NOVEMBER 12, 2015
When writing the story, I thought carefully about the character development of Yeshialem who is the protagonist. I wanted her to have a Pan-African outlook, which I find so relevant to our times considering the ethnic tensions and nationalism that is prevalent in many African communities and the legacies of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) that are still felt today. Yeshialem’s intercultural insights weave us together. She is Ethiopian in the story— still, she is at once a Nigerien, a Libyan, a Rwandese, a Sudanese—and her sense of belonging to various cultures is not at all in contradiction to her national identity (Ethiopian). In the story, I have reflected Yeshi’s sense of multiculturalism in her clothing, her linguistic capability and in her ability to challenge herself to go outside of her comfort zone which is evidenced in her epic journey from Ethiopia to Niger in the west and back. I deliberately gave her gold hoop earrings that are typical among Fulani women in Mali.