Maaza Mengiste has launched a digital archive of photographs from the 1935-41 Italo-Ethiopian war on which her novel, The Shadow King (2019), is based.

The archive is called Project3541. Mengiste has talked about the challenges of reclaiming her own history while doing research for the novel. Project3541 is an attempt to respond to those challenges. It extends the archival work that went into re-imagining the world of the novel by ensuring the visibility of the documents on which the novel is based. Project3541 is “a memory project and an act of reclamation that seeks to transcend the static nature of an archive.”

In addition to collecting photographs and family histories, Project3541 has launched a monthly feature series that highlights different aspects of Ethiopian life during the war. In honor of International Women’s Month, the inaugural series is titled Women in the War.

Women in the War is a rare collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, video footage, and the story of Maaze Mengiste’s great-grandmother’s enlistment in the war on behalf of her family. The series concludes with an excerpt from The Shadow King inspired by real women in the archive.

In addition to Mengiste’s personal collection, Project3541 is seeking submissions in the form of photos and family stories, click here to submit.

Follow Project3541 on Instagram and Twitter for updates on this living archive!