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Colonial Rewriting of African History: Misinterpretations and Distortions in Belcher and Kleiner’s Life and Struggles of Walatta Petros

This paper aims to address this issue by examining one case where an African text has been translated and interpreted by western scholars who have little to no knowledge of the language and context in which the text was written. It will show that the 17th century Ethiopian Ge’ez book ገድለ ቅድስት ወለተ ጴጥሮስ, published by Princeton University Press as The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros, was translated based on stereotypical assumptions. The primary researcher, Wendy Belcher, takes the Ethiopian Saint Woletta Petros and turns her into a sexualized, exoticized and violent black woman. Belcher, with no knowledge of Ge’ez and disregarding the cultural context in which the text was written, has taken many anecdotes out of their historical and spiritual context. Belcher and Kleiner have inserted words and concepts into the translation that do not exist in the Ge’ez original...

The original Geez Hagiography of Saint Woletta Petros or ገድለ ወለተ ጴጥሮስ with a side-by-side Amharic translation.


This is the original Geez Hagiography of Saint Woletta Petros or ገድለ ወለተ ጴጥሮስ with a side-by-side Amharic translation. Wendy Belcher and Michel Kleiner translated the Geez into English as The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman, 2015. The two translator’s claimed that the17th C. text provides a word ይትማርአ suggesting the nuns were being lustful with each other. However, this claim is false because:- 1. The Geez text doesn’t say መነኮሳይት which means nuns. It says ደናግል ልጆቸ which means my Virgin daughters. Wolete Petros saw young virgins (not nuns) playing with each other in the monastery. Therefore, the entire claim about nuns being lustful is false. There is a big difference between nuns (who took ascetic vows) and young virgins who may be helpers or relatives of nuns or new beginners who did not take vows. Therefore the story of lustful nuns is an invention by the translators. 2. The translators say recent Geez reproductions of the Gadel removed the word ይትማርአ to sanitise the text. As you can see from this modern reproduction of the original Geez text the phrase ይትጋፍአ ወይትማር በበይናቲሆን still exists in the text. It is translated into Amharic as ሲጋፉና ሲላፉ. Since there is nothing sexual in how the Geez was written and understood by Ethiopian Geez scholars, modern reproduction of the Gedle does not exclude the word Yetmarea ይትማርአ. The translators don’t know how to read and understand the book they were translating. We hope people who can read the Amharic and Geez version here can understand that the English translation by Wendy Belcher and Michel Klenier is a deliberate distortion of the history of Ethiopia’s Holy woman Woletta Petros.



Professor Ephraim Isaac responds to a question of a young Ethiopian lady who was looking for evidence that proves the ancient history of Ethiopia. She asked how old Ethiopia is. 3000 years old or 100 years old?

Professor Ephraim answers Ethiopia is more than 10,000 years old. Read this fascinating response.

Author: Professor Ephraim Issac


Return to the Source: Aleqa Asres Yenesew and the West

Professor Messay Kebede reflects on the philosophy of Aleqa Asres yenesew. Aleka Asres was the most outspoken and prominent critique of westernisation and Eurocentrism in Ethiopia. He believed that the only path for Ethiopia’s renaissance was to return to its Geez based civilisation. Read Professor Messay’s reflection on this audacious call.

Author: Professor Mesay Kebede, 2008


ሐተታ ዘዘርአ ያዕቆብ

አፍሪካውያን የራሳቸው ፍልስፍና የላቸውም የሚለውን የምራባውያንን መላምት እውነት ለማስመል በሚሞክር መንገድ አንዳንዶች የዘርአ ያዕቆብ የፍልስፍና ጽሁፍ የራሱ እንዳልሆነ ይናገራሉ። ፕሮፌሰር ሃይሌ ጌታቸው የዘርአ ያዕቆብን ሃተታ ከተረጎሙበት ከዚህ ጽሁፍ መግቢያ ላይ “በሚታመን ማስረጃ የሚከራከርለት አጥቶ ነው እንጂ፥ ወርቄ (ዘርአ ያዕቆብ) ኢትዮጵያዊ መሆኑ አያጠራጥርም” በማለት ይሞግታሉ። ይህ የዘርአ ያዕቆብ ድርሰት የተጻፈውም በ1631 መሆኑን ያስረዳሉ።

ጸሃፊ፡  ዘርአ ያዕቆብ ተርጓሚ፡ ፕሮፌሰር ጌታቸው ሃይሌ


Founding of the Ethiopian Students Association in North America, 1959

The historic speech delivered by Professor Ephraim Isaac on account of the formation of the first Ethiopian Students Association in North America where he became its first President, in December 1959.

