Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin – Abren Zim Enibel (Ethiopian poem)

Our great Ethiopian national treasure Poet Laureate and Writer Gash Tsegaye Gebremedhin reading one of his classic poems, “Abren Zimm Enibel

Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin. No living person more symbolizes the greatness of Ethiopian literature than this poet and playwright. A leader of Ethiopian intellectuals since the 1960s, Tsegaye has shaped (and survived) tumultuous changes in Ethiopia’s history. Today he remains a national treasure.

Tsegaye was born in 1936 into a family as complex as Ethiopia. On his father’s side were warriors, on his mother’s, clergy. He is part Amhara and part Oromo. Birthed in a village, he was raised in a town. He attended church school, where he became fascinated with the Ethiopian form of poetry called qene, and then a British school, where he became fascinated with the Western form of drama called pantomime. It is no surprise that he has spent his life making links between traditions, forging connections where others see only difference.

Tsegaye wrote his first play when he was fifteen. After traveling on scholarship to various European theaters in 1959, he became director of the new national theater and has been the leading figure in Ethiopian theater ever since. Throughout the 1960s, he wrote and directed play after play. During this period, one critic has observed, Tsegaye changed Ethiopian theater.