E. Sylvia Pankhurst

Selections from Ethiopia: A Cultural History

Author's Preface

In this book I have attempted a survey of Ethiopian culture from the earliest times in its divers branches: language and literature, music, architecture, painting and the applied arts, pedagogy and the schools, the ethical and religious ideals which have been the mainspring of all the arts.

I have sought to describe these creative activities in the setting of Ethiopian history, often fraught with heroism and peril, often disturbed by invasions which have ruthlessly destroyed much of the earlier achievement of Ethiopian genius and have resulted inevitably in a sad impoverishment, militating against the resurgence which nevertheless has always followed, rising again after every reverse however terrible.

By numerous illustrations of the visual arts culled from many sources, by extracts from literature and some few examples of music I have endeavoured to bring the arts and ideals of Ethiopia vividly before the enquirer.

Many of the beautiful photographs here included were specially taken for me by the generous aid of their Excellencies Bitwoded Andargatchau Massai, then Governor of Gondar, of Ato Makonnen Hapte Wold, Minister of the Press, and of Ato Akalrwork, Minister of Education.

In so wide a survey much has inevitably been omitted; I am conscious of many imperfections, but I offer the work in the sincere belief that it will reveal and co-ordinate many aspects of the cultural life and the indigenous achievement of the Ethiopian people.

The book has been written for the general reader. It may be in many cases a first introduction to Ethiopiana. Nevertheless I hope it will prove not without interest to those who have already a knowledge of the country and have devoted attention to Ethiopian studies. I should be happy if it might convey to others some of the pleasure and interest I have derived from writing it.

I may venture to recall that before I became immersed in efforts for social betterment, my earliest interests were in painting and the decorative arts. As holder of a Proctor Travelling Studentship, I was privileged to study at Venice and Torcello examples of Byzantine Art, which like that of Ethiopia is of the Middle East artistic family, as well as the other Italian Schools. Subsequently as winner of a National Scholarship I studied architecture and painting at the Royal College of Art in constant proximity to the art collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Much later I was invited as English translator of the works of the Roumanian poet, Eminescu, to be present at the unveiling of the statue of that immortal bard on the shore of the Black Sea. I was able then to visit many of those interesting Roumanian churches both ancient and modern, wherein the exterior and interior wall paintings preserve much of the style of early Christian art which emanated from the Middle East. The paintings in those Roumanian churches have strong affinities with the art of Christian Ethiopia.

It is gratifying to be able to include in this volume photographs of the remarkable discoveries in northern Ethiopia recently made during the archaeological researches initiated by the Emperor Haile Sellassie and carried out under the auspices of the Ethiopian National Library by Monsieur Jean Doresse. Among a number of ancient objects unearthed from a cache at Azbi-Dera is the effigy of an ancient sovereign, whose empire, as shown by inscriptions on the base of his throne and on a bronze votive sceptre buried with him, comprised both Saba in Arabia and also several provinces in the area of the present Ethiopia, which at that time played the predominant role in the combined realm. Bronze bowls manufactured in Egypt of the Pharaonic Saite period (697-523 B.C.), found in the same cache, indicate that these discoveries extend our perspective of Ethiopia's ancient history to approximately the sixth or seventh century B.C. Thus is strikingly confirmed the contention of Professor Heinrich Muller that the inscriptions at the ancient Ethiopian temple of Yeha, impressions of which were submitted to him by Theodore Bent in 1893, must be ascribed on palaeographic grounds to not later than the seventh century B.C.

The precious treasure-trove of Azbi-Dera seems to extend a golden bridge toward the remote era of King Solomon and toward the earnestly held belief that it was an Ethiopian Queen who journeyed "from the ends of the earth" to learn of his wisdom.

The period of the wonderful monoliths at Aksum, which resemble no others in the world, has yet to be elucidated by the further researches now proceeding. The recent excavation of their architectural ensemble will assist in bringing to modern knowledge something of the transcendent spectacle they presented in ancient times. The one solitary example which has remained erect across the centuries makes an unforgettable impression by its majestic loveliness. Some of its companions which have fallen were even loftier and more elaborate than the standing tower. The architectural decoration of these amazing monuments is no mere product of fantasy, but accurately represents the structural features of then contemporary Aksumite buildings skilfully adapted to suit the slender shape of the monotliths to form a handsome decoration wherewith to beautify them.

