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any of us have heard tales, from the first Italo-Ethiopian war, particularly about the Battle of Adwa, which is arguably the most known of the recorded victories of an African nation over an invading force of Europeans. Given the fact that the second war involved more soldiers and claimed more casualties than the first one, it is understandable why more of us would know about the Italians’ quest for revenge, almost four decades later, especially considering the fact that it involved the exile and return of one of the continent’s most notable historical figures – Emperor Haile Selassie.

What many of us may not know about, are the experiences of the women who lived during either of these wars. Were they vital to the war effort? Or were they confined to the boundaries of their homes? If they did take part in the war, to what extent were they involved? Were they just the mothers, and daughters, and wives of soldiers? Or were they soldiers themselves and in their own right? Enter Maaza Mengiste.

Many of us have heard tales, from the Italo-Ethiopian wars, particularly about the Battle of Adwa. What many of us may not have heard about, are the experiences of the women who lived during either of these wars.

In our most recent Spotlite exclusive, Ethiopian-American author, Maaza Mengiste, talks to Alessandra about her latest novel, ‘The Shadow King’ – a work of fiction, which follows the lives of two Ethiopian women – Hirut and Aster – and is set against the historical backdrop of the second Italo-Ethiopian war.

In this interview, Maaza talks about the premise of ‘The Shadow King’, and how it evolved over time. She goes on to give a bit of an insight into some of the experiences that she had, while researching for (and writing) the book. She talks about the stories that inspired her characters, including who her favourite character is (it’s probably not who you think it is). Speaking of characters, she talks about a shocking discovery within her own family, which all but validated the story of one of her main characters.

Standing atop 10 years of archival and ethnographic research, Maaza argues that women were pivotal to the war effort, especially during the emperor’s exile. From covert acts of espionage to overt involvement in armed combat, the evidence seems to suggest that women were active participants in the conflict, and it is the knowledge of these facts that shaped the stories within Maaza’s retelling.

Were they vital to the war effort? Or were they confined to the boundaries of their homes? If they did take part in the war, to what extent were they involved? Were they just the mothers, and daughters, and wives of soldiers? Or were they soldiers themselves and in their own right?

On the actual events that inspired ‘The Shadow King’, Maaza talks about the ways in which the war is remembered by Ethiopians today, and how these ways differ from the ways in which the same conflict is remembered by Italians. She talks about the relevance of historical fiction, but emphasises the need for Ethiopians and other Africans to pass down, protect, and remember their history. Still on the subject, she talks about an online project that she is working on, and how, she hopes, it will help make factual information about the war more available and easily accessible by millions around the world.

This interview is made up of 2 segments, both of which are now available online. So don’t forget to visit the channel for the remaining interview segments.

Special thanks to Maaza for the interview, and for the 10 years it took her to bless us with ‘The Shadow King’. To support us, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to LIKE, and SHARE our videos.

Happy watching, and see you again soon.

Special thanks to Maaza for the interview, and for the 10 years it took her to bless us with ‘The Shadow King’. To support us, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to LIKE, and SHARE our videos.