Yänäta Zewchoas, Axum, Ethiopia, 2009

Yänäta Zewchoas, Axum, Ethiopia, 2009

Zewchoas is one of the chief instructors at the St. Yared Theological Academy in Axum, and has a reputation as a däbtära, a magician (he is also properly a däbtära in its original sense of liturgical specialist). A dwarf, he was picked upon, and learned magic in order to gain respect, notably a method for causing people to fart in public, which is considered extraordinarily rude in Ethiopia.

Having achieved his aim, he later gave up the magician’s craft and focused more on his teaching work. He may often be found behind the school, leading students in the recitation and memorization of liturgical songs, and is a thoroughly respected member of his community, having overcome the prejudice traditionally associated with dwarfism.

He is photographed sitting on a throne on top of the stairs in front of the old Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion (Maryam Tsion).

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