Sunday, April 14, 2024
CommentaryThrough ink and pen, can writers guide Ethiopia's future?

Through ink and pen, can writers guide Ethiopia’s future?

Will today’s authors follow Bealu Girma’s lead?

 Amidst a time of unprecedented crisis and monumental transition, Ethiopian writers bear responsibilities that go beyond traditional literary roles. Their duty is not just to document events or weave tales, but to also serve as guardians of cultural integrity, advocates for truth, and interpreters of the collective voice.

History is filled with instances where writers, often armed with nothing but a pen and an unflinching commitment to truth, stood against oppression and falsification. Such instances serve not only as inspiration but remind us of writers’ potential and vital roles in society.

The revered Ethiopian author Bealu Girma is a prime example. Known for his indomitable spirit and unwavering conviction, Bealu used his work to shed light on the harshest realities of his time. Even amid political turbulence, his writings frankly portrayed the struggles of everyday Ethiopians.

For his forthright pursuit of the truth, Bealu paid the ultimate price; his life was claimed by the very forces he challenged through his work. This testifies to a writer choosing the path of truth over the allure of power, serving as a beacon of integrity for contemporaries and successors alike.

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It is disappointing that some writers today, rather than following in these noble footsteps, seem seduced by wealth and power. The commercialization of the written word, sacrificing integrity for profit, and abandoning truth for palatable narratives are symptoms of a literary culture in crisis.

But this crisis offers an opportunity. Ethiopian authors today are tasked with the significant responsibility of reversing this trend. They must reembrace the intrinsic value of their craft, not merely as a conduit for entertainment or personal enrichment, but as a tool for social transformation, fostering dialogue, and advocating for change. They must reaffirm the power of storytelling to reflect the nation’s reality without distortion.

In these critical times, Ethiopian writers must embody the spirit of their brave predecessors like Bealu Girma. They must be willing to sacrifice comfort and risk privilege to narrate the truth. Their words should amplify unheard voices, expose unseen injustices, interrogate power, challenge complacency, and inspire change.

Ethiopian writers must become the voice of their people, culture, and truth. The pen, after all, holds the power to sway minds, inspire hearts, and ultimately shape a nation’s destiny. It is time for Ethiopian writers to reclaim this power, rise above immediate gratification, and meaningfully contribute to their nation’s narrative.

The costs of inaction are too great, while the potential rewards of truth and integrity are too valuable.

Ethiopian writers’ creative potential is vast and multifaceted, with the power to spark progressive dialogues and serve as catalysts for societal evolution. At this pivotal moment in history, they must remember this potent capacity. They are not just authors but also historians, philosophers, social critics, and voices of the collective consciousness.

Their task extends beyond illuminating societal issues to offering insights, reflections, and possible solutions. Their narratives should highlight Ethiopia’s resilience, hope and vibrant cultural diversity – qualities that shape Ethiopian identity.

They should strive to represent overlooked and marginalized communities whose voices are seldom heard. It’s a daunting task, yet essential for creating a more inclusive and balanced narrative.

For instance, writers could learn from Maaza Mengiste, an Ethiopian author known for her vivid portrayals of women’s experiences during times of conflict. Through her novel “The Shadow King”, she has successfully amplified the voices of the women soldiers who were erased from the historical narrative of the Italo-Ethiopian War.

These are the types of stories that need telling; these are the voices that need amplifying.

A key point is that Ethiopian authors must remain independent from political manipulation. They should not become mouthpieces for any particular ideology but strive to maintain impartiality. Their loyalty must remain with the truth and their readers. As gatekeepers of societal consciousness, they should strive to discern and maintain a balance between truth-telling and sensitivity toward readers’ diverse perspectives.

Ethiopian writers face weighty tasks: amplifying marginalized voices, challenging power structures, and safeguarding cultural integrity amid transition. They are called to use their craft for social transformation, foster dialogue across differences, and advocate for positive change. They should dedicate their writing to representing all of Ethiopia’s people and communities, striving for a balanced and inclusive narrative that reflects Ethiopia’s diverse realities and aspirations.

As we traverse this critical narrative, a compelling question arises: Where are the Ethiopian writers of today? As Ethiopia grapples with unprecedented challenges and societal shifts, the voices of truth and narrators of unvarnished stories seem to be fading amid the chaos. Have Ethiopian writers become ensnared in monetary gains, trading their pens for wealth’s ephemeral comforts? Or have they succumbed to political censorship, veiling the truth in fear and repression? These questions seek introspection and a return to writers’ noble responsibilities.

The voices of Ethiopians – their trials, triumphs, fears, and hopes – need to be heard now more than ever. Their stories deserve to be told with sincerity, courage, and uncompromising fidelity to the truth. These stories await those willing to forgo personal gain, confront power, and elevate marginalized narratives.

The nation yearns for the return of its literary guardians – those unafraid to “tell it like it is.” Writers, emerge from the shadows, reclaim your pens, and remember Bealu Girma’s noble sacrifice and your purpose. Let your words once again become the voice that guides Ethiopia forward. Your nation awaits.

Contributed by Essayias Lesanu

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Video from Enat Bank Youtube Channel.

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