa Fine Arts School; Mulugeta Tafesse (b.1960), who studied in Bulgaria and is presently working for his Ph.D. in art history and aesthetics in Belgium and Spain; Mezgebu Tessema (b.1960), instructor at Addis Ababa Fine Arts School; Behailu Bezabih (b.1960), Addis Ababa Fine Arts School graduate and presently art instructor at the Bethel Makane Yesus School, Addis Ababa; Taddesse Mesfin (b.1953), instructor at Addis Ababa Fine Arts School; Eshetu Tiruneh (b.1952), advisor, Ministry of Culture; and Kidane Belaye ( b.1950), instructor at the Fine Arts School.

//Scarecrow, by: Geta Mekonnen, oil on canvas//

According to its spokesperson Geta Mekonnen, the Dimension group was formed to overcome an artistic trend that has been going on in Ethiopia for quite some time: an artistic style which is largely interested in representing the traditional icon-like Christian Ethiopian figures. All members of the group believe that this kind of artistic fashion has too long dominated the market, with little or no regard for the standards of the art-loving public of Addis Ababa and the efforts of contemporary Ethiopian artists. According to Mezgebu Tessema, the group was also formed to help “serious” artists participate in group shows regardless of the number of works they are able to produce. He believes that, given the situation in the country, this type of occasional group show may be the only way for the public to see any of their works. Bekele Mekonnen believes that because of their successes in organizing these types of shows, their works have been better exposed to the public with greater attention and awareness. The Dimension group, formed after the earlier groups got more recognition, after it organized an exhibition of works of the late artist/poet Gebre Kirstos Desta in 1996 at the Alliance Ethio-Française.

Outside of these groups, there are numerous artists, veterans and novices, who are experimenting and pursuing alone the most challenging part of creation: giving a special and diverse flavor to contemporary Ethiopian art. The concept of their art reflecting their Ethiopian identity so important to the early painters and critics is not much of a concern to the new generation of Ethiopian artists. Unlike their predecessors, they don’t seem to be worried about projecting their identity in their art. Leuel, who never worried whether his paintings reflected his Ethiopian identity states: “My concern is how to achieve what I wanted to do and whether I succeeded or not …If my work in the end looks European, American or Arabian, so be it. I never questioned myself if I am an Ethiopian or an African.” Taddesse Mesfin said, “I will be glad if it is recognized as Ethiopian, but if there is anything Ethiopian in my work, it is a natural outcome. I never intend on making my works Ethiopian.” Mezgebu states, “Whatever technique or style we employ and follow in our art, there is something in all of us that is Ethiopian that can be deciphered in our work–it is up to the critic or the historian to search for that particular characteristic.” Bekele Mekonnen said that “any work of art done by an Ethiopian is by definition Ethiopian; consequently, in the broadest definition, anything done on Ethiopian soil that remains in Ethiopia for a considerable period of time must be considered Ethiopian.” Geta Mekonnen addresses this age-old artistic question by noting, ” We are only artists doing art works: painting, sculpture, video art, etc. These problematic notions of identity are as ridiculous as affirming that an Ethiopian can only do art works like the Christian Ethiopian type of painting and that Africans can only do masques and figurines. We all hope that our works are true representations of ourselves and not caricatures of Ethiopian or African culture.” Nevertheless, the relation between Christian Ethiopian painting, African traditional art and contemporary Ethiopian art, a subject dear to Ethiopian artists of the late ’sixties, particularly to the home- grown “Native Modernist” Zerihun Yetmgeta, remains a topic of much discussion among the young generation of Ethiopian artists.

//My Same, by: Mulugeta Tafesse, acrylic on canvas//

In late ’60’s and early ’70’s, most works by graduates of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School reflected the social conditions of the country. Whatever its style and technique, it was an art of social commentary and social solution. At present, with social conditions worsening, this kind of theme is back again. The trauma, the crisis, the spiritual illness and the painful reality of the country’s past and present are subjects of interest to many artists. Bekele Mekonnen creates amazing assemblage sculptures using non-traditional materials, to depict pathetic and down-to-earth street personages. So does Getachew Yossef with his series “Under the Sun,” as well as Tesfay W. Selassie and Behailu Bezabih. While a significant number of artists, including Geta Mekonnen and Addisu Worku are involved with satirical comments on contemporary myth and evils; renowned artists like Taddesse Messfin and Eshetu Tiruneh have given up their favorite theme of the downtrodden masses and the huddled, ordinary people in favor of experimenting with styles similar to the American abstract and abstract expressionist painters of the ’30’s and ’40’s.

Members of these groups, as well as those more established individual artists, are more regularly exhibiting their works, recreating the rigorous artistic activities of Addis Ababa of the 1960s and 1970s. Even more so, the scene has been gaining an international flavor with an exhibition of expatriate artists and Ethiopian artists living abroad. A number of new galleries devoted to contemporary art, coupled with enthusiastic new collectors, are heralding Addis as an important art center once again. As far as the impact and validity of the contemporary paintings and sculptures on the society are concerned, it is hard to imagine any sort of immediate change. Posterity will likely consider it a significant cultural achievement of the age and will marvel at the artists’ audacity and commitment.

