By Fisseha Tadesse Feleke
The word Ethiopia names a country. It also names a people, the great people of the country called Ethiopia. To say the same thing in other words, it names a nation, the great nation composed of the great men and women of diverse ethnic origins and of different religious convictions. This piece addresses anyone who belongs to the people of Ethiopia. Since I belong to this great people that is named Ethiopia, I myself am therefore addressed by the call. Which call in a sense comes over me, though in fact out of me. It says to us—to you as well as to me: come on Ethiopia, come home!
Bewildered by such an approach? Take this not as a factual analysis but as a piece of thought. Even as thought, not as a scientifically articulated one, but as a poetically meditated thought. Or rather, take it as a poem, as a thoughtfully composed poem.
This poetic thought or thoughtful poetry urges you and me; it calls us, to come home. So, it does not evoke any argument; the response it anticipates of the hearers, if there be any, is rather this: either to hearken to it and come home or to turn deaf ear and stay wherever they are.
Obviously, what is implied here is that: we are not at home; or, we might have already been homeless; even worse, perhaps we “are not” at all. Since when, one may ask. The answer is: since the time when we started flirting with the idea of belonging to the modern bloc; roughly speaking since the mid 20th century—the time when we engaged in a new nation building, in building an “addisitu” Ethiopia, while ceasing to dwell in the “nebbarwa,” thereby loosing the basic character of our being Ethiopian. Not merely passively losing but proactively demolishing Ethiopia!
The Hammer and Pliers of Demolition: The Sub- and Supra-National Elements
Those of us who are in Ethiopia may come up with a negative rejoinder to the call, based perhaps on an assumption that we are already “at home” and that only if we go abroad will we be no longer at home. Even then, we may think we will only be considered exiled or diaspora Ethiopians—but Ethiopians anyways. Those of us living abroad have in fact gotten used to refer to Ethiopia as “back home” but may none the less think and hope, if we go back home one day we will certainly feel “at home” there. And even until then, we may assume that we are just exiled or diaspora Ethiopians—but Ethiopians anyways. However, both assumptions are at least partially false. That is to say, many people may not be at home in Ethiopia even when they are physically living there and not a few ones may indeed be at home in Ethiopia even when they are physically abroad.
Come on! Let us be honest and admit it: ours is an age when Ethiopia and Ethiopianity are not merely suppressed or repressed but are disintegrated and endangered to perish. To wit, due to sub-national elements such as ethnicity and to supra-national elements such as globalization, which I think are the hammer and pliers we are using to demolish our great nation. By the way, perhaps to the disappointment of many, I recognize no Amhara or Tigre, Oromo or Debub as nation qua nation. All these I want to conceive of and respectfully consider as ethnic—hence sub-national—entities within a single nation called Ethiopia. One may object and say to me: just look at your Kebele ID, if you have one, where you will definitely find yourself identified as belonging to either of these ethnic groups as nations qua nation. But this is precisely why I say we currently are not at home in Ethiopia.
Hence my call, pure and simple, is this:
Have we seen that we are not at home, or that we are homeless, or even worse, that we “are not” at all? Let us then Become who we Are: Ethiopians; and build home: our “always-already” home, Ethiopia; and come home: which is none other than the House of Ethiopia! Do you perhaps say “ይበል” (well said!) to this poetized call? Well, let’s then sing it together:
ተመየጢ ተመየጢ ቤተ ኢትዮጵያ
ወንርአይ ብኪ ሰላመ
ምንተኑ ትኔጽሩ በእንተ ቤተ ኢትዮጵያ
እንተ ትሔውፅ/ትትሔወፅ እምርኁቅ ከመ መድበለ ማኅበር
ሑረታቲሃ ዘበሥን ለወለተ ኢትዮጲስ ንጉሥ።
Return, return, O the House of Ethiopia;
that we may see ourselves be at peace with thee.
What will ye see in the House of Ethiopia?
that exhibits herself from afar as the company of communities
Magnificent is the journey of the daughter of King Ethiopis!