“Same-Sex Intimacies in an Early Modern African Text about an Ethiopian Female Saint, Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros (1672)”

Professor Wendy Belcher, Princeton University, speaks to the intricacies of translations to shed light on a seventeenth-century Ethiopian manuscript in this lecture.

Monday, October 27, 2014
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
11360 Young Research Library (YRL)
YRL Conference Center
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The seventeenth-century Ethiopian book The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Wälättä P̣eṭros (Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros) features a life-long partnership between two women and the depiction of same-sex sexuality among nuns. The earliest known book-length biography about the life of an African woman, written in 1672 in the Gəˁəz language, Gädlä Wälättä Ṗeṭros is an extraordinary account of early modern African women’s lives—full of vivid dialogue, heartbreak, and triumph. It features revered Ethiopian religious leader Wälättä P̣eṭros (1592-1642), who led a nonviolent movement against European proto-colonialism in Ethiopia in a successful fight to retain African Christian beliefs, for which she was elevated to sainthood in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwaḥədo Church. An important part of the text is her friendship with another nun, Ǝḫətä Krəstos, as they “lived together in mutual love, like soul and body” until death. Interpreting the women’s relationships in this Ethiopian text requires care, but queer theory provides useful warnings, framing, and interpretive tools.

Wendy Laura Belcher is associate professor of African literature in Princeton University’s Department of Comparative Literature and Center for African American Studies. She is the author of Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, 2012) and the forthcoming The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Translation of a Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an African Woman with Michael Kleiner (Princeton, 2015).

This lecture is part of the Monday Africa Seminar Series organized by Professor Ghislaine Lydon, UCLA Department of History. The schedule for the rest of the presentations is listed below.

From Ruga-Ruga to Askari: Intersections between African History and Military History”
Michelle Moyd, Indiana University
Monday, November 3, 2014 – 11360 YRL

“Basin Thinking: Indian Ocean Africa as Method and Theory”
Jeremy Prestholdt, University of California, San Diego
Monday, November 17, 2014 – 11348 YRL

For campus map, directions, transportation options to UCLA, please visit www.ucla.edu/map

Cost : Free and open to the public; pay-by-space and all-day ($12) parking available in lot 3.

UCLA African Studies Center310-825-3686


   Image for Calendar Button   Image for Calendar Button

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Support of the Young Research Library very much appreciated.