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Identifying traces of identities in languages

Tewodros Gebre, Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University Folklore and Amharic Literature, presented his research Ethiopian Identity in Amharic Literature in the context of nationalism, representation in nation building, inclusion and participation. The presentation was organized by the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences at the National Museum on Thursday June 7.

The discussion looked at Amharic literature through a cultural lens and focused on the works of Adam Reta and Tsegaye Gebre Medhin. While both are mythical thinkers capable of exploring the paradoxical and unbound symbolic landscape, Tsegaye is rooted in history and geography, traversing the country at a grand scale while Adam centers on forgotten values and disregarded details of daily existence. Both Adam’s and Tsegaye’s works explore the depths of time looking back at a rich past and towards an unpredictable future creating, according to Tewodros, infertile ground for nationalism.

Tewodros argued that there has been a disruption in ‘Ethiopian identity’ since the 1960s and 70s leading to a generation that lives without values and national identity.

Tewodros completed his presentation with a poem by Debebe Seifu exemplifying how national shame such as famine or hunger can transform into positive call for national unity.

Participants of the discussion questioned the relationship between language and national identity, raising pressing national issues like radical ethnocentrism and the dying of Ethiopian languages.

The Ethiopian Academy of Sciences has been hosting monthly discussions on a variety of subjects for the past 9 months on issues like drug addiction, entrepreneurship, the role of higher education institutions and Ethiopian wildlife diversity. The Academy conducts these discussions to further innovation and study in science, art, research and invention.