The ancient Ethiopian culture has a long history of practicing the calligraphic art of producing the Holy Scriptures. In this display case, we can see a personal copy of an Ethiopian prayer book for Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, a member of the Ethiopian royal family, dated from the 20th century.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations. Speaking to a student, whose family comes from Eritrea, Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate explained that the telling of Bible stories originally took place through the medium of pictures. The Ethiopian Bible in its own language and script first existed around 600 AD.
Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate was studying in Frankfurt when the last emperor of Ethiopia was deposed by a revolution in 1974. It was a transformative experience for him personally, too. The Ethiopian imperial house maintained a special connection with the Bible: the prince’s great-uncle Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia could trace his lineage directly back to the biblical King Solomon and his relationship with the Queen of Sheba. Emperor Haile Selassie thus represented the Messiah, i.e. David’s son, to Jamaicans of African descent: this is how the cult of Rastafarianism came about. Haile Selassie was called Rastafari Makonnen at birth.
The Ethiopian Bible has also existed in the spoken languages of the country, such as Amharic or Tigrinya, for around 200 years. The modern state also includes areas with a predominantly Muslim population. The conflict with the coastal state of Eritrea, which has been independent since 1991, is tragic.