Given the fact that a strong cultural infrastructure found in most developed countries is totally lacking in Ethiopia, and is not likely to exist any time in the future, bringing about a new tradition that is more a result of local processes must be expected of our artists. History has put on their shoulders the burden and excitement of being their own dealer, curator, historian and critic. Among their many concerns, they need to consider reaching a wider audience. Rather than the traditional fashion of opening exhibitions at the customary places in a conventional way, they need to think of alternative ways of displaying their works. They have to look for more effective ways of popularizing and disseminating their works and try to move away from traditional patronage, including the government. Their achievements as artists become more meaningful only when their works reach a wider audience rather than a handful of the usual patrons. One way of doing this is to create a community-based art project that benefits that community.

by: Esseye Medihin

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

post Ale Felege Selam

January 19th, 2008

Filed under: Art — Lissan Magazine @ 02:08

The Modernization of Ethiopian Art

“Since the artists in our country are once again rightfully following contemporary trends of creating and refining, we have great hope for the future.” Ale Felege Selam, 1968


On the threshold of a new century — a new millennium — talking and writing about 20th century Ethiopian art by nature includes talking and writing about art education in Ethiopia, as well as the path to modernization. There is no better way to accomplish these tasks than by focusing on one significant individual, Ale Felege Selam Hiruy. In 1959, Ale Felege Selam played a decisive role in the foundation of a modern art school: the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts. He would become its director. This accomplishment was in stark contrast to the 1940s wherein the first group of Western-educated artists — Abebe Wolde Giorgis, Agegnehu Engeda and Zerihun Dominique — failed, one after another, to do similar.

Before continuing with Ale’s history, let us first take a look at historical context. Sele, which means “art,” has a long history in the country. Thus anybody wanting to do Sele required an art education of some kind. The concept of “art education” was distinctly different from “craft training” and was considered a product of the learned. An art education had existed in the nation for several centuries; the church school system prepared scholars, known as Arat-Ayna (Four-Eyed Ones) who were also artists. They were sought after as scholars and as masters of the arts of traditional instruction and scholarship. However, as the 19th century progressed, ancient teaching methods gradually waned and faded away — including art education.

The concept of modernizing Ethiopian art education was born as part of the overall modernizing of Ethiopia, which began during the second part of the 19th century. This was a period that saw the beginnings of unification, military reform, the birth of fairly well developed literary Amharic, and the establishment of schools. As the foundations of modern educational institutions moved, in less than a century, from Gafat, Maqdela, and Tamben to Entotto – where it finally flourished in Addis Ababa — so did its artistic foundations.

As a matter of practicality, we set the clock of the modernization of art education in 1887. This was when the church trained artists; self-taught artists from all around the nation were lured to Entoto. Atse Menelik decided to send Afewerk Gebre Yesus to study art in Europe. In less than a quarter of a century, the art modernization movement shifted from its center in Entoto, where it all began, to Addis Ababa in part and to its primary center in Arat Kilo. In the 1940s, the modern art movement began to bloom — first with figures like Abebe Wolde Giorgis, Agegnehu Engeda and Zerihun Dominique, and moving on to the parliament studio, the Kine Tibebe School and the Prince Shale Selassie School. It finally reached its peak in 1959 at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts. There, Ale Felege stayed on as the director until he was forced to resign in 1974.

Ale Felege was born in Selale, Fitch in 1924 and moved to Addis Ababa at an early age. After graduating from Technical School in Addis Ababa, he worked in a garage until the emperor granted him a scholarship to go abroad and study engineering. But engineering aside, Ale received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the Institute of Art, Chicago — reputedly the most influential art college in the United States — in 1954. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Europe; after returning home, he joined the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts.

Ale organized the first show for himself and his students in his own studio in 1955. During the couple of years he worked with the Minister of Education and Point Four, he painted, organized, and participated in shows and work as jury member. He served as a committee member at the 1958 first annual Ethiopian Students’ Arts and Crafts Exhibition. He also participated in several group shows and helped organize the 1967 Montreal show, representing Ethiopia.

His paintings exhibited in public places include those at the Trinity Cathedral St. Mary in Addis Ababa, and at Kulubi Gabriel Church in Harerge. He also designed postage stamps, illustrated books and designed several portraits and flyers. Apart from his commissioned works, Ale is interested in landscape and portrait painting. His paintings, we know, depict pensive individuals against flat dark backgrounds that are all the more powerful for their simplicity, psychological statements and articulations in rigorous, formal terms. It seems evident that he influenced some of his first students in this regard. Many of the early 1960s-era art school students displayed a similar vitality and the influence of Ale in their somber landscape and genre paintings. Ale respected the themes that traditional art had come to represent. If it appears to some observers that he turned his back on tradition, they should keep in mind that such a rejection was only on the surface. His theory about art was similar to those of many of his contemporaries and did not seem to have any set of aesthetic preconceptions. Many things remain to be said about his artworks; however, the research has not yet begun.

Ale had naturally seen many Western modernist art while he was studying in Chicago. But his interest in mainstream art was puzzling and complicated. Nobody, for example, indicated why Ale, who studied in America in the 1950s, failed to follow the art movement of the time. At this point in time, until all historical materials are compiled, the matter of how best to characterize Ale’s artistic achievements is very complex.

Why did he, on the other hand, dedicate himself to encouraging and helping Ethiopian artists who favored the international mainstream art movement? Ale was able to anticipate and distinguish between short-term benefits and long-term benefits. He was quite aware of the changes that transformed the art world at the beginning of this century, and knew that Ethiopian painting lagged behind the times by several hundred years. Thus he made sure that the school didn’t embrace any one particular artistic style or theory nor abandon the art of the century. Despite the fact that his style of art identifies with the official style of art — as evidenced by the fact that he decorated churches and government buildings and painted portraits in a more conventional style — he did not show any determination to make the school reflect his kind of art. It seems that Ale had clear ideas about the function and role of the art school. He was not totally convinced that students should be trained as illustrators like those of Kine Tibebe School.

