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  • Who are Yegna dubbed the "Ethiopia's Spice Girls"?

    • Its members are all twenty-something Ethiopians: Rahel Getu, 22, Zebiba Girma, 22, Eyerusalem Kelemework, 27, Lemlem Haile Michael, 26 and Teref Kassahun, 26
    • They adopt stage names: Lemlem, Emuye, Sara, Mimi and Melat
    • The pop group was set up in 2013 to "empower young women" including challenging young marriage and gender-based violence
    • Yegna is pronounced "Yen-ya", which means "Ours" in Amharic
    • Their catchphrase is: "We are here. We will not be silenced"
    • Girl Effect said Yegna reach 8.5 million people in Ethiopia through its radio drama, music and talk shows

    Source: Girl Effect

    Yegna, Ethiopia's 'Spice Girls', lose UK funding

    Yegna has been the subject of a long-running campaign by the Daily Mail. It dubbed the band "Ethiopia's Spice Girls" saying that grants to the group were a waste of money.

    The UK's Department for International Development said its partnership with Girl Effect has ended following the review, but insisted that "empowering women and girls around the world remains a priority".

    It said the decision had not been influenced by press coverage of Yegna.

    Read more here

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  • Britain ends millions in funding for Ethiopia girl band


    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Britain says it has ended millions of dollars in funding for an Ethiopian girl band, amid growing criticism at home of overseas aid. Yegna, sometimes called "Ethiopia's Spice Girls," addresses women's issues in the East African country.

    A statement Friday from the Department for International Development says empowering women and girls remains a priority for Britain, "but we judge there are more effective ways to invest UK aid."

    The move comes after reports of the band receiving another $6.3 million. The five-member band uses a radio show and music and drama productions to create awareness about forced marriage, violence, teen pregnancy and dropping out of school.

    The Girl Effect project that launched Yegna confirms the British decision. Chief executive Farah Ramzan Golant says, "New ideas are often resisted and sometimes willfully misrepresented."

    Source: AP

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  • The Weeknd: "I Represent Ethiopia"

    The 26-year-old better known as The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), who on this Sunday in November is ­preparing to release Starboy, the follow-up to his 2015 pop breakthrough Beauty Behind the Madness -- opens up In rare Interview with Billboard about paparazzi, overcoming stage fright and his roots.

    Excerpt from Abel Tesfaye's interview with Billboard

    You’re representing for different ­places — Toronto, Ethiopia. How do you approach that?
    I made it known that I’m Ethiopian. I put it in my music, and my style of singing is very Ethiopian-inspired. I’ve never even been there. I’d love to go home and see my roots.

    Where would you direct a Weeknd fan in terms of Ethiopian music?
    Aster Aweke, for sure. You can hear her voice at the end of “False Alarm” on the new album. Her voice is the greatest thing you’ll ever hear. There’s a great composer named Mulatu Astatke, he’s probably the most famous Ethiopian musician right now. Jim Jarmusch used his music. I’d love to meet him and work with him somehow. Mahmoud Ahmed is a great singer, and so is Tilahun Gessesse. Teddy Afro is more of a pop singer, great voice. This is what I grew up on. I’d wake up in the morning, and my mom would be listening to all this stuff while she was making coffee. I’m working on University of Toronto getting its own class [on Ethiopian language studies].

    Related: The Weeknd helping resurrect a lost Ethiopian language

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  • Ruth Negga Opens Up About Her Heritage and Breakthrough Role in ‘Loving’

    With her mesmerizing performance in Jeff Nichols’s subtly groundbreaking film Loving, the Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga has been the talk of the town, but she prefers just to be her.

    As the January cover of Vogue, Negga spoke to the magazine about how she grew up. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to a white Irish nurse and a black Ethiopian doctor. She and her mother left the country when political unrest erupted, but her father had to stay behind. Three years later, her father died in a car accident. “We found out in a letter and a phone call,” she remembered. “This was 1988. There wasn’t any grief counseling for kids.”

    Her mother never remarried, but Negga grew up in a large extended family of “about 23 boys,” and never felt she was any different from her fair-haired cousins. Negga said, “I remember thinking, I’m just me. When you’re a kid, you’re just you, aren’t you? It was when I moved to England [at age 11] that I felt it, because I was Irish and black.”

    Negga has returned to Ethiopia many times, to visit her father’s grave and her family there. “I find it difficult because it was an abrupt sort of ending to a lot of my life,” she explained to Vogue.“I’m always very careful to say I’m Irish-Ethiopian because I feel Ethiopian and I look Ethiopian and I am Ethiopian. But there are 81 languages in Ethiopia, and I don’t know any of them.” Through therapy Negga realized her desire to be an actor “was no coincidence. I think it makes me able to access certain things that are quite near to the surface… an honesty or something about life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

    Now she is being touted for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of Mildred Loving, who, in 1950s Virginia, married a white man, Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), which was against the state’s law at the time. After being jailed and exiled, the Loving’s case was eventually brought to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled they had a legal right to be married, changing the U.S. Constitution.

    As Negga explained, “The film is reminding us that there’s a conversation that we need to be having still… It does annoy Joel and me when people say it’s a quiet film. Because it doesn’t feel very quiet to us. It feels really loud.” Read the whole interview here.

     

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  • The Weeknd is helping resurrect a lost Ethiopian language


    Along with Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, Ethiopia’s Ge’ez is considered one of the world’s oldest Semitic languages—but you’ve probably never heard of it.

    Michael Gervers, a professor in the department of historical and cultural studies at the University of Toronto, believes it’s important to resurrect it. “The entire history of Ethiopia is in this language,” he says. “Everything written up until 1850 was written in Ge’ez, so we have 2,000 years of textual material that people don’t have access to.” It was replaced by Amharic as Ethiopia’s official language.

    In 2015, Gervers started a fund to create an Ethiopian studies program at U of T, setting a goal of $200,000 and donating $50,000 of his own money. The dean’s office matched that donation; and this year, so did Abel Tesfaye—the Toronto-born, Grammy-winning R&B singer professionally known as The Weeknd, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Ethiopia in the 1980s.

    Tesfaye promoted the cause to his more than four million Twitter followers. “Sharing our brilliant and ancient history of Ethiopia. Proud to support the studies in our homie town through @UofT and @bikilaaward,” he wrote.

    U of T will offer a Ge’ez language course starting in January, making it the first post-secondary school in North America to do so. Eventually, the university hopes to offer undergrad and graduate programs that focus on Ge’ez and Ethiopia’s culture and history.

    Gervers believes Ethiopia has been ignored due to a European influence on academics. Since the country was never colonized (except for a brief occupation by Mussolini’s fascists) not many people know of its original language. “It was outside of the gambit of colonial Europe,” he says. “And, as a consequence, you can go to any African studies program—with the exception of the University of Toronto—and you won’t find Ethiopian studies.”

    Source: macleans.ca

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