By Bruce Strachan

3, Hdare 2003

Worsening of structural integrity due to continued root invasion has once again been monitored at the semi-monolithic church in Yeka. Why this resolvable problem is permitted to continue ravaging a monument of such significance vexes many, but today what is particularly disturbing is that another, new sort of unnatural damage is now beginning to appear – human vandalism.

Two cavities, one 3.5cm and the other 2.75cm in diameter, have been bored into the convex spherical detail, just above the upper-right corner of the west door, marring the structure’s focal design element. Unmistakably man-made, this new vandalism was first seen on November 3rd (24 Tekemt 03), and was not present during a previous photo documentation of the site three months ago.

Graffiti has long been a nuisance for this site popularly known as Washa-Mikael. In addition to these written inscriptions, hermits and squatters have also added their own personal touches down through the ages. A crude ladder leading to a window was carved in the exterior of the south wall, as were small interior niches and basins. But unlike these vintage ‘home-improvements’, the new damage appears to be vandalism purely for vandalism’s sake.

Thanks to recent efforts to raise greater public awareness and generate a conservation mandate the Yeka church was listed as state inventory in 2010 – first step towards application for World Heritage Sites in Danger nomination. Recognition from UNESCO could bring critically needed financial support, not just to protect this particular site, but to a group of prominent Shoan sites in danger, believed to date back to the medieval era dynasty of Yekuno Amlak*.

Such a ‘Southern Historic Route‘ would have potential to generate important dividends from cultural tourism while at the same time safeguarding Ethiopia’s National Heritage.

*The Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church states that the Yeka church was built by Abreha and Atsbeha during the fourth century Dynasty of Menelik I.

Two cavities have been bored into the convex spherical detail, just above the upper-right corner of the west door, badly marring the structure’s focal design element