EMMIR ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Yordanos Seifu Estifanos publishes a book about the experiences of Ethiopian migrants traveling to South Africa

Wayfarers by Yordanos Seifu Estifanos

In 2017, EMMIR alumn Yordanos Seifu Estifanos published “Mengedegna” (“The Traveler” in Amharic), a vivid insight into the experiences of Ethiopian migrants and refugees in South Africa. The book explores the smuggling routes across Africa and portrays personal testimonials of resilience and adaptability.

This December 2018, Yordanos will be presenting the English version of his book in Oldenburg, Germany. Stay tuned for more information! In the meantime, here is a book review of Estifanos’s book by Mekonnen…


Nebiy Mekonnen
(Author, Poet, Translator and Critic)
Telephone: +251 937 61 93 39
E-mail: nebiymekonnen2@gmail.com or nebiymm@gmail.com

This book is a reality of 360 pages. It’s divided in 4 grand chapters. It’s footnoted professionally. The book is down-to-earth with an impressive smooth – flowing syntax. It’s tantalizingly anecdotic and full of very lively conversations and realistic stories. Anybody in touch of this book will definitely be captured in the ups-and-downs of unprecedented migratory landscapes. Very colorful and variegated circumstances captivate the reader as each episode takes shape. One can see his own neighborhood in Ethiopia while reading about the starting point (the ignition point) of the Travellers or the Wayfarers.

The naivety, the innocence, the envy, the shroud behaviors, the curse, the intrigue, the subtlety of the Abashas (Ethiopians) are all depicted as root-problems that cast their shadows on the immigrants life in South Africa as well. The book vividly reflects the inner – self of the exilees. Basically, it deals with the general migration problem of Africa, particularly of South Africa vis-à-vis Ethiopia. Its angle is the ups – and – downs encountered to reach the “Promised Land”, South Africa. It diagnoses the pains inside the “Promised Land”, shows the nature of Ethiopian immigrants, the envy, the subtle intrigues, …all in all the grotesque and destitute dirty life of exile…in which a few successful ones survive and many doomed to miserable circumstances.

The literature is well scrutinized and down-to-earth. That makes it readable by any age group: youth, elders, junior or senior readers. Its simplicity is one of its charms. Yet, its artfully attractive complexity creates the depth of the story in more amazing scenarios.

Unlike other books that focus on the same issue it has a deeper sense of social significance, well written with a sharp combination of two categories. (1) The popular general knowledge that reigns domestically, that considers migration as a solution to economic problems and (2) Ethnographic research – based facts and findings embroidered with seasoned literary pen.

The chronic problem of migration from Ethiopia to South Africa had been a long standing, almost a norm in the way of thinking of the native people who assume it to be a panacea, is a chronic problem of Africa as well. And this is glossily narrated in the book, Mengedegna, in Amharic. Hence, for sure, primarily Africans will benefit from the translation of this book into English.

The linguistic quality of the literature is breathtakingly charming. Harmoniously composed with good grammatical structuring it correlates the reader with the situations at stake as if it is happening now to oneself…

Each chapter starts with poetic pieces that can illumine and give depth to the extensive migratory story – dimension inside the yolk of the book! This gives the reader a wider perspective and imagination. These poetic pieces should be translated separately of course.

40 plus poems are wisely incorporated in the book of this prolific writer, Yordanos Almaz Seifu. The poems have all varieties of genres, syntax and context, from classical wax and gold style to modern Ethiopian literary forms.

They were written by different poets, as veteran as Negadras Tesema Eshete and Yoftahe Nigussie, and as renowned figures as Laureate Tsegaye Gebere Medhin, Gebrekristos Desta, Kebede Michael, Debebe Seifu, Bealu Girma and last but not least, as young and energetic poets as Getnet Enyew, and Dr. Bedilu Waqjira. Still other younger ones emerge as Bewqetu Seyoum, Efrem Seyoum, and the late Firmaye Alemu.

It is thus very obvious that such an anthology will be poetically very rich and chromatographically multi – colored.

The types of poems differ in nature and form. Some are excerpts from a longer poem, which needs further scrutiny. Some are contextual reflections of other situations yet ingeniously used here. Some are well known for their universality. Some are already very favorite folklores from time immemorial. Hence the tastes of time, history and culture have all their footprints in the milieu of these great art pieces.


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