In the modernist building of the school, that maintains a certain likable architecture, even by today’s standards — there does not exist much signifying the ancient or the near past that would have burdened and overwhelmed its students. Neither the parliament studio artists works, nor the Kine Tibebe School artists’ works — not even the works of the first Western-educated artists —were considered important or good enough to be displayed in the new school’s gallery. It is no surprise that consequently; the students highly favored Western modernist art.

In fact, Kine Tibebe School was closed because it was considered conservative and out of touch with the modern art world. Once the School of Fine Arts was up and running, the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts gave Kine Tibebe School artists monthly stipends and studios behind the new building to continue their painting. As many of these artists were founding members of the first Ethiopian Artists Club, founded just before the school was opened, students were encouraged to visit them in their studios.

In the 1970s, there were still over 300 paintings by these artists in the store at the School of Fine Arts. Following the trend in painting portraits of women, started by Agenhu and later adopted by Afewerk and Ale himself, many of these artists played a critical role in depicting urban and rural Ethiopian women in their daily activities. Middle-class yearnings, morality, reformism, patriotism and activism are fundamental factors in the work of these artists. They would depict Ethiopians’ way of life and paint historical scenes even before such subjects had gained popularity via the occasional photography exhibit. They are all-Ethiopian to their bones and reflected the emerging middle-class; they are not in any way “traditionalists” or “traditional” artists. They are among the pioneers who modernized 20th century Ethiopian art. However, due to the backgrounds and education of the artists, their works are technically less convincing and less influential, and they remain obscure or unknown.

Ale had to exclude all these generation artists when establishing the school. As was the case at the time with higher-learning schools, Ale had to recruit instructors from the foreign community residing in Addis Ababa. Of these generation artists, only one, Yigezu Bisrat, succeeded in becoming a staff member of the school. (Yigezu would prove to be an innovator and pioneer of Ethiopian calligraphy).

However, though he had made a clean sweep of nationally trained artists from the school and hired foreign instructors, he knew he could not change the direction of art in the country alone. He solicited the aid of influential officials, including Kebed Mikael, in order to realize his vision. Many enlightened individuals got involved in helping Ale in his efforts. In addition, since Ale boasted more connections to members of the royal family and several high officials than any of his contemporary peers, his way of handling the school was favored and praised by the authorities. The Emperor, his most important patron, frequently visited the school, even more than any famous poets, authors or other cultural figures. Since political propaganda, commissioned artworks and royal portraits were done either by foreign artists, former parliament studio artists, Kine Tibebe school artists, Afewerk or by Ale himself, he did not expect or even want see the school as promoting his doctrines. The Emperor’s visits were to display encouragement and support and he was pleased with what he witnessed. It was only during the Ethiopian revolution that instructors, as well as students of the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, were expected to be part of the propaganda machine for the government.

Ale’s objective and the official’s interest was to prepare independent professional working artists who could express their artistic personas with free will in a modern setting and environment. It is also important to consider the artistic interests of Ale in relation to the kind of art that was taught and practiced at the Kine Tibebe School. As a founder and the school director, Ale wanted to have it both ways — teaching the elementary and conventional aspects of drawings and paintings while keeping the school in touch with the currents of the art world. Despite his broad-minded goals, Ale nevertheless had preferences for certain kinds of subject matter, chiefly those expressing important national values. But overall, he encouraged a broader range of national themes. For example, there was no indication that he tried to make the school reflect Ethiopian identity. Nor is there any evidence that he persuaded students to create any kind of modern icons reflecting Ethiopia’s faiths or cultures. Rather, he believed in a healthy future for Ethiopian art education and encouraged students regarding their performances. Most artists, graduates of the School of Fine Arts, present instructors at the school and important artists elsewhere say that Ale allowed for any kind of artistic approach and tendency in the school. From every angle, it seems that he left a level field for a pluralistic art scene to flourish in the School.

Ale’s all-inclusive intention became even clearer a couple years after the school’s founding. In accord with the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts, he worked hard to prepare students to be art teachers. He hired as staff members Zemenay, Ethiopian modernist artists educated abroad. Gebre Kristos Desta, Skunder Boghossian, Tadesse Gizaw, Bisrat Bekele, Abdel- Rahman M Sherif, Worku Goshu, Tadesse Belyneh and Tadesse Mamecha joined the school as instructors between 1962 to 1972. The grammar of art — perspective, anatomy and academic drawing in general, narrative representation that evolved at the parliament studio, the Kine Tibebe school and during the first year of Ale’s school — were slowly beginning to look rather irrelevant. The dimensions of this trend projected not only upon an artistic freedom but also included a celebration of eclecticism wherein several contemporary international styles can quickly be identified: realism, impressionism, critical realism, surrealism, abstract, abstract expressionism, symbolism and expressionism. All were introduced to the school by these instructors.

