Shackles, Bahir Dar, Amhara, Ethiopia, July 2009

Shackles, Bahir Dar, Amhara, Ethiopia, July 2009

While Kes Felege he was unpacking his scribal and carving tools from a box for our interview, he pulled out a pair of shackles. A bit dumbstruck, I asked him what their relationship to scribing was. As part of the training for his Zema students (and Qene students as well), the students take a psycho-tropic drug, which, when properly combined with fasting and prayer, is supposed to allow them mystical insight and inspire them to poetry. I knew as much before I asked the question. Apparently, the students sometimes take this drug on their own, without the proper training and supervision. To control them while they are in the hallucinogenic state, and as a punishment, the shackles are affixed to the student. Here, the shackles are modeled by one of his woodcarving students, who happened to be at hand.



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