The wars of invasion which repeatedly ravaged Ethiopia destroyed the greater part of her early mediaeval architecture; nevertheless some few churches, preserved in the seclusion of caves and on the inaccessible heights of lofty flat-topped mountains, indicate that the traditional style of building already established at Aksum and reproduced on the great monoliths was continued and developed for more than a thousand years. Notable survivals of the Aksumite building style are also found among those other unique wonders, the monolithic churches of Lalibela hewn from the living rock of the mountain and begun toward the close of the twelfth century. I have devoted in these pages considerable attention to the persistence of this traditional style, which is carefully explained in the text, as well as by diagrams and photographs.

The various types of church building, basilican and round, wed and illustrated in the following chapters.

I have devoted some space to the examination of the current assertion that the famous Gondar castles are of Portuguese origin. Their sturdy construction and their austerity are alike in striking contrast to the ornate baroque edifice produced on the shore of Lake Tana by the Jesuit Father Pero Pais and his unknown assistants. I would briefly observe here that in all Gondarine structures there are features reminiscent of earlier Ethiopian buildings, notably the capitals and their mouldings and the Ethiopian seven-pointed cross, which is an ever-recurring motif on the walls at Gondar, and is found at St Mary of Zion, St George at Lalibela and countless other churches. It may moreover be recalled that the Jesuit Fathers and numbers of their compatriots were expelled from Ethiopia by the Emperor Fasiladas (1632-65) before he had laid the foundations of the first of the Gondar Castles.

Jacques Poncet, the French physician, who spent the years 1698-1700 at Gondar, before all the castles were yet completed, has nothing to say of Portuguese builders being employed on the work. James Bruce, who arrived in 1769, is equally silent about any building by the Portuguese, but he tells us the Emperor Yasu II (1730-55) employed several Greek artists—Christian refugees from Smyrna—in the decoration of his castle and that its ceiling was the work of Ethiopian Jews, Falashas, who were resident in the city.

Mural painting in Ethiopia has only latterly begun to be studied with the attention it merits; good interior photographs are difficult to obtain but I have been able to reproduce from Adowa some effective pictures of the characteristic murals of Aleka Lukas of Gojjam and also a beautiful painting from the Church of Medhane Alem in that historic town.

I have reviewed in these pages the works of many early writers, investigators and travellers, from the time of the unknown author of the Periplus in the first century A.D. onward, to whom all who write on Ethiopia to-day are indebted. Cosmas Indicopleustes, who in the sixth century reproduced in his Christian topography the Greek version of the trilingual inscription of an Ethiopian sovereign which he had copied at Adulis, took the first step toward placing Ethiopic studies in Europe on a realistic foundation, for the most authentic source of information concerning a people must ever be the works which they have themselves produced. Henry Salt at the dawn of the nineteenth century discovered the epigraphic inscriptions at Yeha and Aksum. Theodore Bent in 1893 brought home further and more accurate copies of these important records. Enno Littmann and his colleagues of the German Aksum Expedition (carried out under the Emperor Menelik II) advanced archaeological studies much further. I am glad to publish here drawings and photographs from their magnificent report, as well as many photographs taken for me during my visit to Aksum.

Ethiopian scribes and translators, working in Rome in a house in the Vatican behind St Peter's Church, as Ludolphus records, "above a hundred years" before his arrival there in 1649 were the first to convey a knowledge of the Ethiopic language and literature to a few European scholars. Already through their efforts with the aid of Joh. Potken, the Ethiopic Psalter had been printed in 1513 and the Ethiopic New Testament and Liturgy in 1548. It was the learned Ethiopian Gregory Malkana Sellassie who instructed Ludoiphus and enabled him to write the first authentic history and account of Ethiopia ever produced outside the country itself which is in many respects the finest ever written in Europe. The learned Gregory must be regarded as at least the co-author of that invaluable work.

I owe many a debt to the narrative of the genial Father Francisco Alvarez, the Portuguese Chaplain, as well as to the Jesuit fathers who followed him to Ethiopia, particularly Pero Pais, whose memoirs have been recently published by the Livaria Civihizaçao of Portugal and which I was able to study with the assistance of Dr A. Nogueira Santos. By the kind Hospitality of H.I.H. Princess Tenagne Work, then resident at Gondar, I was able to examine the ruins of the church Pais built on the shore of Lake Tana and to compare it with the Castles of Gondar, as well as to obtain the photographs of all these which are published in this volume.

I have quoted many passages from Alvarez; his description of churches now destroyed, his expressions of reverence for the ascetic life of the Ethiopian monastery as he saw it. I have included his observations on the Queen of Sheba, of whom he heard much in Aksum. He claims to have found his story of her visit to King Solomon in an ancient Ethiopian book, but the tale he tells has no place in the Ethiopic Kebra Nahast wherein the history of the famous Queen is recorded according to Ethiopian annals. The story Alvarez gives was in fact current in Europe in his time. It appears in the Legenda Aurea of Jacobo Voragine, which provided the theme for the magnificent frescoes of Piero della Francesca in the Church of Francesco at Arezzo, circa 1452-64.

