Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Helon Habila, Maaza Mengiste named The New American Voices award judges

Helon Habila (Nigeria) and Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA) form, together with Madeleine Thein, USA), the jury of a literary prize. The prize is run by an organization with a long name. The name is the Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award. The winner of the prize will receive $5000.Helon Habila


what to read before heading to Ethiopia ?

Any plans to travel to Ethiopia one of these days? Or do you live in Ethiopia and you need an bookish introduction to this mountainous country with its rich history? In this article three books are presented for those who are heading to Ethiopia. One book has been written by a dead and famous Polish writer, one book (partly on Ethiopia) has been written by a British writer, the third book has been written by an Ethiopian writer living in North America. I have read one of these books and I have written about it on my blog.

Color is a language in itself

The poet is the one that seems to stand at the sidelines when there is talk about literature. Every time I discover a collection of poetry I am happy to pass the news on to a wider audience.

This time it is about the poet Mahtem Shiferraw, a lady with Ethiopian and Eritrean roots. Her first steps on the paper of poetry were in Italian.

She has published her debut, a collection of poems, titles Fuchsia. A colourful and flowerrful collection.

She was interviewed by The Rumpus and here you will find this interview.

Maaza Mengiste, Carrie Brownstein, and Jill Filipovic on gender and power

The issue of gender is coming more and more to the fore. Gender is a multifacetted way of describing your personhood, your being YOU. To many gender is linked to power, who is calling the shots, who is defining and setting standards.

Maaza Mengiste is one  of the speakers at a session on gender and power. Read more about it here

Maaza Mengiste talks about

Maaza Mengiste Talks about Ethiopian Women and her Forthcoming Book - Image 1Every picture tells a story. Some prefer to write stories, others prefer to shoot pictures. In the end both of them are storytellers, each in his or her own way. 

Maaza Mengiste is a storyteller with words, just have a look at her books. In recent times she has also included a look at photographs, that tell a story. In this article Aaron Bady writes about this move or expansion by Mengiste. 



The use of the khat leaves is in some countries forbidden, at other places the use of khat is a national passtime, surrounded by rituals, a way of life. When the United Kingdom decided to ban the use of khat, the khat farmers in Kenya were very angry. They saw a loss, an immense loss coming their way. When I think of khat (I admit that I have never used it) I think of countries like Yemen and Somalia.  I see men, young and old, huddled together, talking, being quiet, taking their time.

The British journalist Kevin Rushby got used to chewing khat when he worked abroad as a teacher. He enjoys it very much. In this book he travelled to find the origins of khat and a fair bit of the history of khat chewing. Where did it all start? What were the routes the first khat traders used to earn a fair living and chewing part of their wares?

He starts his journey in Ethiopia. To me this country was not linked to khat chewing, but my mind is already expanding. He starts his journey in Addis Abeba and he travels at first by train. First he travels to Dire Dawat and leaving the tracks he moves om to Harar, where he searches for traces of Richard Francis Burton (1821 – 1890, another explorer) and the French poet Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891), who moved at a very young age to eastern Africa, after he published a collection of poetry.

Next he moves on to Djibouti, where the customs try to do a good job, but the smugglers of khat are very ingenious.  In the harbour of Djibouti he searches for a boat to take him across the Red Sea and a the same time tries to avoid any sign of people working for Customs.

The second part of the book is on this journey and his memories of earlier travels (including a visit to an island run by the Foreign Legion).

The third part of the book is on the Arab world, i.e. Yemen and some comments on other places. In this country Rushby enters more familiar territory. He meets with old friends and  familiar places, but he also explores new territories. All in search of khat and the history of khat and the quality of different types of khat.

To me this book was a captivating book, very well written. Enjoying the travels and learning about khat and about historical events and people.

Kevin Rushby did a good job. And YES, there is a MAP in the book. 

Kevin Rushby – Eating the flowers of paradise. A journey through the drug fields of Ethiopia and Yemen – 1998 

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor eating the flowers of paradise


‘White Is A Color | Black Is Art’

Image: http://habeshala.tumblr.com/

Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet with Ethiopian and Eritrean roots. At an early age she started writing p

oetry in Italian, the language she learned at school. She now has moved to another part of the world, but she keeps on writing poems. Her first collection Fuchsia has been published.

In this interview with Short Story Day Africa she tells about her poetic inclinations.