Maaza Mengiste, the Shadow King and the Significance of Owning Our Narratives

Our stories are often told by others. The significance of Ethiopia, the profound aspects of our history and the contributions that we have made to civilization is frequently conveyed through the eyes and pens of outsiders.

Though we do a great job of passing down our narratives from generation to generation and there have been authors who have in fact documented our history, most of the time these details are passed down either orally or written in Amharic intended for Ethiopian audiences.

Where we lack is telling our stories to a wider audience. This dearth of Ethiopian authors has many ramifications; people are owned not only through the imposition of chains but by the appropriation of their history.

There is a reason why most of the world doesn’t really grasp the true depth of heritage, we vacate the field and let others—some with nefarious agendas—trivialize our existence. There are many examples of this chicanery, the river we rightly call Abay Ghion has been rebranded to the Nile River, a calculated step meant to erase our connection to Genesis in the bible.

As people call you, they own you, unless we tell our stories we will be prisoners of those who document our narratives on our behalf.

This is where Maaza Mengiste steps in; rather than sit on the sidelines and wait for others to convey the horror’s Ethiopia endured during the time of war in the 1930’s, she decided to write a book herself and in the process laid down a marker for other Ethiopians to follow. Her newest book, titled “the Shadow King”, is one that tells the story of a remarkable Ethiopian woman who..