Is reading Hama Tuma reading Ethiopia?

By Andinet Melaku

I have come to know the Ethiopian writer and poet Hama Tuma with time.  I don’t know if Hama Tuma is his real name or his pen name but knowing the person in his works is far more important than that . This writer who is known as the great satirist in Ethiopian literary history, is indeed worth reading. It was a friend of mine who first introduced me to the works of Hama Tuma. I did actually heard about the writer’s name and a bit about his political writings from one of my theater professor in Ethiopia but it was my friend here in America who encouraged me to check one of his book. At first I was a little reluctant, I don’t know what actually was in my mind. May be it was a part of my Ethiopian paranoia that the writer himself deeply addressed and for that matter philosophized in one of his essay .

It is true that his name sounds a little unfamiliar in Ethiopia. By that I don’t mean his popularity but just the uniqueness of his name by itself somehow made me two think two times before reading any of his book.On one hand I would like to think this sort of causation or my fear if you say,has much to do with my Ethiopian background , on the other hand when I think of my Ethiopian friend first reaction to the name Hama Tuma, I would rather like to differentiate my exaggerated reaction . The writer’s unique name for my friend served in positive way . It ignited his curiosity to know who the write really is. My friend is even thankful for the writer’s name. As he sometimes says without the name Hama Tuma , he wouldn’t know the man Hama Tuma. It was the writers name that first got his attention. I seemed rather puzzled by the writers name for some time .I may not able to point out the reason quite well as Hama Tuma did in one of his essay entitled “Of paranoia and the Ethiopian psyche”. In this remarkable essay, the Hama Tuma touches my unconscious being and in doing so he transcend it to a conscious one.

As a student of theater , I had the privilege to study about the Ethiopian literature to some extent. However I found Hama’s writing style a little different . I don’t claim he is the best among Ethiopian writes both in the past and some of the contemporary writers both in Ethiopian and in diaspora . However I can tell that his approach of the Ethiopian literary trend is original and no doubt one of the best.  Here is one of the fascinating theme that I find in Hama’s writing. He tries to understand what the whole Ethiopian social and cultural mentality looks like.I believe the writer has a respect for the Ethiopian and the Eastern point of view in general but he would like to integrate it with the western individual identity.However his ironic and somehow sarcastic perspective of these two worlds in his satire writing sometimes contradicts the vision he has . The good thing is he makes you laugh whenever he does that. No matter how it looks and sounds at first it can be said that Hama Tuma’s pen is a painting in the making of an Ethiopian state of mind. Until recently I thought of Hama tuma point of view both politically and literary very pessimistic.It took me to read and to reread one of his book to see the reason behind his pessimistic point of view. That I did and within the realm of that I baptized my self under the blessing of a new Ethiopian literary Genius.

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Published in: on June 14, 2008 at 10:17 am  Comments (11)  
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