The other side of the manuscript lampshade pictured earlier.
These lampshades, painted with scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry, were in one of the fine rooms reserves for single women visitors to the castle. Despite W. R. Hearst living extramaritally with his girlfriend, rather than his wife, there were apparently strict rules of decorum for other single female guests.
Haleka Woldegabriel is a artisan in Axum, primarily producing fairly low-quality woodcrafts for the tourist shop market, but in the past, he produced books and magic scrolls. Like many other scribes, he says that he has had to give it up because the economic situation of the scribe is no longer tenable, and other crafts are significantly more profitable. Haleka Woldegabriel is interesting for being the first scribe I have met so far to use steel pen-nibs in his writing, rather than bamboo pens.
He’s holding an incomplete magic scroll–he sends them to others for painting when the writing is done.
Marigeta Birhanu’s cat was loudly letting himself be heard throughout our interview, and practically attacking the skin for parchment while stretched on the frame, before the meat was removed. It only occurred to me part-way through that the cat was subject to fasting season, just as the people are, because he eats leftovers from the table. Injeera may be sustaining for a cat, but rancid goat-meat was more to his preference.
I normally do not publish photos from my research work, but I have decided to try making them a little more artistic, and will attempt to get some good ones up here.
In this one, Marigeta* Haile Selassie, writing out a short phrase as a demonstration of pen-technique. Notice that he holds the pen at nearly a 90-degree angle from the page, a position dictated by the nearly-90-degree cut he made of the nib, with a slight angle to allow right-handed writing. He is working on his knee, sitting on a small stool in the corner of his shop, next to the window. The pen is made out of bamboo, two species of which are native to Ethiopia.
*The title, which basically translates as ‘Master,’ refers to having completed a certain level of traditional Church education–‘temhert’–the focus of which is the memorization of Church books. The level above it would be ‘Memhir,’ which means ‘traditional church teacher.’