The school’s most notable modernist achievements clearly represented pan-Ethiopian will, character, feel and spirit. This new esthetic expression become apparent at the landmark annual exhibitions of the school, held between 1963 and 1973. While the desperate concern Ethiopia’s people regarding the state of the nation continues, the Ethiopian art world provides a glimpse of hope and a common ground through its genuine expression of national spirit. If pluralism is the style of 20th century Ethiopian art, then the credit, or the blame, goes to Ale and the way he ran the only art school in the nation. Whatever definition and standard was given for 20th century Ethiopian art, its modernization phase has been attained and may be completed by the school. If, half a century after its establishment, the school did not achieve an academic or higher institution status, it is due to administrative and cultural complexity.

A decade after Ale first led the school, during the early 1970s and especially after the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, it was widely predicted that his glory days were over. He would be the subject of more iconoclastic scrutiny. Such scrutiny included unsubstantiated rumors that he was involved more with his farm and hunting affairs than with the day-to-day activities of the school. Ale only contributed to his sinking reputation when he interfered regarding the works of graduating students’ subject matters during the time of the mayhem. Ale was unhappy to see contemporary and radical subject matter displayed on students’ diploma works. Staff members were unhappy with his involvement. Although there have been no seriously researched accounts on these matters yet, the caricatures students drew depicting Ale sleeping on the roof of the school would provide the final blow. After 15 years as founder and director, Ale was intimidated by radical students, and the new government was forced to compel him to resign from his position.

Described by many as a fine individual with a charismatic character, Ale did not attract public attention. And despite the fact that art exhibitions have become a regular activity since the school’s opening —including its own annual exhibition—Ale never had his one-man show after 1955. He is the most reclusive and reserved of all artists. To the young students he was as remote, and as irrelevant, a personality as he would later appear to the young military juntas. There was something private and withdrawn, almost unapproachable, about him. He fits what the renowned artist Mezgebu Tessema said in general about Ethiopia artists: ‘introverted’. Students and staff members alike do not talk about him, especially in public. For the older generation of artists, for whom the school is most associated with Ale, any impolite action toward him appears incomprehensible and ungrateful.

Since his resignation, many things have changed. Presently, the school is affiliated with Addis Ababa University under its new name, Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design. At last count it had six directors: Abdul Rahman Mouhamed Sherif, Tadesse Belaynh, Getachew Yosef, Bekele Mekonnen, Melaku Ayle, and Muze Awel. All are school alumnae.

In becoming part of Addis Ababa University, the school risks losing its semi-autonomous tradition. It is very unlikely that the kind of spirit that fermented for several years at the school will ever be resuscitated, even with the same kind of structure. But as it is, affiliating the school to the University may well dismantle what little there is left of its 50-year-old modern art tradition. If Ale had been consulted on this matter, he would not have approved it. One may also ask that, if up until now the University had never affiliated specialized schools, such as the Teacher Training Institute, Commercial school or Technical school, then why would it want to affiliate the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts now? Since it is believed that the school had contributed a lot and attained its goals; it should have been helped to become a charter school and left alone to follow its own course. If, at this point in the national modern education, an art department or art school is crucial — which it is — then the University would have been much better off opening its own School of Art and Design, or a department that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of arts disciplines.

Ale ultimately wanted to be remembered as a painter. In 2006, at the age of 82, he traveled from Ethiopia to Maryland in the United States to decorate Ethiopian Orthodox Church. However, Ale is still associated with and admired more for his role as the school’s founder, director and educator rather than as a painter himself. Even in his heydays, he never garnered as many honors as, say, Gebre Kristos or Skunder for his art. The Haile Selassie I prize for Fine Arts was awarded to these two artists in 1965 and 1967 respectively. In 1972, the fourth award for Fine Arts went to the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, rather than to Ale.

The true spirit and legacy of Ale lies in the history of the school and within the field of art education. Nobody before him and to this day accomplished so much in promoting Ethiopian art and Ethiopian artists. No one has come close to approaching his level of contribution in popularizing and teaching art. Many successful and not-so successful artists are, in some way, his pupils. Clearly, Ale is among those who can be called pioneers of art education in Ethiopia, and he remains among the most renowned group. Considering the national and international achievements of the school’s alumnae, and the growing public interest in art during the past fifty years, it is not an overstatement to dub Ale Felege Selam Ethiopia’s Artist-Educator of the Century.

By: Esseye G Medhin, May 29, 2007

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

post 20th Century Ethiopian Art

January 19th, 2008

Filed under: Art — Lissan Magazine @ 01:58

An Introduction by Esseye Medhin

Christian Ethiopian painting flourished for hundreds of years, in the churches and monasteries of highland Abyssinia. (1) But at the beginning of this century, it was giving way to a new kind of artistic representation. The forerunners for this new art were the church-trained dissident painters, and other self-taught artists who received some commissions for their work. These artists, along with those who got their art education in Ethiopia and Europe in 1920s and 1930s, brought about a new practice in the visual arts culture in modern Ethiopia. (2) By the 1940s, this new class of painters were being hired by the government and recognized as professionals. And by the 1950s, the number of painters, those coming from abroad with a new artistic style grew steadily. The graduates of the Addis Ababa Fine Art School followed this in the 1960s, resulting in three main artistic movements that remained popular until 1974 when the Ethiopian revolution broke out.

First is the realistic or naturalistic and “naïve” style used to represent Ethiopian passion and glamour. Like most Ethiopian literature and the music of the time, the subject matter of the paintings was based on a new reality - Nationalism.

Second is abstractionism, Expressionism and Surrealism; the examination of spirituality in the style of the Western avant-garde movement, which, in most instances was an assertion of Ethiopian and African identity through the visual arts.

