The Soul of Ethiopia

Africa, a continent consisting of fifty-four recognized countries, has what a recent article in Atlantic Magazine calls “an image problem.” The article goes on to qualify this assertion with a transfer of blame; the African “image problem” is really a Western “perception problem” (John).

The “perception problem” is two-fold. Firstly, Western portrayals of Africa are grossly overgeneralized. In other words, the continent is often discussed as if it is a single country rather than many. Each of these many nations has its own history, culture, and soul, but such elements are habitually overlooked in favor of a composite identity. Secondly, the Western generalization of Africa is paired with a heavily Western narrative of disaster, epidemic, and a chronic need for White Saviors. These themes are perpetuated through Western media, pop culture, and literary works. In this way, the West’s “Africa” is not only a single, indistinct country: it is a single, indistinct country without a voice of its own. Intrigued by this issue, I hope to go about distinguishing one of Africa’s numerous and highly varied voices, Ethiopia, from the “white noise” put forth by such a flawed Western narrative.

In an attempt to explore that which characterizes the unique cultural landscape of Ethiopia, I will travel to the country and conduct a qualitative cultural analysis. To do this, I will immerse myself in the culture, taking detailed notes on my observations, conversations, and experiences, all through my own undeniably Western lens. I will then use these notes to write a series of creative, non-fiction essays meant to answer an overarching question: what comprises the soul of Ethiopia?


John, Arit. “Confusing a Country for a Continent: How We Talk About Africa.” The Atlantic, 2013.

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