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It is naïve to restrict the legends of the literary artists within the community of the literary circle. Also, they are front-liners in understanding the surrounding society. Usually, they are also forerunners to embrace a nationalist sentiment through speaking their minds, which witness their association with the community.
For instance, lots of inks has spilled which excavated the political significance of Sedhar Senghor, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. Johanathan Peters (1978) released ‘The dance of Masks: Senghor, Achebe & Soyanka’. For such commentators of those Icons, they were not a mere, petty and rank and file authors. They were also zealous Pan-Africans. Perhaps, Wole Soyanka is also the recipient of the prestigious Nobel Prize. The Nigerian universities, Universities of Ife and University of Ibadan, once he used to lecture, still took the recipe of pride in their lists to host age long ‘ continental icons’ Indeed the latter were the recipients of the former Haile Selassie I Prize trust.
Coming home to argue the relevance of creative authors to national icons can begin from the peculiarity of ‘Ethiopic Script’ to underwrite the historic fact- ‘Ethiopia glory contained millennial long its own endemic script’. Notwithstanding, the role of church chroniclers and historians, how can one undermine the pioneering ‘Afework Gebreyesys’s ‘Tobiya’ (the first Amharic novel recorded in Ethiopia) ability to popularize the ‘Ethiopic scripts.’ Indeed, we owe a debt for Afework as a nation for his pioneering ability to embrace the script which is also a unifying spirit for “Ethiopia’.
Secondly, the icon -Haddis Alemayehu was not a sensational author where he satisfies only our insistence on reading an imagined story. Perhaps, he was an ardent sentimental indifferent to community he was raised and lived with it. In the words of the Linguist- Professor Getachew Haile, Haddis was a nationalist. Professor Getachew goes more on to say that Haddis was one of the few open defendant of ‘Ethiopianess’ who raised his pen to make a difference. His dime novel ‘Fiqir eske mekaber’ (to mean ‘Love unto the Grave’) vividly understood the then Ethiopia.
Additionally, the icon- Kebede Mikael also entrenched his indifference to the societal grudge over the pervasive underdevelopment. The MA Thesis of Daniel Zewdu (2011) dubbed as ‘ Comparative Analysis of the Concept of Communication for Development in the Books “Japan Endemin Seletenech” and Mengestina Yehizib Astedader” exposed Kebede’s nationalist sentiment seeking to see an industrial Ethiopia. The late Kebede exposed his zeal for the development of his country as narrated under the non-fiction “Japan Endemin Seletenech’( to mean ‘How was Japan developed?’ contained the prescriptions for ‘Ethiopian modernization’.
Such trends of Authors to embrace nationalist sentiments went consistent with Belachew Gebrewold’s typology of nationalists, argued in his scholarly article dubbed as ‘Ethiopian Nationalism: An ideology to Transcend All Odds’ which was published on Africa Spectrum, in 2009, vol. 44, no. Where he typified, ‘Ethiopian nationalism’ is not entirely composed from the political or oppositional nationalism, as someone’s naïve and myopic assumption. Perhaps, culture, religion and unusually ‘Athletics’ also draws narratives of nationalism. In line with this, we can make sense of Haddis’s Fiqir eske mekaber’ and Kebede’s ‘Japan Endemin Seletenech’ brings and reflects the sense of Ethiopian identity.
In sum, we can argue that Iconic authors deserve remembrances of legacy. They deserve a public park or statue in a manner of symbolizing their contribution for the nation at large. They deserve prose and narratives whose literary legacy shall also fill the textbook of primary school. Also, Universities shall rename their departments dealing with literary arts with icons. Above all, we shall accord them equal tribute just like the way we salute the legends of the iconic emperors, since their trans-generational work served to be a collective markers of our ‘Ethiopian identity’. Good day!

This article is contributed by HOHE Award. HOHE Award is organized by Northeast Events to promote a culture of creative writing and reading in Ethiopia. Besides the main annual literary award, there are different events and trainings that run throughout the year with the main aim of promoting creative writing and reading among the general population and children in particular.


By Eyob Asfaw