The Third is an impressionist, expressionist or social-realistic style. Intended to be sentimental and political in nature, it depicted the cluttered shabby streets of the cities, urban scenes and the downtrodden masses.

These three main artistic trends coexisted until the overthrow of the emperor in 1974.

In 1977, when the country mobilized its professionals for a new cause, the newly amended Ethiopian Artists Association (3) organized a show (4) at Addis Ababa City Hall Gallery. It was intended to be the annual exhibition of the Ethiopian Artists Association. It was also to show the solidarity of Ethiopian artists with the “Ethiopia First” slogan of the Derg. There was no indication at the show of a new style or artistic expression per se. The Paintings and Sculptures displayed portrayed basically the same subject matter as before, and were produced by the same artists. The works concentrated more on the famine, the revolution and rural life in a simplistic narrative manner. Soon after, the revolution changed its course and the military government of socialist Ethiopia systematically recruited and trained artists for propaganda and other political purposes. (5) The militants who believed that art would help advance the cause of educating the masses advocated for Socialist Realism, an artistic language that would simplify the complexity of the country and her people. This new artistic style dominated the artistic scene of the country in the 1980s.

Today, the artistic practices of the late 1970s and 1980s seem to have all but disappeared. However, since the new generation of artists are influenced by the country’s tumultuous past, doubts linger as to what to do and how to define it. Themes, techniques and subject matter repeat themselves in endless yet lively variation in an attempt to gain approval and recognition. The desire to match the artistic efforts of the past; to make up for the time wasted, is so onerous that many artists sought comfort and reassurance within the arts community. Since 1993, the silence of the Ethiopian Artists Association has forced many young artists to defend their profession on their own.

Artists groups are sprouting up as never before. These groups are not specifically formed to promote one type of art style, approach or artistic philosophy. Instead, they are alliances of artists who have something in common - social problems and conditions that tend to discourage artistic activities. Without sacrificing their individuality, they hope to become more visible as a group in order to approach cultural centers, and institutions for assistance and sponsorship of exhibitions. They also hope to be taken seriously in their attempt to teach the general public about art. Among the many artists group formed in the last seven years, the most visible are the Friendship of Women Artists (FOWA), Point and Dimension groups. Addis International which was one of the first groups to be formed, organized a show of the works of about 40 artists in 1991, but has since curtailed its activities while newcomers like the Double Blue group are becoming increasingly active.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, most works by graduates of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School reflect the social condition of the country. Whatever its style and technique, it was an art of social commentary. At present, with circumstances worsening, this kind of thematic is making a comeback. The trauma, crisis, spiritual illness, and the painful reality of the country’s past and present are subjects of interest to a large number of artists.Members of the artists groups, as well as more established individual artists, are regularly exhibiting in a fashion that is reminiscent of the gregarious artistic activities of Addis Ababa in the 1960s and 1970s. This rejuvenated art scene has taken on an international flavor with the exhibitions of expatriate artists and Ethiopian artists living abroad. A number of new art galleries dedicated to contemporary art, coupled with an enthusiastic group of new art collectors, is once again turning Addis into an important art center.


1) The basic structure of Christian Ethiopian painting and its decorative motifs is presently applied by artists hired by the Tourist Organization, as well as by commercial artists who produce for the tourist and commercial markets. It also serves as an inspiration for formally trained professional artists in creating a more complex contemporary style.

2) See Taye Tadesse, “Short Biographies of Some Ethiopian Artists” Addis Ababa, Kuraz Publishing Agency, 1991.

3) The first Ethiopian artist organization was formed in 1959. The main idea of the Artists Club, as indicated in the brochure published on the occasion of the formation of the club, is to develop the national arts.

4) Ethiopian Artists Association’s last exhibition was held in March of 1991 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Victory Day and the 11th International Conference on Ethiopian Studies. The late Girma Kidane wrote the catalogue. The last major group art show before the fall of the imperial regime, was given by seven prominent Ethiopian art instructors and held at the Haile Sellasie I Theater in 1971. Professor Stanislaw Chojnacki wrote the catalogue for the show. The show closed the first chapter of Ethiopian modern art.

5) Most young artists took this opportunity to get scholarships in socialist countries. Many ended up in western countries as refugees and did not return home after they finished their studies. Those who did return, played more of a bureaucratic role rather than an artistic one, and tried to implement socialist oriented art in Ethiopia.

Esseye Medhin

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

post Ethio Jazz

January 17th, 2008

Filed under: Music Corner — Waltenegus @ 10:24

“Ethiopian music through the Language of Jazz!”

Music for the Soul!

It was by sheer coincidence that I met Mr. Jorga, the Saxophonist, a decent and polite person, at a friend’s place in Atlanta, Georgia on a farewell barbeque party. It was mid -summer and we were all sitting outside chatting, drinking cold beer and eating Ethio-barbeque, “Zelzel Tibs be Awazé”. In the middle of this get together, somebody came up with the Wudasse CD and asked me to lend my ears. Man, was I glad I did that! What a groovy experience! It was full of beautiful melodies and incredible musicianship. If you like the soundtrack form Jim Jarmusch’s film “broken flowers”, you will love Wudasse!

