We were warriors once.

We lived in the desert, by the Red sea and the Gulf of Aden. Or so the white man calls them.

All the tribes feared us, the Amharinya, the Tigrinya, the Erythreans, the Somali. We were warriors. We were the Danakils.

“To marry the young maiden of our choice we had to fight and kill an enemy, cut his balls off, and offer them to the girl, so she could wear them proudly. Sorry about the gory details. Just tradition. Nothing personal. The other guy would have done the same.

“From the Wabe-Shebelle to the sea, all feared the name of the Danakil warriors.

“Then came ‘progress’. Machine guns. Endless killings. Warlords. No purpose. No honour. Just greed.

“Some nuts said we should bring in tourists. Show them the desert on our camels. What’s a tourist?

“The tourists never came. The warlords went away. To Somalia. Or just killed each other. We stayed.

“Me? The desert is my home. It rained last night. It’s been years since I’ve seen rain. The desert has gone green. For a few days. The camels will feast on the new grass. The younguns talk about ‘global warming’. I don’t know what that is. We were warriors once.”

The inspiration for this sketch is a poster that was on my student wall for a while. I’d bought it in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, where I finished high school. Sounds strange to say: “Me? I did Senior High at the Franco-Ethiopian Lycée Guebre Mariam in Ethiopia.” Another century, another world. The poster was from the Ethiopian Tourist Organization. Their slogan was: “Thirteen months of sunshine.” The Ethiopian – Christian – calendar has 13 months. It is a Coptic calendar with 12 months of 30 days, adding a 13th month of 5 or 6 days at the end of the year. The camel driver on the poster and the sketch is most probably a Danakil, who were a tribe of feared warriors.

Final note: 50 years later, a deposed and executed last Emperor, Haile Selassié, 30 something years of a left-wing military junta, endless civil war, Ethiopia had finally known a few years of relative peace and stability, some of my old classmates even went home to Addis. The older sister of one of my classmates, an Amharinya, was actually elected President of Ethiopia. No power, just a symbol. And pride for the alumni of the Lycée. Strange as it may be, we keep in touch. Sadly, she has no power, the Prime Minister has it all. Alas, the old ethnic demons are tearing Ethiopia apart. Again. The Tigrinya forces are marching on the heart of Amharinya region and capital of Ethiopia: Addis-Ababa. Some say the city where I finished High school might fall in a matter of days or weeks. I hope my old classmates and the Ethiopian people can be spared from more years of massacre and tyranny. 🙏🏻

Ezrestelin, thank you, for visiting and reading.

121 thoughts on “Warriors

  1. Hello Brian. I’m wondering where and how the girls wore the precious albeit now defunct gifts their lover brought them. 🙂 What happens in Ethiopia these days is somehow totally out of my sight and consiousness. I hope there will be no bloodshed and that your former classmates are save. Tot ziens!

    • I think they wore it on the forehead…
      I can imagine Ethiopia to be very far away. It is. One of the sad things is that they have so much potential… Squandered away in endless civil war.
      Tot ziens.

  2. Thanks for the history lesson and update regarding the current state of Ethiopia. I was clueless about the country’s current plight. Here’s hoping that cooler heads will prevail. Sadly, it seems impossible to eradicate man’s penchant for warfare, even when you cut off balls to hang around your fiancé’s neck.

      • I haven’t come to the conclusion that it’s the sole destiny because too many people achieve phenomenally positive objectives. Sadly, a minority of bad eggs can really screwy things up.

      • It’s not really a conclusion. Yet. I just remember the first half of the 80’s when I was in the Defense industry, privy to a lot of things, in particular the Soviet threat. We came very close to WWIII a coupla times. Then the Wall fell, and I thought: “Okay it’s over”. But it’s not. People forget what war is. And the few bad eggs find an easy following. And much passivity. That is what frightens me. If I were to do (again, 35 years later) an assessment of threat, I would say the threat has risen again. Fingers crossed.
        (Your text by Camus about the Spirit vs the Sword is brilliant. We all may have to resort to the Sword again to save the Spirit)

      • Times are indeed worrying. Sadly, I think you may be right but I’m still holding out hope that reason will prevail. Thanks for your comments.