I am indebted to Jacques Poncet for his account of Gondar in the height of its magnificence, and to James Bruce, the friend of the gracious Empress Mantuab who brought back with him to Europe the long-lost Book of Enoch with other important Ethiopic works and thereby gave a new stimulus to Ethiopic studies.

To the immense work of the many translators: Dillmann, Charles, Budge, Halévey, Weld Blundell, Rossini, Wolf Leslau and many more, who have made available in European languages an extensive store of Ethiopian literature I pay my tribute. The systematic work of translation from manuscripts not hitherto accessible, which has been initiated by the Emperor Haile Sellassie, will shed further light on the history of the Ethiopian people and their contribution to the culture of former times.

The discerning traveller who records what to citizens of a country appears commonplace performs a service to posterity. The diaries of the Protestant missionaries, Gobat, Isenberg and Krapf, have provided me with a wealth of interesting material concerning life, lay, ecclesiastic and scholastic, the customs of the cottager and of the courts of Gondar and Shoa in early nineteenth-century Ethiopia. The account Dr Krapf gives of the young heir to the Kingdom of Shoa receiving the education which was to prepare him for his future responsibilities from a learned sage in the seclusion of a mountain peak has the quality: of a Greek legend.

Charles Johnston, the young British naval surgeon, whose attractive volumes have long been out-of-print, gave me an intimate view of the arts, crafts, medicines and recreations of a Shoan village in the early 1840s, as well as a pleasant glimpse of a monastic university.

I should emphasize that the old crafts are still practised in Ethiopia and that each province and district has its own specialities in basketry, woodwork, leatherwork, ivory, horn, silver and goldsmiths' work, ornaments, furniture and utensils for the home, waterbottles for the journey, implements for agriculture and the chase.

The report of the French Scientific Mission (1839-42), beautifully published under official auspices and now rare, presents a systematic and extensive survey of all the arts, crafts and professions of that period. Enthralled by Quartin-Dillon's account of the ladies of the grand ton at Gondar in his time, I have translated a portion of it for the pleasure of my readers. The able artist Vignaud proves himself a veritable Cennini in his description of the pigments used by Ethiopian painters.

From A.B. Wylde's vivid picture of the Jeweller of Emperor Yohannes in the 188os I have notes of the handicraft at that period.

The detailed account of the Traditional Ethiopian church schools of music, poetry, theology, history and philosophy, here published contains material largely unknown outside Ethiopia. I am grateful for the precious assistance I received in preparing this chapter from His Grace Bishop Theophilus of Ethiopia as well as from the Rev. Father Meshesha, and Debtera Jamberra who kindly advised me on the work during their visit to London.

I am thankful also to Ato Menghestu Lemma for much helpful information, for the translations of Kéné poems he made for me and the church music he sang from the sixth-century music-writing of Yared the Deacon's Tsoma Deggua, which was kindly transcribed in European notation for this volume by the able young violinist Louis Yffer. I must express my thanks also to Abba Tita who sang for me an old Ethiopian hymn and to Mr. H. Tims who transcribed it. This part of the book will be new to the majority even of scholarly readers. The music I hope is but a foretaste of much to follow.

The Kéné poem, as it has evolved in modern times, with its its hidden meanings and frequent ellipses, is in marked contrast to such ealier works as the majestic fifteenth-century "Weddase Mariam". Rich and varied in its splendid images as the silk and gold embroidery of an Ethiopian ceremonial robe, the sonorous musical cadences of this great hymn are apparent even in in translation:

Not gold and silver I offer unto thee, nor the brilliant pearl,
But beautiful praise with the pure glorification which can be offered unto thee and thy majesty, O Queen;
Not robes of honour of purple and silk adorned with divers inlutirs of brocade,
I lay out my soul before thee in place of glorious apparel decorated with gold,
And to thee I declare my sin, O Mother of the great High Priest…
                                                          *  *  *
Oh, how difficult it was to make the fullness of all the world to to in a manger!
The manger was higher than the height of the heaven a more extended
  than its boundaries

The modern Kéné is not of this genre; it has nothing of this spaciousness. In its extreme brevity, though totally different in style of course, it recalls rather the miniature poems of the Japanese, the tanka consisting of 31 syllables only, which are arranged in verses of 5, 7, 5, 7 and 7 syllables, the still briefer haiku, comprising a mere i syllables in verses of 6, 7 and 5 syllables, and the more popular maya having five or six couplets of five and seven syllable verses. Though the analogy cannot be carried far, the acrostics of the tanka may be held to bear some superficial resemblance to the much-prized hidden meaning often imbedded in the Kéné.