///Wudasse album “Selam”///

This is an album which is made with a combination of harmonic knowledge and technical facilities. When Mr Jorga hits the sax, you can feel his personal approach to improvisation. And that is what JAZZ is all about! Filtering the melody, rhythm and song to this magnificent expression like on Ete-Mete!
Wudasse is telling us stories with their Ethio-Jazz sound. It is a phenomenal masterpiece of improvisation and am sure it sets a precedent for all the Ethio-Jazz that will hopefully follow.

Here is the story, so dig in:
Wudasse was born out of the desire of three Ethiopian musicians to express the beauty and grace of Ethiopian music through the language of Jazz. This first offering is unique in several ways. For one, the all the songs on the album were recorded in front of a live audience, which is a rarity in Ethiopian music circles. And then there is the make up of the band, three Ethiopians and two American musicians, brought together by circumstance and their love of music, doing their best to create music they love even under the roughest of circumstances.
So how did it all begin? Well, four years ago Teferi (drums) visits Jorga (saxophone) in Atlanta to attend Fasil’s (bass) wedding. While staying at Jorga’s house, the two rent a drum set and start experimenting and jamming on Ethiopian rhythms and scales. In fact, it turned out that both Jorga and Teferi had similar ideas on how to respectfully adapt Ethiopian scales and rhythms to fit into a Jazz context. Teferi goes back to California, and Fasil and Jorga start performing together in local clubs. Two years later, Teferi joins them in Atlanta and Wudasse was born. Much can also be said about the music creation process. Each band member was equally responsible for the final sound and feel of each song. In fact, most of the songs were arranged with minimal conversation and direction, and all the songs evolved while being repeatedly performed around several Atlanta jazz clubs.

The other songs are as equally fascinating. “Ete Mete” represents the children song which naturally modulates rhythmically from 6/8 to 7/4. “Megemeria”(The Beginning) starts with a slow groove that builds to represent the best of Ethiopian jazz-rock-fusion. “Delega” is an experiment in approaching the 6/8 Chikchika rhythm in 7/4 time. But this might not mean much to all the non-musician music lovers who wouldn’t care less is the song was in 6/2 or 7/8 as long as it grooves hard the touches the soul.

///Ahsa Ahla, Dale Sanders, Fasil Wuhib, Teferi Assefaand , Jorga Mesfin///

Courtesy to Wudasse

Links where you can listen in to Wudasse performance:
myspace link
youtube link
youtube link
youtube link

post Degu’s Message

January 17th, 2008

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 10:14

A Message from Degu Shalo

It took me almost 4 years to transmit Degu’s message. I am a bit ashamed that it took me so long to keep my promise and I am glad that I am doing it here and now. I flew back home three times in these four years. Degu has never given up asking me about the turn outs of his message and, unfortunately, I ended up lying because I didn’t want to disappoint him.

///Degu as I met him the last time. (phto: admassu m. k.)///

Seven years ago, the first time I got acquainted with Degu things were still normal around his daily life. Actually things were even better than the usual daily routine; it was his wedding. I didn’t meet him on that particular day. He was the center of the occasion: groomed and well attended by his friends and best men. It just happened to be my first visit home and his wedding day intersected my arrival coincidentally. I still remember that someone invited me to the wedding and asked me politely to film the occasion with my camera.

On that wedding occasion I have also encountered how the traditional wedding ceremony of my tribe has been completely altered. Degu’s wedding was more western type with all important guests wearing new or borrowed suits and fancy dresses. Though the costumes were cheap enough for the farmers to afford, seeing my people wearing them left me with an odd uncomfortable feeling. This unfortunate fact has reminded me that, apart from the landscape, nothing has remained to arouse my childhood memories. But that is completely a different story that deserves it’s own topic.

///Degu in one of his dreaming moments, (phto: admassu m. k.)///

Back to Degu:
As I have already mentioned Degu’s life was sound and secure seven years ago.

They told me that Degu has started to behave strange right after his father’s death. His father was like a central figure in Degu’s life and also in that community. Right after his Father’s death Degu has dropped the school because he couldn’t concentrate on any subject any more. His young wife fled back to her family after seeing him cutting her new shoes to pieces with a knife after they quarreled. She has been afraid of him so much since then that she couldn’t sleep. Degu’s situation has even got worth after his wife has left him. Soon his mother and his two sisters left the compound for the same reason. Degu was the only one living in their big yard with three empty huts.

When night falls they say Degu walks around in the darkness all the way till early morning. It was so creepy to hear that because I knew how dark it can be in that area when there is no moon light. With all those sounds of small creatures and wild animals accompanying him in the darkness and Degu walking around through villages and forests the whole night gave me uneasy feeling because we were in the next neighborhood.

Degu came once to see me. After exchanging some words with him I stopped worrying about his walking habit in the night. I saw that he was harmless. Degu was psychologically troubled because so many misfortunes have happened around him within a matter of two years. His reactions to each of these misfortunes were disastrous that it ended up creating other misfortunes. After a while everybody started to believe that he was crazy. I saw how my family members were making mocking gestures towards him whenever he came to visit me.

///Degu in his yard. (photo: admassu m. k.).///

May be it was because I listened to him when he was talking that made him come to our house almost daily. Soon he was telling me about his dreams and his wishes. He told me that he would like to continue school to finish and get a diploma. After that he would find a job and bring his wife, his mother and sisters back.

Once he asked me about the European women, especially white women in Germany. I asked him why he was asking. He said that his wife won’t come back and other women won’t marry him because he had no clean cloths and shoes like before. He said he couldn’t marry again because he had nothing to give.

