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A Mythical Journey of Ethiopia in Time

October 9, 2008

By Gudu Kassa

The last New Year was “the Millennium!!” It was celebrated with lots of fire works, festivity and dancing on the streets of Addis Ababa, DC, London and everywhere. This one just happens to be another run-of-the-mill New Year.

While sitting in a contemplating mood, I just wondered how my ancesters had been celebrating New Years for thousands of years. This led me to have a travel back in time to imagine the journey we had as a human race as well as, as Ethiopians. This too stirred a desire in me to write my alternative view of the world.

So, like all companies do before starting new financial year, I thought, it would be good to take inventory of the past to build the future. That is what I intend to do in a serious of articles.

OK, then I asked where shall I start? From 100 years or 3000 years? No doubt you too would say from 3000 years. Of course, for the first time in the recent past, we all agree that Ethiopia is at least a 3000 year of old lady, with many fascinating stories to tell. Last year, in the millennium hall, in presence of pop icons, Black Eyed Peace, even Ato Meles has expressed his pride at the rise of Ethiopia in the first millennium and his sadness at the decline that followed in the second millennium. As the American say, that was the best “closure” of the past 40 years dispute between various sects of fanatic students.

Before I started writing “the 3000 years of history” I got distracted by the physicists in Switzerland who were trying to re-create “the Big Bang” to push me to the beginning. Then I thought, why not? I mean from “the sixth day” or “the Big Bang”, whichever way you would like to see it.

If you are still reading, then just bear with me, I have the alternative history.

The Beginning: Wasn’t Adam the First Ethiopian?

Well, if Adam were created after state formation then there is no question he would have been carrying an Ethiopian passport. According to the Holy Bible, Adam was created and left in the land where the river Ghion (Abay) flows. According to Genesis 2:10-14 “ And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from therece it was parted … And the name of the river is Ghion: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia”. Hence, it is safe to say that Adam and Hewan (Eve) had been holding hands and walking by the banks of Lake Tana enjoying all exotic fruits, the sunshine, the waterfalls (TisAbay) and panoramic views of the mountains. After all, where else the Garden of Eden could be? Since beach-ball wasn’t invented then, there wasn’t any temptation to seek for sea-sides.

If you are not Darwinian type, then that is the beginning of a story of human race for the main 3 religions. Life started in the Garden of Eden, by the banks of Ghion, Abay. So I chose Adam as the first countryman to start inventory and pick valuable carryovers to the Ethiopian third Millennium.

Grandma Denkenesh, “Lucy”

But there is also another parallel to this story to add up to the inventory. According to Darwinians theory, Grandma Denkenesh, “Lucy”, is our great-great-great-.. Grand mum who happened to live in Eastern part of Ethiopia. She was small, but smart enough to make tools, hunt for meat and gather fruits to have a happy and “eco friendly and carbon neutral” lifestyle.

I am a good orthodox boy, so her relationship to Hewan/Eve is beyond my depth and I leave it for other smart guys and girls to debate it. But what I know is that she was my country woman, who would have had to carry an Ethiopian passport to travel to Houston, TX, last year. If I was living in Houston, I would have invited her to come and see her grand children. I’m not being selfish but she could have enjoyed baby sitting of my daughter, who keeps interrupting me as I write this article. After all what are grandma for?

Then the story of Ethiopia gets complicated to narrate it in to one chronological order after Adam was evicted from the Garden of Eden. When Adam’s all inclusive holiday type of residency terminated and evicted from the Garden of Eden, he has to become a farmer to grow his own food. Whether he was plaguing to grow fruits down in Sidamo or sorghum up in Tigray nobody exactly knows. What historians tell us is: Ethiopia is one of the early lands where farming and cultivation started. So, no doubt, Adam had sweated to grow his own food somewhere in Ethiopia.

Jethero, Zipporah, Moses and Brother Gershom

Then the story gets blurred and patchy from Adam to Noah. But all of a sudden Moses appeared back in Western Ethiopia, probably in Western Gojam, Welega or Gonder as “asylum seeker”, so to say it in modern day language. Moses was in trouble with Egyptians and he couldn’t stand the slavery of his own people. So he rebelled and fled. That is probably why I empathised with him.

The good thing is, unlike the modern day refugees, all the records show that he was welcomed by then immigration officer of the time to be to placed and work for a family Jethero Exod, 3:1-2. Then like all young men and girls do, he too fall in love with Ethiopian beautiful black girl called Zipporah to get married (Ex 2:21).

The Day Folk Dance was Invented

When I close my eyes I imagine the wedding ceremony at a local hall, the wedding reception, the food, the drinks, Tela, Teje, Areke and the dancing. I am pretty sure they danced, but I can only imagine the rhythm and style of dancing. I guess is it must have started going in circle like Tigrigna [1] before the drinks are served well. Then, as the drink flows, the party must have progressed in to shake it up like Gojam [2]. After Areke is tossed in honour of the brides and grooms, no doubt that they must have jumped up and down like Minjars [3].