In their own special style, it would seem that the Ethiopian Kéné schools have followed to a certain degree an evolution similar to that of modern Western poetry, wherein, too, subtlety often approaches obscurity.

While other types of Ethiopian poetry are richer and more spacious than the Kéné, within the framework of its exiguous economy of words there is often a poignancy and force which greater prolixity might not achieve. One may cite as an ex ample the austere poem of Aleka Lemma:

For which hour and for what
Did God keep the power of his horses, the Cherubim?
And wherefore spake Christ with pride of His Father's house
Through the smoke of jealousy fills the Temple, the heart of
  the Jews?
Because his horse is the soulless cross
And his lodging the narrow, new-made grave.

The prophetic Kéné written on the eve of the battle of Adowa is also a work of power:

Sodom and Gomorrah, lands of retribution, shall find pardon
  in the terrible day of battle;
But you, base city of Rome,
That has come upon you which did not come upon Sodom,
For Menelik, saviour of the world,
Has sent you swathed in blood to visit Dathan and Abiram
  in the grave;
Not even one of your seed will he leave to bear your name…

Bitter irony and rugged courage characterize the Asare Negus of the famous poet Kiflé Johannes, who wrote in the time of the Emperor to whom his satire is addressed:

Impartial justice is is practised, O Bakuffa, in your good reign,
While the poor man says says,
"What we have heard, we have heard".
Let your justice shine like the sun,
For all office and honour under the sky
Is for those who have money.

In describing the literature used in the traditional School of Reading I have endeavoured to show the sort of studies in which Ethiopian theological students were engaged and very briefly to indicate to the general reader, as occasion offered, the esteem in which the authors there read are held among theologians of the West.

I have not entered into the subtle mysteries of the monodyophysite controversy which occasioned one of the deeper rifts in the United Christendom of the first four centuries. Arguments concerning the mystic synthesis of the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ which convulsed the Church in former times to-day appear obscure and remote to the ordinary man and woman. Even the clergy are more preoccupied with the challenge of rationalism and the advance of scientific discovery. Dean Stanley1 in the 1880s described the Monophysite interpretation of the Creed of Nicaea as an exaggeration of the Orthodoxy of Athanasius, the great Alexandrian Patriarch, for he suffered persecution and now is sanctified. Canon Douglas,2 on the other hand, declared the Monophysite schism was essentially national, not religious, an expression of the "desperate struggle" of the "highly cultured religio-nationalities of the Near East, the Egyptian and the Syrian, and with them ultimately the Armenian, against denationalization by assimilation" to the Greco-Latin supra-nationality of the Roman Empire. The Ethiopian Church early affiliated to the Alexandrian See of St Mark and closely associated also with the Syrian Church was inevitably reckoned within the Monophysite fold. Yet there seem to have been from time to time periods of controversy between factions of the clergy on this and other theological problems, as well as sections also who deprecated such disputes.

I have elected to reproduce in these pages, as representing the opinion of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the confession of faith issued by the Emperor Galawdewos in 1557 to confute the Latin prelate, Oviedo, whom Pope Julius III had appointed Patriarch of Ethiopia and who demanded the Emperor's adhesion to the See of Rome. One might analyse, also, such documents as that prepared by the Ethiopian theologians in reply to a questionnaire of Bishop Gwynne, in 1922, wherein occur these passages:

"Do you teach in your Church the faith which was formulated Nicaea?

"Yes, our Church has received and teaches the faith which was formulated at Nicaea. In the creed or in the name of Nicaea she makes known her faith..."

I have preferred rather to dwell on the life of Ethiopian Christianity, the austerity and devotion of the monastery, the ancient ecclesiastical schools.

I have endeavoured in treating of the general body of Ethiopic literature of former times to show that it included numerous historical works essential to a knowledge of Ethiopian history; indeed it is on the basis of these Ethiopian writings, to a far larger extent than upon information supplied by travellers and writers of other lands, that western authors have compiled their histories of the country.

In the chapter on secular song and poetry I have again been aided by the generosity of Mr Menghestu Lemma, as well as by Miss Mary Tadessa, Mr Worku Haptewold and Mr H. Tims. I would instance as a work of peculiarly poignant beauty the dirge for her father of the daughter of Sabagadis, which was admired and translated in the early nineteenth century by Bishop Samuel Gobat, and is included here. A satirical household song, in the rendering of which I was assisted by Mr Lemma, is arresting in its highly imaginative quality, as testified by the following phrases culled from it which are intended to express utter instability:

Breeches of wind and buttons of hail,
A horse of mist and a swollen ford,
A hyena bearing meat, led by a leather thong.

