The Concoction

An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Thursday, April 06, 2006
        Cartoon with a real purpose
        Here is a great idea from Norooz,a cartoon production company, which aims at educating children about cultural diversity while entertaining. Watch the news clip (you have to first suffer the commercial and it will start automatically.)

        What a great idea!And, no wonder they won the NYU Stern Business Plan competition in 2005.

        The first production, Babak and Friends, is about the Persian culture. Norooz is planning to expand their coverage by including other cultures from Asia and Africa. Shabnam Razaei, co-founder of Norooz, mentioned a ceremony on Norooz, Iranian New Year's day where people jump over fire to symbolize leaving bad feelings/energy behind. In Ethiopia, Meskel (the finding of the true cross)ends with a same ritual for the same reason. Norooz, like Ethiopian New Year which is in September, is also a celebration of the beginning of new life after winter.

        Here is a description of Meskel

        Meskal has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. The word actually means "cross" and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD. but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.

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        Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskal, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskal Flowers, are placed at the top. During the night those branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited - This symbolizes the actions of the Empress who, when no one would show the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.

        Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa in Wello administrative zone. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 - 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.

        During this time of the year flowers gloom on mountain and plain and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskal eve in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskal daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called "Chibo" are used to light the bundle called "Demera".

        Some of the Ethiopian jewelry and architecture resemble that of India and Yemen. The tropical museum in Amsterdam displays (at least 10 years ago, it did) Ethiopian artifacts between the Iranian and Indian artifacts because of their similarities (trust me, I asked why Ethiopian stuff is not in the African section and that was the answer I got). The intricate Ethiopian art on jewelry is, for example, very similar to Indian art. An Indian friend of mine always used to be so sure that my bracelet was from India and I used to ask her where she got her Ethiopian ear rings from? Given Ethiopian's old trade relations with the middle East, this is no surprise. Wanadoo tells us that a 5th century temple in Tigre, N. Ethiopia, resembles buildings in Yemen.

        I describe to American's how Ethiopian food the wot (stew) and Injera (the crepe-type of thin bread)is similar to Indian curry and nan bread. Check out this site for reviews of Ethiopian restaurants in the US (I dare you to go and try the food if you have never done so before. And, let me know if you are not hooked instantly.)If you feel adventurous and would like to impress your friends and family, here are some recipes for you. My Puerto Rican friend, speaking from experience, has asked me to remind you that "What goes in, must definitely come out" so easy with the berbere (chili powder) or the morning after is going to be hot. Good luck!

        Isn't it sad though that we miss the beauty of our similarities while we focus on our differences?

        Interesting links

        Norooz, Iranian New Year

        The people behind Babak & Friends

        Ethiopian festivals
        posted by Fikirte @ 10:51 AM   Digg!
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