August 17, 2010

Amiro, Mechal & Jalata at Washa-Mikael, July 2010


August 17, 2010

Semi-Monolithic Church of Yeka (Washa-Mikael) display for the National Museum of Ethiopia by Bruce Strachan

August 17, 2010

Dr. Jacinta Khasiala Muteshi and Bruce Strachan discussing Washa-Mikael at the Explorers Club, New York. Photo: Ethiopian Geographic March 2008 national archives

August 9, 2010

L to R: Bruce Strachan, Richard Pankhurst, Rita Pankhurst - Institute for Ethiopian Studies - Addis Ababa University - Ethiopia

August 9, 2010

August 9, 2010

August 9, 2010

This photo of Mechal and myself was taken in early August (days before leaving the country). Rains have been heavy and as you can see, the water level is rising fast, but the grand edifice of Washa-Mikael, battered and bruised, still stands – proud testament to the glorious heritage of Shoa.

A very large portion of the south wall of the outer trench was dislodged during the past year due to continued expansion of roots from the adjacent eucalyptus farm (some roots of which are over 25cm in girth). The fabulous examples of post-Axumite southern monolithic architectural detailing, found in the facade of the western wall, also continue to show warning signs of eminent rack and ruin if action isn’t taken. Dedicated guides, Amiro and Mechal, are fully aware of these particulars and anyone visiting the site will find them extremely forthcoming in pointing them out.


I’m now back in Kenya, where it’s hard to believe that my last 10 months in Ethiopia have already passed with such a quick snap of the fingers. It was a memorable experience, during which love for the country grew from profound to deeply-profound. I’m also encouraged to believe progress was achieved with regards to the preservation of this site (more on this later). None of this could have been without the industry of so many friends and I feel it is essential now to, somewhat openly, thank a select few  (in random order).

Don’t get me wrong – Washa-Mikael is still a work-in-progress, and this isn’t the last you’ll be hearing about this, but the time has come for a brief end-of-preliminary-phase statement.

Jalata: We traversed hundreds of kilometres, sometimes entering caves that had become hyena (even leopard) dens – this through rain, mud, night-fall, cold and hail, but also through a whole hell of a lot of brilliant Habesha sunshine. Betam, betam amaseganalho gwadenya!

Mohamed (Derir): Who, although a busy minister, drove through that night’s torrential rain and sat patiently through an hour and a half of my arid lecturing – and who then cared enough to stand up and offer to lend government support. There is no doubt in your conviction your excellency.

Khasiala: My wonderful wife – supportive, understanding, patient, loving – and cute! How can I not now believe in angels?

Rita and Richard: Upstanding, Kind, Generous, Dedicated, Brilliant and Humble – just a few of the virtuous qualities, which make you invaluable assets to our world’s humanity.

Shiferaw & Berhanu: I don’t know how one could express love of their country in a more healthy or positive way than through the works you have committed yourselves to achieving. Thank you for sharing Ethiopia with an outsider – I’m forever grateful (even if we didn’t make it across that little creek on Mt. Yerar!)

Mamitu: We met only once, but even within the first five seconds I could tell, with great satisfaction, that Ethiopia is very lucky to have you directing it’s national treasures.

Abuna Samuel: You had no idea who I was, nor did I know who you were, when our paths crossed that afternoon at Kidist Selassie. Yet you instantly shared your deep love for Ethiopia with the wandering farangi through a precious gift in the form of a DVD about Washa-Mikael, which (amazingly) you had also produced! This intervention was clearly meant to be. During the ‘spare time’, now made available to you, you will surely be strengthened.

There are others – many others to acknowledge. And, although I won’t name all of you today (for one reason or another), I find it fitting that you come from all backgrounds – Oromo, Tigrayan, Amhara, Gurage, Somali, as well as from other ‘foreign’ African nations such as Kenya, and from Europe … You are also from many flocks – Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist, even Hindu! And this is as it should be because the appreciation of heritage is by no means something that should threaten to divide, but which should unite us through common respect.