“Do you think a white woman could love me?…” Degu said. “… I mean, white women have already enough and they won’t care if I had money or not, do they?”

I told him that it would be hard for me to say yes or no. I also told him that people could have different behavior towards love everywhere in the world. Degu wasn’t convinced with my answer. Anyways the conversation ended up after he persuaded me to take a video message of him to Germany and show it to all white women I would meet. Though I did take back that video message with me I have not done what I’ve promised to do.

Degu’s situation has deteriorated with every year passing. The last time I saw him he didn’t dare to come in. He called me outside instead. His physical appearance was discouraging. But his eyes didn’t loose their kindness. After making some small talks Degu asked me about his video message. I tried to give him a blurred answer. There was still the usual friendly smile on his face but he knew somehow that I was talking nonsense.

///A frame from Degu’s video message.///

I still have Degu’s correspondence on a video tape. And I am waiting for an opportunity to show it for any white woman who might be interested in watching his message. Next time I hope to face him without the need of giving him a fake answer.

This article is not only about finding a woman for Degu. As he himself already assumed it, there might not be a woman who will want to be his woman. This article is about people like him who never loose their optimism towards life despite the devastating life situation around them. I learned a lot from Degu and I hope you will get the message too.

post In My Mother’s Yard

January 17th, 2008

Filed under: Life Style — Admassu @ 10:06

I was surprised to see a dog in my mother’s yard as I visited her last time. A female dog heavy with young. First I thought that the dog must be from near by village. It is usual that dogs take rest or look for food in other villages when they get tired of roaming around going long distances from their own village. But after seeing the dog moving in the yard and in my mother’s house feeling at home I couldn’t help asking about it. My mother told me that my small nephew found the dog on the road and brought it home and that it was few days old. Amazed by the story I felt somehow sad at the same time because it reminded me that over three years have gone by since my last visit.

My mother lives around ten minutes walk away from the town Yirga Cheffe in south Ethiopia. She must be around 70 years old. She doesn’t know her genuine age. She always starts to tell a certain story that happened as she was born when ever she is asked how old she is.

///Yirga Cheffe is known for it’s spicy organic coffee world-wide. Many coffee producing western companies boast about their development projects in this area. Looking at this poor town proves the opposite. (photo: admassu m. k.)///

Beside that dog my mother’s yard
was also filled with hens, roosters and so many fledglings. Though my mother had no prepared facility for those animals. As a result of that every body in the family and all the animals gather in her house when the night comes. Apart from my self everybody and every animal used to spend their night sound asleep. It was hard for me to get used to that crow habit of the roosters three times a night; each crow session takes 5 to ten minutes. It was such a horror experience for me and I end up cursing those feathered creatures each time they tore me away from my deep sleep.

The other reality about keeping animals in my mother’s area is the immense death rate of the fledglings. In the first days of my arrival there were around 20 fledglings in the compound following their mother hens and making those tiny sounds the whole day. After like two weeks they were all gone. You see first one of them doing a weird gasping gesture stretching its neck consistently. I asked my mother if there was anything there to help that poor thing. My mother told me that if the chicks start doing that stretching thing it is already too late. After a while almost all the chicks were doing that gasping movement. I usually went in to the coffee forest or to Yiraga Cheffe just to avoid this tragic scene.

After two weeks and after all the fledgling were dead the dog gave birth and 6 puppies were the new family members in my mother’s yard. That is when weird situation started to take place. My mother has prepared a place for the dog and it’s puppies in one corner of her kitchen out side. The first time the dog left her kids after a long and tiresome birth giving procedure those mother hens, still yearning after their dead fledglings, took over the dog’s place. As the dog came back after taking some stretching walk and after chasing some horrified hens of the neighborhood it was confronted with a strange turnout of the situation at home. The hens has adopted the puppies and they were quite aggressive and started attacking that poor dog whenever it appears to feed the puppies.

///Adopted puppies (photo: admassu m. k.)///

Our help was essential to keep those puppies from starving. Every one in the family was busy then; busy taking out those aggressive and fiercely attacking hens out of the kitchen and help the frightened-to-death dog to feed the puppies. We stood guard till we were sure that the puppies were full and we left the battlefield. After that we were too exhausted to stop the hens from chasing the dog away and took over the place again.

///Sharing the responsibility. (photo: admassu m. k.)///

I heard a woman who visited my mother saying that it is a sign for the soon arriving end of the world. She didn’t stay long as usual. She excused her self for not remaining longer and fled out of the compound murmuring some prayers and looking in to the blue sky searching for her God and his mercy.

post Said Mohammed

January 17th, 2008

Filed under: Art — Admassu @ 09:44

Artist Said Mohammed 1957 - 2006

1957 born in Dessie, Äthiopien

1978 immigrated to Germany

1991 his first exhibition (many to follow)

2006 died in Berlin where he build an Ethiopian village under the motto of “Mesob” in the center of the city and exhibited for over a year.

Have you ever heard about Said? No?
The only reason for that would most probably be that Said was a hard-working artist with no spare time to deal with the thought of making himself famous. Said’s communication medium was his art work.

2005, Said building his village in Berlin. (photo:

I met Said in 2001 in Frankfurt. After a fiend of mine introduced us we ended up discussing about his works. Said’s usual topic was his art. That time he has already found his working title “Mesob” and Mesob was like his universe. It was reflected in all his sculptures, wood carvings, and paintings. “In our country people gather around Mesob….” he said. “…Mesob is a symbol of unity, peace and togetherness.”