I must emphasize that the folk-song is alive in Ethiopia; it is not a memory of the past; it is still in active production; it is attuned to the mood of the singer and to the circumstances of the time, to the affairs of the household and the village; to great events of national interest.

I have been able to place before the reader a series of MS. illustrations in seven centuries; I have added in the same chapter specimens of MS. writing from Wright's catalogue of Magdala Collection in the British Museum for 1400-34, 1586-7 , 1664-7 and 1855-65. The characteristics of MS. writing in various periods can thus be observed.

Among MS. illustrations here reproduced I have included some examples from the Ethiopian National Library, some from Paris Bibliothéque Nationale, as well as one photograph taken by Mr D. R. Buxton from the Church of Debra Mariam. The chapters on the manuscripts have, however, mainly been illustrated by photographs taken for me from the Great Magdala Collection in the British Museum, where I was able to have the assistance of exceptionally good photographic facilities, and also the generous assistance of Mr R. L. Jarmain.

I have chosen from British Museum MS. Orient. No. 481 the representation of The Angel of the Lord appearing to Moses, on account of its solemn Byzantine character and the sentiment of awe and mystery it conveys.

I have reproduced many illustrations from British Museum MSS. Orient. 510 and 533, both of which are highly characteristic Ethiopian art. Orient. 510, measuring as it does no less than 17 ¾ ins., by 16 ins., is a truly magnificent volume which has caused me deep regret that I am not able to offer it in facsimile size and in the beautiful colours of the original. Despite the high cost, I have had two of its illustrations reproduced in colour photography, but even these, alas, do not fully convey the impression of the original, being greatly reduced in size, separated from the surrounding script and deprived of the pleasing texture of the vellum. Moreover the colour reproduction is not entirely exact; the red inclines to be somewhat more brilliant than the original and the entire appearance slightly less harmonious. Nevertheless I consider reproduction by photo-process infinitely preferably to copying, as the copyist almost inevitably imports something of his or her own manner and an exact reproduction is seldom possible.

The Flight into Egypt which I have chosen is particularly satisfying as decoration and is eminently suitable as the illustration of a manuscript. The Cleansing of the Temple, both in colour and style, is also essentially suited to an illustration on vellum. Though it conforms to the exigencies of the level plane desirable for its purpose it is extremely vigorous in treatment and conveys an energy of movement befitting the subject it portrays. It is a highly accomplished work only slightly marred by retouching.

British Museum MS. Orient. No. 533 containing The Revelation of St John the Divine and other material is also admirable though in an entirely different style, later and in many respects more advanced. I have reproduced from it a number of beautiful illustrations, two of them in colour.

The artist of this MS. has used more solid paint than that employed for Orient. 510; consequently some pages of 533 have suffered a good deal from scaling and there has been some unfortunate overpainting. I believe however that the pictures I have selected from this fine manuscript will be widely appreciated. They are pleasing in composition and have considerable beauty of line and form. Despite the tragic character of The Revelation of St John, a serene loveliness pervades many of the illustrations. The youthful St John penning his work beside sea has an almost childlike sweetness of face and form. Several of the other pictures convey, on the other hand, a sense of drama and tragedy. The colour prints reproduced from this manuscript, though inevitably inferior to the original, are nevertheless extremely rich in colour and design.

The latest of the manuscripts I have selected, Orient. 733 was penned by the principal scribe of the Emperor Theodore (1885-68) and illustrated by the painter, Luke. Its reproduction has been restricted to half-tone with much regret, the translucent water-colour painting of the floral decoration being so charming.

The modern manuscripts in traditional style, kindly lent by Mr H. D. Molesworth, illustrating the life of Saint Tekla Haimanot, are also delightfully painted in beautiful translucent watercolour.

I am glad to be able to reproduce the work of some young Ethiopian artists of to-day, two of whom have received professional instruction abroad and some who are virtually self-taught

having received, at most, only the usual school drawing lessons, compressed all the world over into the crowded curriculum necessitated by preparation for general certificates of education at the various stages. The artistic talent of these young painters is nevertheless evident. The Coffee Party by Kristos Desta is a lively conception, though the youthful artist has not yet sufficient experience to complete his idea. Menghetsu Lemma (who later helped me with Kéné translations, as already noted, and who has written poems in Ge'ez and Amharic on his own account) also when at school displayed painter. I have reproduced two of his youthful works.