I was also told, I mean, I imagined, that only then did the trendy boys and girls of the time invented the break dance of Wolayta [4] and the beat of Guragina [5]. As they take the brides home they have to dance Oromigna[6], since it brings walking and dancing in one package

Here you have it; that sums up the early history of Ethiopia folk dance. If anyone tells you something different, don’t believe them. Trust me, I am a doctor.

The Holly Ground

Then surprise, surprise, it is somewhere in Ethiopia God appeared to talk to Moses. Moses saw “bush on fire it didn’t burn up” so he got closer. Then God instructed him to take off his sandals, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exo 3:5. It is this command that turned in to tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, where people have to take their shoes off when they enter in to church. Still today, as it was told to Moses, we all take our shoes off when we feel in the presence of God.

In a way, this is another interesting blessing to take away in to the Next Millennium. Though God is everywhere he reviled himself to Moses in Ethiopia where Moses used to live as “refugee”. Of course these days the word asylum seekers and refugee has been painted negative by Xenophobic press in Europe and America but Moses, baby Jesus, Miriam, Joseph, the first followers Prophet Mohammed and others philosopher, activists and scientist, who tried to change the society had to flee from persecution to become refugees. Now I must stop before I embarrass myself with grandeur destiny of myself being a refugee.

Brother Gershom or baby Minilik?

There are also interesting stories about Moses and Israelites relation with Ethiopia. Trust me; I am not referring to the usual claim that we are descendent of King Solomon and Queen Saba (Shibba). No, no, I am going to say, the Israelites are the descendent of Ethiopians. Not the other way. Look, Moses married to an Ethiopian black beautiful to have a son called Gershom, which mean, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.” [Ex 2:22] So, brother Gershom was the first “mixed race” in a modern day language and, of course, he must have fathered kids to pass the Ethiopian genes. Hence, isn’t it right to say Israelite are statistically a descendent of the black Cushitic Ethiopians, not the other way round? Sorry, fellows, I am not making it up. It is the truth.

 

I’m I getting serious? Not yet, I am just getting warmed up, like Al Pacino in scent of a woman. In fact “Moses sister Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite”. As a result of this racist remark, “the anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them to turn Mariam in to leprous”, white as “snow” Num. 12: 9-10.

Finally, Moses left Ethiopia with his wife and kid(s) to liberate his people from Slavery. Here begins the story of struggle and liberation fronts: A long journey from Ethiopia to the promise land. And Moses led and librated his people after arduous and testing struggle and lead them to the promise land.

A Birth of Colour politics

Amidst this fascinating and inspiring story, including splitting the sea, there is one twist of fate that I would like to remind my readers before I finish, particularly my fellow anglicised black kids, who made to feel down as a result of their colour.

In the time of Pharaohs, black was the image of gods and the whites, the then Israelite, were on the receiving end of slavery and discrimination. They were the one building the bricks and taking the lashes. Moses coming out of Ethiopia to liberate them to lead them to the Promised Land. Well, that is long before the sugar plantation started which led to the slavery of blacks by Arabs, Portuguese, Spain and British. So, as a result, our beautiful colour has been a cause for discrimination. Never mind, here we are in to the third millennium with the sprit of renascence, so to speak with cliché

A Happy Sementegnaw Sheh

Finally allow me to come back to the point that I wanted to say. We celebrated the New Year? According to the Ethiopian calendar Meskerm 1, 2001years from birth of Christ is also 7501 Amete Alem, since Grandpa Adam walked on the banks of Abay.

That is why it is also appropriate to say May Year 7501 Amete Alem brings you all the happiness you desire. Happy and prosperous 7501 Amete Alem!! Take it easy!! No need to panic we are just starting the Sementgnaw Sheh, “the 8th thousand”

Next time, I will tell the story how the upper Nile- Abay was the source of lower Nile civilization. Also, time permits we will see how the Greeks become admirers and students of Ethiopia. Of course, if the Ethiofact.com webmaster let me continue to use his website as my personal column.

Till then all the best

Gudu Kassa,

GuduKassa@rocketmail.com

References

1. Tigrigna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-krNhAlPio&feature=related

2. Gojam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKuOVZYt8Ak&feature=related

3. Minjar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8atNSkE2v8M

4. Welayita: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIFljL9yJcM&feature=related

5. Guragigna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcX4XyTtJXE

6. Oromigna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbaUaU8p8VA&feature=related

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3 comments on “A Mythical Journey of Ethiopia in Time

  1. lovely article. long time ago me and work collegue use to argue over this name gudu Kassa claiming we are the one with such a character on fikir iske mekaber. did you choose this name for that reason

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