It is a celebration that is revered in my birthplace and is a source of both passion and compassion. Adwa is a reminder, a keepsake that secured my presence in this world, now, well before my grandparents could imagine the conception and birth of their children, my parents.
The 1896 battle was for many a test of mind over matter, an accomplishment of targeted armed conflict that could not afford to distinguish rock from bullet, stick from rifle, knife from gun. Men, women and children lived their fullest even as they struck their enemy to the fate of its defeat. The fascist songs of conquest, propaganda, and infantile cartoons burned into ashes along with shallow egos of perverted colonial troops who dreamed of dying in concubines.
Today, the grand-daughters and grand-sons of Empress Taitu’s and Menelik’s army prepare once again to recount details inscribed not only in books but also in the oral histories of their families. Artists prepare a mesmerizing performance featuring ferocious warriors adorned in headdress crafted from the lion’s mane; his skin falls over their shoulders to ward off the highland chill as well as enemy spears. At the extremities, a sword to the right. A leather shield to the left embraces the promise of protection, sealed in a copper plate glistening in the sun.
It is easy to daydream how the swords must have crashed, slashed and smothered life into the ground, softening the scowling features of warriors who sacrificed life so willingly. I sink into an unimaginable past and sense the terror that struck the Earth as the blood of men, women and children flowed and trickled into her crust. What greater trauma to inherit than that from war; a human inflicted, arrogant destruction imposed upon my ancestors by the claim of inward looking, pitiful types who dared to undermine humanity. Thankfully, they savored defeat like never before.
Victory was not an entitlement but the result of a hard-won battle by brazen, colorful Ethiopia. To this day, the enemy approaches her like a shape shifter, displaying multiple embodiments that fail to withstand her one body, universal whole, collective unity. The birthplace of the human understands too well the concept of humanity. Those who discover and accept her grow in the glow of her thirteen months of sunshine; others lose themselves in the attempt to possess what belongs to Earth alone.
Thank you Adwa! Long live Ethiopia!!