The late Agegnu Engeda, who had studied in Paris, subsequently decorated the main assembly hall of the Ethiopian Parliament with frescoes depicting important events in Ethiopian history. The photograph of his graceful painting of a young Ethiopian woman, included in these pages, reveals him as a highly capable and sensitive artist with a finely developed sense of form and capacity to paint.

Balatchau Damar of Harar, whose work was brought to my notice by Mr George Sandwith, paints rapidly in traditional style.

Afewerk Tekle, among the living Ethiopian artists whose work I have reproduced in this volume, is alone in having enjoyed a professional art training abroad. As a pupil of the Haile Sellassie I Secondary School near Addis Ababa he already manifested artistic talent. Sent abroad by the Ministry of Education, he spent two years at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and a further two years at the Slade School of Fine Arts (London University). Professor Coldstream wrote me that he had there "made very good use of his time". During a summer holiday he enjoyed a visit to Spain which has greatly influenced his subsequent painting. The monochrome "Lisbon" reproduced in these pages is one of his many sketches made during that vacation. On returning to Ethiopia he exhibited his works in the Addis Ababa Municipal Hall. The Ethiopian Government subsequently sent him for a further year of study in Italy and France. The sketches from his Italian notebook here reproduced reveal his vigorous drawing. The prints from photographs of his paintings have lost more in reproduction, enough I hope can be discerned to reveal him as a talented young artist in the course of his development.

Elizabeth Tesfae, who studied in Paris, is also a brilliant rising artist. Her vivid portrait sketches of Ethiopian notables and peasants, exhibited in the Addis Ababa Jubilee Exhibition of 1951, had been hung far above the line; nevertheless the Committee of European and Ethiopian judges rightly awarded her the Gold Medal of the Exhibition.

I have included a list of the literary works produced in Ethiopia in modern times. The late Blatengueta Herouy, at one time Minister of Foreign Affairs, was the pioneer of modern literature, under the ever constant solicitude and encouragement of the Emperor who has been active in every sphere of Ethiopian life and who established the Berhanena Salem Press, at which many of the modern works have been produced. Among contemporary Ethiopian authors may be mentioned Bitwoded Endalkatchew Makonnen, who combines with the duties of Prime Minister an interest in the arts, and is himself both painter and writer. Waizeru Senedu Gabre has written dramas in Amharic verse, of which one of the more notable is a tragedy inspired by the national resistance, entitled Graziani Days. Her sister, an able musician, has composed music to accompany this drama.

Many rising authors have described the enemy occupation and the national resistance. Mahtama Sellassie Walda Maskal has recorded his meditations in an Italian penal settlement under the attractive title, A Wondrous Marvel. Takle-Berhan Zena is the author of Revealer of Light, a life of Bishop Petros who suffered martyrdom for his fidelity to the national cause. Many novels and poems have been published on the life of Ethiopians abroad, as exiles or as students. One of the more notable of these is by Wolde Guiorguis Wolde Yohannes who is also the author of several poems. Many works of ancient and contemporary history and numerous dramas based on historical incidents are now produced each year, as well as a number of translations such as Sirak Herouy's Amharic rendering of Dr Johnson's Rasselas and Kebede Mikael's version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

It should be emphasized that until the reign of Menelik II (1889-1913) Ethiopian education was officially maintained by the Church; the curriculum of the schools had been little changed since ancient times. In the year 1908 the Emperor Menelik established two modern schools under Government auspices: the Menelik II Lyceum in Addis Ababa and the

Menelik School at Harar. Professor Hana Salib Bey, an Egyptian, was appointed Director of Public Education, as well as Director the Lyceum.

Under the Regency of Ras Tafari, the future Emperor Haile Sellassie I, Ethiopian education was firmly established on sound foundations with the purpose of creating a body of trained administrators and technicians for Government service, and a broadly based system of modern education, for boys and also for girls, to apply to the whole people, without distinction of religion or racial origin, and to be extended as rapidly as possible to all parts of the country.

From its inception Ethiopian State Education was entirely free; and all school equipment were gratuitously supplied; boarding schools provided everything, including the clothing of pupils without charge.

State Education had been established by Menelik II as a minor department of Government under a Director General; Haile Sellassie I raised the Education Department to the status of a Ministry of Education and Fine Arts, of equal importance to the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Defence and so forth. During the period of his Regency he had already established a number of modern schools and had initiated the policy of sending promising pupils abroad for higher studies: on his accession to the Imperial Throne the development of all branches of education was accelerated; it became the heaviest charge on the national budget and the primary object of Government solicitude.

