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Atete: In Search of the Ethiopian Goddess

By Lillian Comas

“A goddess!” I exclaimed, as I approached a large rounded feminine figure in the National Museum of Ethiopia.

“No!” A man’s voice echoed throughout the room.

When he noticed people’s glances upon him, the museum guide lowered his voice: “That piece is a very, very old”, he said hesitantly. “It is pagan. She comes from the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group here in Ethiopia.”

I could not peel my eyes off the figure. The unexpected discovery piqued my interest.

“Does she have a name?” I asked hopefully.

Instead of answering my question, the guide told me about Ethiopia’s most famous woman:

“Our Queen Sheba was beautiful, intelligent, and talented. She traveled to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon. Upon her return home, Queen Sheba gave birth to their son, Menelik I.” The guide straightened his back and continued: “When he became emperor, Menelik went to Jerusalem and brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia.” The guide smiled at the thought. “Our most sacred treasure,” he said triumphantly.

“What about the goddess?”

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