Spices for thought: Salt, chili pepper, and slaves in Ethiopian Amharic proverbs

Hagar Salamon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even though slavery-related understandings are deeply embedded in the collective Ethiopian consciousness, they are seldom explicitly discussed. In the course of oral interviews carried out in rural northwestern Ethiopia with elderly men and women who still recall the practice of slavery, a rich corpus of Amharic proverbs related to this topic was collected. Focusing on a specifijic segment of this corpus, I invite the reader to visit Ethiopian folkloric crossroads of slaves and salt, spiced up with some hot chili pepper. These proverbs are revealed as a powerful channel to tap into generally submerged and rarely discussed local slavery-related perceptions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)101-130
Number of pages30
JournalNortheast African Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I wish to express my deep gratitude to the interviewees who generously shared their folklore and personal memories with me. I am especially grateful to Tewodros Jemberu, Ato Ayalew Mitiku, Demeke Balew in Ethiopia, and Rahamim Yitzhak and HaRav Yitshak Zegeye in Israel who provided me with much more than practical assistance and constant encouragement. I am grateful to Chaim Rosen for sharing with me both his profound knowledge and enthusiastic attitude, to Anbessa Teferra for his linguistic assistance and painstaking transliteration, to Galit Hasan-Rokem for guiding me into the world of proverbs and for our ongoing enriching dialogue, and the two NEAS anonymous reviewers for their enlightening suggestions. The research was supported by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I thank the fijine stafff of this institution for the supportive academic environment.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.


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