Author: Professor Ephraim Isaac


የኢትዮጵያ ጊዜ ግንዛቤና ዘመናዊነት

ይህ በአማርኛና በእንግሊዝኛ የተጻፈ ልዩ ጽሁፍ የኢትዮጵያውያንን የጊዜ ግንዛቤና ይህንን ግንዛቤ ከዘመናዊነት ጋር ለማዛመድ ኢትፖጵያውያን ያጋጠማቸውን ተግዳሮት ይተነትናል።

ጸሃፊ፡ ፕ/ሮ መሳይ ከበደ


Holding Living Bodies in Graveyards...

While the looting of African natural resources has been studied, the looting of African knowledges hasn’t received as much attention, partly based on the assumption that Africans did not produce knowledge that could be stolen. This article invalidates this myth by examining the legacy of Ethiopia’s indigenous Ge’ez literature, and its looting and abduction by powerful western agents.

Yirga Gelaw Wodeyes, 2020

On Silencing the Next Generation


This article argues that the Ethiopian revolution was a generational achievement. Hence, its legacy and lasting social effects can be best examined through a sociological lens that highlights the intergenerational relations between the “revolutionary generation” of 1974 and today’s “restrained generation.” One of the significant legacies of the Ethiopian revolution is that it continues to instill fear in young people who are inclined to engage in politics. This culture of fear has grown out of the atrocious “Red Terror” period of the late 1970s, and continues in different forms to the present as political youth, including social media activists, are vulnerable to persecution. Even as the young generation attempts to create new platforms for political engagement, it remains under the heavy hand of the revolutionary generation. After nearly four decades, the methods of crushing youth political activism remain almost the same. This article seeks to offer insights into how Ethiopian youth pursue various strategies to deal with the structural impediments to their active political engagement. It is alsoan attempt to unveil certain practices by the older generation that are designed to keep the youth in a political impasse

Author: Eyob Balcha, 2016


Eurocentrism and Ethiopian Historiography: Deconstructing Semitization

This is a criticism of the South Arabian thesis of the origin of Axumite Civilization advanced by European Ethiopianists. Professor Messay Kebede shows how the so called “Ethiopian Studies” is dominated by a colonial/orientalist interpretation of Ethiopia’s past. He argues,“[a]mong the various factors that contributed to the present plight of Ethiopia, a false or borrowed reading of its history figures prominently.”

Author: Professor Messay Kebede


የአባ ባህርይ ድርሰቶች

Yeabba Bahriy Dirsetoch oromochin kemmimmelekketu leloch senedoch gara or The Works of Abba Bahriy with Other Documents concerning the Oromo, is primarily a new edition and translation into Amharic and English of the work Zenahu le-Galla, a Ge`ez study of Oromo society and Oromo migration into central Ethiopia in the sixteenth century. The author of the text, the monk Abba Bahriy, was an eyewitness to this migration and himself fled his homeland of Gamo when the Galla/Oromo overran and destroyed it. As such, Abba Bahriy’s text is an important firsthand account of the social structure of the pastoralist Oromo and the impact of their migration on the existing agrarian communities of central Ethiopia.


From Kingdom to Elitedom: Tradition and the Question of Relevant Education in Ethiopia

This study is a rigorous and critical analysis of the significance and relevance of tradition to modern education in Ethiopia. It challenges the Eurocentric view that considers non-western traditions as backward by showing the traditional legacy of the country.

Author: Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, 2014


Born Free, Created Poor: Coming of Age in Ethiopia

I was born in Lalibela, an ancient holy town in rural Ethiopia. I was born at a time when the traditional monarchical system was overthrown and replaced by a military power – the Derg. I was called Yirga, which means “let it be”. My name was a wish of stability, a hope that the world would settle around us. But I never knew stability was needed. The world was beautiful and I was free...

Author: Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, 2014


Ethiopia was colonised

The author reflects on the colonial character of the Ethiopian education system. This is a powerful eye-opening account of a young Ethiopian scholar who reflects on her own firsthand experience of studying colonial language and education in a country that was never colonized. She argues that “we [Ethiopians] may need native epistemologies to take back the country from native colonisation.”


Decolonizing Ethiopian Studies

This article aims“ to highlight the importance of making Ethiopian languages and ideas dominant in the field of Ethiopian Studies.” It shows how western languages, historiography and epistemology dominated the field of Ethiopian studies. The author poses an honest and critical question saying “What use is the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, if it remains primarily a European dominated field far removed from the lives of the subjects of the institute?”

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