|Wax and Gold X is actually available for sale at the Terra Firma Gallery.|
|Wax and Gold IX, 2002, Mixed Media, 18 x 18 in.|
|Levine's book was first published in 1965, so the writing is of that time when anthropologists made universal claims in patriarchal language, but it remains a seminal work in Ethiopian Studies.|
Though the sam-enna warq tradition has its roots in the ancient Ge'ez language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Levine explains that it informs secular verse and even everyday Amharic conversation as well, being used to insult people or criticize authorities in a socially approved manner. Writing when Haile Selassie was still in power, Levine tells us that sam-enna warq has enabled "witty individuals to satirize the monarch himself and still live to repeat the witticism—so long as its subject was himself duly appreciative of the cleverness of the lines."
|I can't help but think that if Zone 9 had engaged in a little more sam-enna warq they might still be blogging freely today. (Not that it is their fault, of course!)|
በላነው ጠጣነው ከእንጀራው ከወጡ
እግዚአብሔር ይስጥልኝ ከመሶቡ አይጡ
Belanew tetanew ke enjeraw ke wetuThe double meaning comes in that last phrase. Aleka Gebre-Hana first says he has enjoyed the meal (the injera, or bread, and the waT, or stew) and then he prays to God (Egziabeher) that you may not lack (aytu) for your mesob. That's the wax. The gold here is that aytu also means rat, and so he subtly announces that he has indeed seen the rat, criticizing his friend for serving him unhygienic food.
Egziabeher yestelegne ke mesobu aytu
Sam-enna warq, then, provides the medium for an inexhaustible supply of humor, "for the Amhara tends to regard the pun as a very high form of humor," writes Levine. Just like "the Amhara," I've always loved wordplay, and I confess that I too regard the pun as a high form of humor. I also enjoy reading and listening to poetry, anticipating that "a-ha" moment when life wisdom emerges from the precise combination of the poet's words, and rarely on the first hearing. In fact, just the other night one of the teachers in Anemo's second grade held a reading to celebrate his latest book of verse. Anhvu read his poems only once, and quickly, so it was a challenge to catch each message, but I will spend time with them later to discover what gold they contain.
|Anhvu Buchanan reading at Press on 24th Street.|
I've been collecting common phrases that should help me. For instance:
በምን መንገድ (buhmin menged) = by what way (መንገድ = road)
ስለ X መነጋገር እፈልጋለሁ (sila X menegagar ifeligalew) = I want to talk about X
X እንዴት ይባላል (indeyt yibalal) = How do you say X?
እንደ እዚህ or በዚህ ዓይነት (indeh izih or bezih aynet) = like this
ጥሩ ነው (Tiru nahw) = is good (heard at the end of many sentences)Yet even while I am absorbing the most common expressions, my ear is ready to catch words that sound similar for future punning. As Lulit and I were going through the colors, for example, a few connections came to mind.
ቢጫ (beeCHa = YELLOW) reminded me of ብቻ (bicha = ONLY)
ቀይ (qay = RED) sounded something like ቀኝ (qany = RIGHT, i.e. direction)
and ብር (birr = SILVER) is, perhaps not surprisingly, the same word for the currency.