The Concoction

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

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        Friday, October 19, 2007
        Admiring the Ethiopian language
        I was telling an American colleague about "semina werk" literally "wax and gold" - the Ethiopian sophisticated idiom. Sem (wax) is the overt meaning and werk is the hidden meaning. I was telling her how people use semina werk to communicate their severe political views and criticism of social changes.

        In the olden days, people used more complicated phrases which were really brain twisters. Mengistu's regime managed to replace that beautifully sophisticated way of speaking with overt insult against whatever was deemed imperialist. His regime was paranoid about religion, plucking eye brows and anything in between. Songs - oh those painful "revolutionary" songs - reflected this paranoia.

        Now, poems like the one below reflect the high cost of living in Addis. I got this from a mass e-mail that's been floating around. I think it's brilliantly written. For non-Amharic readers, it's about the through-the-roof price of chili pepper, one of the main spices in Ethiopian cooking. The writer is having a quarrel with pepper and cursing it for being so expensive. My favourite part is where the writer breaks it down to chili pepper that it's not really it by itself: it's valuable only in combination with other spices (because Ethiopian chili is prepared elaborately by mixing the powder with other spices). The writer finishes off with praise for salt with something like As long as I have salt then I'll be alright. Brilliant.

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        posted by Fikirte @ 7:01 AM   1 comments Digg!
        Sunday, October 14, 2007
        Where is the fashion police?

        A London celebrity designer, Matthew Williamson, gets his inspiration from several traditionally ethnic designs. Fair enough. No harm in nicking a bead hear and a print there. But is it ethical/legal/fair to copy a country's traditional dress and claim as if its your creation? Or is this going to be the next patent right fight Ethiopia is going to go through after Starbucks coffee?

        These unmistakably Ethiopian dresses are part of Matthew's Spring 2008 collection. Judging by the pictures, the entire collection is "ethnic" inspired. However these are the two only Ethiopian dresses which appear in their original design.

        Being inspired is one thing, but shamelessly copying something is outright theft. Sorry. On a more serious note, if this trend continues, would it have an impact on the livelihood of hundreds of Ethiopians whose livelihood depends on making the Abesha kemis?
        Handicraft is therefore considered to be one of the most important and widely spread occupations of most Ethiopians next to Agriculture. As part of the handicrafts heritage, Ethiopia has diverse traditional handloom products. This sub sector provides large-scale employment and is an important source of livelihood for a large number of people in urban and rural areas. Based on the data collected in Year 2002 by the Central Statistical Authority (CSA) on cottages and handicrafts, it was revealed that there were a total of 211,842 handloom/weaving textiles enterprises in the country in various forms of ownership though benefits accrued from this sub sector was much below than expected.
        It will be nice if Matthew uses his fashion-weight to introduce the work of Ethiopian weavers and use their original product thereby boosting their meager income. Now that will be fair trade! (Thanks Selam)

        Related links
        Clothing in Africa
        Ethiopian handloom products
        History of Ethiopian clothing by Richard Pankhurst

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        posted by Fikirte @ 7:41 AM   8 comments Digg!
        Thursday, October 11, 2007
        Just when you think it's over...
        Here we go again!!!
        posted by Fikirte @ 11:01 PM   0 comments Digg!
        e-bay to solve ethnic clush
        It is not just African countries that are are constantly neglected by the rest of the world. Belgian's are feeling that they are not getting the attention that they deserve with the growing Dutch-speaking Flamish versus French-speaking Walloons rift, which is threatening to break up the country.

        So, what did a concerned Belgian do? Put Belgium up for auction on e-bay. What a clever marketing stunt. The offer for the tiny country reached $14 million before e-bay decided to take Belgium off the listing.
        posted by Fikirte @ 10:14 PM   0 comments Digg!
        The face of VAW

        Kamilat - victim of acid burning The face of VAW - violence against women. It should and can be stopped with enough commitment. Helping one woman at a time is a start.
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