In the period prior to the Italian invasion modern schools had already been opened in the capital and also in a number of the provinces, primary and secondary education had been initiated and professional training had commenced at the Haile Sellassie I Academy of Arts and Sciences; school libraries and labratories for scientific instruction were already in being. The Empress Menen's Girls' High School had been created in 1931; at the close of each school year some of its pupils, and also some of the boys from the Tafari Makonnen School attended the examination held at the French Legation for the French certificate of proficiency in Primary Studies, thereby aligning themselves with the educational attainments of European youth. This was at that period a considerable innovation for Africa and the Middle East, particularly in the education of girls.

In the chapters devoted to modern education I have included a brief history of the Tafari Makonnen School issued by the school itself. This school, founded by the present Emperor during his Regency, has the distinction of having educated substantial proportion of the Ethiopians who were subsequently sent abroad for further studies and are to-day giving efficient service to their country in the Ethiopian Government.

The first period of Ethiopian modern education was brought abruptly to a close by the Italian invasion. I have attempted in a few pages to bring before the reader the immense miseries suffered by the Ethiopian people during the enemy occupation drawing upon the account of the Hungarian physician Dr Saska, a witness of the terrible Addis Ababa Massacre of 1937, the full text of which, under his pseudonym Boris Sava, is only available in New Times and Ethiopia News. I have been guided also by the accounts of other eye-witnesses which reached me during the five tragic years of the interregnum and by photographs taken by the Italians to record their own atrocities which I obtained in Ethiopia in 1944 and also received from British soldiers who had taken them from the pockets of Italian prisoners. The telegrams embodying the orders of Mussolini, Graziani and their subordinates, facsimiles of which were submitted to the Paris Peace Conference of 1946, confirm the other evidence.

The tragic five years interregnum, during which all Ethiopians schools were closed and education in the real sense of the tern was non-existent, made a painful breach in the progress which had been accomplished by the hard work of the Emperor and his Government.

The second period of modern education began with the resumption of Ethiopian administration in February, 1942. In dealing with the great advance achieved in the post-liberation period, I have devoted a chapter to the first difficult seven years, when revenue had to be built up from zero by a robbed and ruined people, with the meagre, though welcome assistance of a British Grant-in-aid, totalling a mere £3,000,000 spread over two and a half years. The task of the teacher was at that time complicated by the fact that along with little children entering school at the normal age were older boys and girls craving for the instruction which had been denied to them during the sad five years interregnum. Nevertheless despite the penury and confusion left by the war in Ethiopia and the World War then raging, which imposed grave shortages in the field of pedagogy as in every other peaceable activity, I have been able to chronicle much accomplishment in those years and the laying of sure foundations for future educational progress. I was indeed astonished on my visit to Ethiopia in the autumn and winter of 1944 to find the schools so relatively flourishing and well-equipped and to witness the rapid advance the pupils had already made, as testified by the work I saw them doing in class, and the exercise books I was able to examine at leisure by the kindness of Ato Emmanuel Abraham, Director General of Education at that period. The enthusiasm and zest of the Ethiopian pupil was and is impressive.

Further chapters comprise descriptions of some of the schools more recently visited and statistics of subsequent progress, the curriculum of the University College of Addis Ababa, some facts about the projected Haile Sellassie I University.

Ethiopia is in process of creating a national education suited to her own needs, culling what seems to her best in the education systems of other countries, while preserving the qualities own culture.

In introducing these pages to the reader I must add the reminder that Ethiopia has her own ancient script which is totally different from Roman characters, Arabic, Hebrew or any other. Transliteration from this totally different script into the Roman characters current in Britain and Europe has not been systematic. The writing of Ethiopian names in Roman script is done by ear; each English, French, Italian, German or other writer arranges the spelling which seems to him to express the sound of the Ethiopian name according to the usage of his own country; each of these considers the sound of the same name should be spelt in a different way.

The scholars who claim to write Ethiopian names according to a scientific system of phonetics use diacritic signs which are not understood by the average reader; moreover, alas, these scholars often produce results which appear utterly grotesque to the ordinary man or woman who is familiar with Ethiopian people and has heard them pronounce various well-known Ethiopian names. One such learned author writes Hayla Selassie instead of the usual Haile Sellassie which is familiar all over Europe and America; another writes Ras Makuannen, instead of the more usual Ras Makonnen. In Budge's history Ethiopia I find the same King referred to as Susénius, Susenyos, Susinyos, Susneos and Susneus. In fact consultation of authorities who have written on Ethiopian questions results in in much mystification and confusion in the matter of spelling.

I do not claim to have been able to follow a uniform system in the present work; in the main I have adopted the spelling of the sources I have quoted.

