Ethiopian women writers and the building of contemporary literature

SÉMINAIRE / SEMINAR

CFEE Seminar on Women and Gender in the Horn of Africa (2015-2016)

5ème séance / 5th session: Ethiopian women writers and the building of contemporary literature, par/by Angela M. MUELLER (Hamburg University)

In partnership with the Center for Gender Studies and the History Department of Addis Ababa University.

Vendredi 20  mai 2016 (14h-16h) / Friday 20th May 2016 (2-4 PM) Lieu / Venue: Addis Ababa University (Sidist Kilo), The Old Registrar Office, College of Development Studies Conference Room

Ethiopian women writers and the building of contemporary literature, par/by Angela M. Mueller

In the presentation on Ethiopian Women Writers I would like to start with giving an overview over the historical development of Amharic literature in Ethiopia in general including the development of women`s writings. Women’s writings made a slightly different progress compared to men’s writings. First of all women writers were scarce in the first years of Amharic literature development and those few women also started to write and especially publish their works later than men.

The development of women’s writings shows some peculiarities:

  • Most women started with writing poems and some even got the chance to publish them as early as the 1930s. The peculiarity of writing poetry first seems to be anchored in Ethiopian culture: as far as I am informed poetry holds a special meaning in all the different Ethiopian ethnies. Thus poetry is one of the oldest art forms in Ethiopia; not only in written literature, but also in oral literature. Common people use special songs and poems to mark every important transition in their life and to express their day to day concerns, as for example times of famine, political opposition or war. Thus also women, who felt an urge to write and to express themselves, started to express their feelings and concerns through poems. A trend which is still proceeding today: the women writers’ associations are publishing at least one book of poems every year.
  • Furthermore in the founding years of women’s literature (at the beginning of the 1950s) all publications of fictions were either theater pieces or short stories, both famous genres of that time. Some writers also published guidebooks for the perfect housewife, the perfect wife or the perfect mother. This more or less moralistic genre of guidebooks was common among male authors, too, and is a special feature of Amharic literature in general. Another feature which is very prominent in women’s writings is social criticism – most publications target social problems, women’s problems or try to educate society to live a moral life. The first real fictions by authoresses were finally written and published much later – at the end of the 1960s. Still, even today short stories are much more common to be published by women writers.

To conclude the presentation I would like to give an insight into the diverse living realities of authoresses by presenting some biographies of outstanding women writers.

L’intervenante / The speaker

Angela M. Mueller is a PhD candidate in Ethiopian literature at Hamburg University, Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies.

Convenors of the seminar series: Belete Bizuneh (AAU, History Dept.), Thomas Guindeuil (CFEE), Margaux Herman (CFEE/IMAF), Angela M. Mueller (Hamburg Univ.), Rahwa Mussie (AAU, Center for Gender Studies).

Illustration: The writer Senedu Gebru and her family (Ethiopia Observer, http://www.ethiopiaobserver.com/2015/10/my-mother-sendedu-gebru)


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