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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Christine CHAILLOT, Independent researcher

Qene is the composition in Ge’ez of poems, in the tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOTC). Writing in Ge’ez has virtually ceased, but the oral composition and use of qene in Ge’ez continues to this day. In every major church, one of the clergy composes a qene which will be sung for the festival or occasion during the service. The main historic centres/schools to study qene were Wadla (Wällo), Gonj (Bahar Dar, Goggam), Wasära (Damot, Goggam) and Gondar. Each of these centers/schools has a distinct tradition. The Wadla qene is the first and earliest and original qene created by Yoanes Geblawi, according to the EOTC tradition. Wadla qene is the basis for the other qenes. It is particularly difficult on account of its composition and interpretation, using many equivocal words, allusions and allegoric figures. In my paper I shall speak of the traditional training of some teachers of wadla qene and also discuss their present teaching. What is the situation of the teachers teaching wadla qene today in Ethiopia, and also that of their students ? Some examples will be given. What to do about this teaching in the future ? How to save the teaching of wadla qene, that is the wadla qene itself ? Other difficulties to be faced will also be discussed, for example about the number of teachers and students decreasing and the reasons for this. For all these questions the causes must be analysed and answers must be found, as qene being part of the traditional oral teaching of the EOTC can be seen as intangible patrimony.