Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

To kickoff Women’s History Month, we are taking you on a trip through time to the 17th century in the Ethiopian highlands.

In 1672, a scribe began documenting the life of Walatta Petros, an African woman who lived from 1592 to 1642 and founded communities of faith in various towns. She was revered as a saint.

Walatta Petros is a historical figure. The stories told about her life and the miracles done in her name might sound farfetched, but her work as a community builder and activist are verifiable from various historical sources.

Her biography, which details her life as a saint, was recently translated from Ge’ez to English by Princeton professor Wendy Laura Belcher and titled The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros. 

Written in 1672, the Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros is the first English translation of a biography about an African woman written by an African for an African audience. It gives us a rare peek into women’s lives in Ethiopia’s early modern period.

And for readers who still think Things Fall Apart is the beginning of African literature, this translation opens up the stunning world of African manuscript culture that reached its height in the 17th century.

Walata Petros’s life is inspiring. She was born to a noble family. She married an official of the king and had three children. But they all died. She eventually decided to leave her husband in order to begin a new life as a nun. The book details the drama around her plans to leave her husband, his refusal, and the failed attempts to get her back.

The book also details her decades-long effort to organize communities of faithful Christians devoting their lives in the service of God.

Walatta Petros’s sainthood is based on the Tawahedo Church tradition. Yes, there is an African christian tradition, older than the Roman Catholic church. In fact, a good bit of Walatta Petros’s activism involved fighting off Jesuit priests from Portugal trying to undermine the faith and values of Ethiopian Christians.

She suffered at the hands of kings who could not handle her refusal to abide by the norm, but she was fearless. The later parts of the book chronicles delightful stories of miracles done in her name.

Walatta Petros’ story reveals an unexplored world of African women as activists and community leaders.

Click here to buy and start reading with us!

Tags: , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

The 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize is Now Open for Entry

Apply for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is open for entry as of today. The $35,000 prize annually rewards an “influential work […]

July 10 | Sarah Ladipo Manyika Hosts Strive Masiyiwa on Conversations Across the Diaspora

July 10 _ Sarah Ladipo Manyika Hosts Strive Masiyiwas on Conversations Across the Diaspora

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, author of In Dependence (2008) and Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun (2016), has teamed up […]

Bernardine Evaristo Becomes First Black Writer to Win Author of the Year

Bernardine Evaristo Becomes First Black Writer to Win Author of the Year in the British Book Awards

  Bernardine Evaristo’s winning streak continues as she dominates two categories of the 2020 British Book Awards: Best Fiction Book […]

Apply for the 2020 Morland Writing Scholarship | £27,000 for Nonfiction, £18,000 Fiction

Apply for the 2020 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship

The Miles Morland Foundation is currently accepting applications for the 2020 Morland African Writing Scholarships. The awards offer a fiction […]

The Million Naira Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity | Here is How to Nominate Someone

The Million Naira Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity _ Here is How to Nominate Someone

Nominations for The Nigeria Prize for Difference & Diversity is officially open. The new prize, co-presented by digital media platform […]

This is Why I am Endowing a N1 Million Prize for Difference and Diversity in Nigeria | Chude Jideonwo

This is Why I am Endowing a N1 Million Prize for Difference and Diversity in Nigeria _ Chude Jideonwo (2)

Last year, I wrote a piece on CNN during Pride Month​—​a month set aside to celebrate sexual and gender diversity […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.