Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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DANIEL Yacob, Ge'ez Frontier Foundation

The Zēma chant practice of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been both a vocal and calligraphic tradition since its inception in the 6th century by Ethiopia's most celebrated of saints, Saint Yared. The Yaredic corpus represents its own class of literature not only from the nature of its content but also from the complex system of internal referencing that it relies upon for comprehension. The system of referencing plays an important role in defining the document structure and layout that is not used by any other class of Ethiopic or chant literature. The complexities of its written expression pose particular challenges to electronic typesetting systems, desktop publishing software and standards based e-media layout engines. The paper will present a meronymic perspective of Zēma document structure and proposes markup syntax to support both the referencing and layout requirements of the Yaredic class of literature. The paper goes further to address the most challenging aspect of presenting Zēma digitally –the multiple levels of interlinear chant notation. A three-dimensional model is developed, and tested, that allows the binding of separate Zēma chant notation levels with hymn text with correct presentation under existing e-media standards. The paper concludes with an assessment for the prospects supporting Yaredic documents in standards driven software and reviews entirely new possibilities for presenting Zēma in interactive digital media.