Said had no limitation of technique to present his point of view around his topic Mesob. As he was still living in Darmstadt near Frankfurt he saw old and dead trees in the town’s public park. He went to the municipality to ask for permission to use those trees for his art. He managed to convince the authority because it was actually a better idea to turn dead trees in to an artwork and making the park more attractive for the public.

2005, Said building his village in Berlin. (photo:

Said spent after that working on those old trees turning them in to huge and amazing sculptures. He did that without using supporting machines. The town Darmstadt has received this priceless present gratefully and Said has earned a certain respect from the authority and from those who saw him sweating and working daily on those trees using his old unmotorized tools.

2005, Said’s village in downtown Berlin. (photo:

…to be continued.”

post Teff, Amazing Grain!

January 15th, 2008

Filed under: General Issue — Waltenegus @ 00:25

Eragrostis tef (Teff) is an intriguing grain, ancient, minute in size, and packed with nutrition. Teff is one of the ancient grains of the world finding resurgence in the modern diet.

Teff, the smallest grain in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter. The word teff is thought to have been derived from the Amharic word teffa which means “lost,” due to small size of the grain and how easily it is lost if dropped. The common English names for teff are teff, lovegrass, and annual bunch grass.

It supplies more fiber rich bran and nutritious germ than any other grain! It also packs a high mineral content that boasts 17 times the calcium of whole wheat or barley. It takes 150 grains of teff to weigh as much as one grain of wheat which accounts for its high nutritional. In any grain the nutrients are concentrated in the germ and bran. With teff the germ and bran make up the bulk of the grain and because it is too small to hull, its nutrients are abundant and stay intact.

///Teff field (photo source: flickr)///

The grain is the basis of Ethiopian traditional cookery. Teff flour is the main ingredient of the pleasantly sour pancake like bread known as injera, which literally underlies every Ethiopian meal.
The flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for a few days exactly like the fermentation process of a sourdough starter. Because of this process, injera has a slight sour taste to it. The injera is then ready to fry into large flat pancakes, done either on a specialised electric stove or fire.
A variety of stews, and sometimes salads, are placed upon the injera for serving. Using one’s right hand, small pieces of injera are torn and used to grasp the stews and salads for eating.

///Traditional Ethiopian food with Injera (photo source: Flickr)

Origin and Centre of Diversity
Teff is endemic to Ethiopia and its major diversity is found only in that country. As with several other crops, the exact date and location for the domestication of teff is unknown. However, there is no doubt that it is a very ancient crop in Ethiopia, where domestication took place far before the birth of Christ.

On the basis of linguistic, historic, geographic and botanical notes, teff is assumed to have originated in northeastern Africa. The current area of cultivation is probably not the initial one of domestication; domestication probably occurred in the western area of Ethiopia, where agriculture is precarious and seminomadal.

///Injera prepared with Teff flour (photo source: Flickr)///


The composition of teff is similar to that of millet, although it contains generally higher amounts of the essential amino acids, including lysine, the most limiting amino acid. The amino acid composition of teff is excellent, its lysine content is higher than that of all cereals except rice and oats, it has good mineral content and its straw is nutritious. In teff seed the distribution of protein, percentage of ash and mineral elements is higher in the pericarp than in the endosperm.

The grain has a high concentration of different nutrients. This grain has a very high calcium content, and contains high levels of phosphorus, iron, copper, aluminum, barium, and thiamin. A big advantage, according to Soil & Crop, is the fact that the iron from teff is easily absorbed by the body. It could thus enhance the performance of elite sportspeople. Teff is high in protein. It is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition (including all 8 essential amino acids for humans) and has lysine levels higher than wheat or barley. Because of this variety, it stimulates the flora of the large intestine. Teff is high in carbohydrates and fiber. It contains no gluten, so it is appropriate for those with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Teff safe alternative for celiac patients
Teff is a cereal that is only remotely related to wheat. Teff has a high nutritional value and offers a broad range of applications in food production. A test developed by the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) has shown that Teff is completely gluten-free, meaning it can probably be accommodated in the diet of patients suffering from celiac disease.

The Celiac Disease Consortium and the Netherlands Celiac Association are carrying out a joint study to determine whether patients also experience Teff as a safe and practical alternative to wheat. This study, the results of which are expected at the beginning of 2007, consists of questionnaires on the safety, use and possible complaints arising from the consumption of Teff.

///Teff field (photo source: Flickr)///

*Reference material: “The Ethiopian cereal Tef in Celiac Disease”, Letter to the Editor, L. Spaenij-Dekking et al, The New England Journal of Medicine, 353; 16 October 20, 2005.

Celiac disease is caused by aberrant T-cell responses to wheat gluten and the gluten-like proteins in barley and rye. The only cure for the disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Although consumption of oats is generally considered safe for patients with celiac disease,2 recent studies indicate that the grain does contain T-cell–stimulatory epitopes1,3 and that symptoms of celiac disease develop in some patients after the consumption of oats.4 A cereal lacking T-cell–stimulatory peptides would thus be of great value to patients with celiac disease

Nutrition-minded Americans have turned to teff as a source of calcium, fiber, and protein. It is also an alternative grain for people allergic to the gluten in wheat. It has an appealing, sweet, molasses-like flavor, and it boils up into a gelatinous porridge.

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