* * *

In concluding this preface I would express my profound gratitude to Their Imperial Majesties The Emperor Haile Sellassie and the Empress Menen for the generous hospitality they graciously accorded to me in their country, with every facility I needed for my researches; I had freedom to visit everything and generous help in doing so. I would thank their daughter H.I.H. Princess Tenagne Work Haile Sellassie and her husband His Excellency Bitwoded Andargatchau Massai for their kind help and hospitality during my visit Gondar as well as in Addis Ababa. I would add an expression of my gratitude to all the other members of the Imperial Family for innumerable kindnesses.

My warm thanks are due to H.E. Ato Tafara Worq, then Private Secretary to His Imperial Majesty, who most kindly arranged my various journeys and assisted me in numerous directions, as well as to the Prime Minister H.E. Bitwod Makonnen Endalkatchew and to H.H. Princess Yesache Work for the generous hospitality and valuable information they gave me; also the Minister of the Press Ato Makonnen Hapte Wold who with so much thoughtful kindness supplied me with services of the photographers whose work illuminates many these pages. Ato Akelawork, Minister of Education, whose admirable achievements and genial enthusiasm for the schools and the scholars I greatly admire, must be thanked for generous assistance in supplying me with documents and photographs.

I would thank indeed all the Ministers and members of the Ethiopian Government for many helpful courtesies, and the Governors of the many Provinces I visited who were lavish their help and hospitality. In Addis Ababa itself and in every province I enjoyed the most generous co-operation fro Ecclesiastics, Government officials and advisers, from teachers, Ethiopian and of many other nationalities. I had always a friendly welcome from the school children and students who one and all replied to the questions their teacheiers invitted me to ask with unaffected frankness and bright intellitligence.

Among the many others who helped me in Ethiopia I would mention with gratitude His Grace Bishop Theophillos, their Excellencies Blatta Mersie Hazen, Blatta Ephrerem Medhen, the Ne Boureud Maskal (Governor of Aksurrm), Kessse Gabré-Uze Takla Haimanot of the Cathedral of St Mary of Sion, Tsehafe Tuezaz Wolde Volde Guiorguis, Dedjazmatch Mesfin Selleshie, Ato Mikael Dessalgen in Eritrea and Ato Tadessa of the Ministry of the Press for his ever generous help, Dedjjazmatch Aberra Kassa, Ato Mend Managasha and Major Asefea Lemma for kind help and interpretation on many jourirneys, Dr Lucien Matte, the Principal of the University College to whom I am indebted for kindly conducting me through the College and explaining its work, as well as for the prospectus here published, Mr Heyring of the General Wingate School, for showing me through the school, as well as supplying me with information concerning the attainments of its pupils. I would thank all the many directors and teachers of the schools I visited. I am grateful to Monsieur Jean Doresse for the important photographs and information here published derived from the researches now being conducted under his direrection.

For help in my home country I must thank His Excellency Abbebe Retta, a scholar of Ge'ez and an authoritty on all pertaining to the literature of his country, and the staff of the Imperial Ethiopian Embassy in London, Mr H. D. Molesworth and Mrs Molesworth, Mr H. D. Matthews, Mr George Sandwith, Ato Menghestu Lemma, as mentioned in the text, Ato Hapteab Bairu, Waizeru Mary Tadessa, Ato Worku Haptewold, Abba Tita, Mr Louis Yffer anclid Mr H. Tims, Mr A. Artan, the able Somali writer whose humorous but revealing story of Somali life I have been glad to publiish. I am grateful to the publishers of the valuable Deutschie-Aksum Expedition report for permission to reproduluce illustrations I am indebted to the photographs of Mr D. R. Buxton and to the many other authors mentioned in the text whose works have assisted in making possible this survey.

Dr Richard K. P. Pankhurst has assisted me over many a stile the compilation of this work and its index, particularly in some of the historical chapters and in those referring to the modern schools, many of which he visited with me.

Wherever I went in Ethiopia I felt I was among friends, I derived from my visits there more happiness than I can ever adequately express. All my memories of the beautiful country, its magnificent mountains and everchanging skies, its glorious sunshine and climate of perpetual spring, its wealth of foliage and flowers, its erect and handsome people, graceful in their white national dress, are endeared to me by recollections of the constant kindness I was privileged to receive in that entrancing wonderland.


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1.  Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of Westminster, Lectures on the Eastern Church, Lect. I, p. 9.

2.  Canon J. A. Douglas in an introduction to: The Teaching of the Abyssinian Church, as Set Forth by the Doctors of The Same, p. xi.