  3. The world, by which I mean the media I read, seems to be too caught up in the next stage of the pandemic to notice Ethiopia unravelling. As you say, Brian, a country that has not known much peace for far too long.

    • I remember some of your earlier posts. Axum was it? It is a fascinating country. Sad really. And like I said many of my classmates had “fled” Ethiopia to France and the US. Settled there. Some have gone back. I hope they will be all right.

      • I went several times for work, years ago now. I really loved the country but even then there were protests against an anti-democratic government crackdown. Nothing like as bad as this though. It’s reminiscent of the fall of the Derg.

      • Fingers crossed. I’m in direct contact with a former classmate. He lives in DC. He says he might actually go to Addis for Christmas. As a support gesture for Ethiopia…

  4. It never ends, does it…it just goes on and on…killing each other, and everything around us. Insanity. I hope the people you know will be safe. I know nothing of the places you wrote about. Unfortunately, most Americans are geographically impaired. So many traditions are ugly, as well as deadly.

  5. There are such terrible things happening in so many regions of the world. I’ve been watching an ongoing story about an American woman whose traveled to Ethiopia to live with her fiancé. Nothing is mentioned of the underbelly of the country. I hope your friend and all the innocents will be ok. Brian you are an excellent artist. 💞

    • A few years ago I did a sort of “recount” of all the countries I’d lived in or travelled “significantly”. 8 or 9 out of 10 had fallen to military coups, famine, civil war, even genocide. I wondered whether I was “responsible”, a bad luck carrier, but of course not. It’s just the state of the world. We’re in the bad part of a cycle… Hopefully we as humankind will rise again, but I am concerned.
      Artist? Thank you. I’m just an amateur. Who enjoys this “found again” exercise. Drawing and painting literally cleans my mind… 🙏🏻🌹💕

      • We are definitely on a downward spiral . Such an ugly time to be living in. Yet, I’m sure when the the world wars were going on people felt the sane. I do love your art and travel. A bright spot. 💞

      • Yeah. I remember my mother’s stories of the war. She came close to big danger a few times. But she made it. Never lost hope I guess. I just read a letter Camus wrote in 1943. Fabulous. Not just hope. Drive.
        And thank you for your comment. You know I find Art a respite in the crazyness. It’s nice when one can put it in pencil and paint (Didn’t you say you painted with acrylics?) or words. Your words, your poetry, amazes me many times. A different look at the world. (And believe me I’m not a huge poetry fan) So, viel dank to you Coeur de Feu. 🙏🏻💕

      • I admire brave souls who endured the great wars, I suppose it will make or break. Painting is a beautiful escape, I enjoy your artwork very much. I haven’t painted in a long time. Big virtual hugs dear Brian. 🤗💕

      • It’s like a cycle, right? After each slaughter, everybody swears: “that was too close. has to be the last one…” and after enough years, everybody forgets…
        Anyway. Be safe. 🌹

      • It’s a cycle that’s been going on since civilization began. Greed and power! Old men sending young men off to die. Will it ever end…I don’t think so. Sending many hugs! 🌹

      • Exactly. My brothers and I were practically the first men in the family to not go to war. (Though I did my military service in the Army. Fortunately no war around then).
        Now? I don’t know what’s going to happen. Anyway. Hugs back. And Happy December.

  6. Warriors – (dark) story of humanity… Aliens will never let us reach for the stars for fear we might destroy other worlds besides our own.
    Nicely drawn. Hopefully your ex-classmates will remain safe through this yet another turmoil.

    • Ha. No risk. We shall destroy this one before we reach the stars.
      Thanks. This drawing gave me trouble. But it was a nice challenge.
      And yes, I hope the alumni form the Lycée will be all right. Problem is they’re mostly Amharinya. The advancing troops are Tigrinya. Ethnic issues are always bad.
      Au revoir.

      • Ha. No risk. We shall destroy this one before we reach the stars.

        Oh, evil is capabile of multitasking. 😉

        This drawing gave me trouble.

        Was it the eyes again? Not yours – the warrior’s. 🙂

        Ethnic issues are always bad.

        And my opinion, generally, is that such issues do not arise from the discontent or other bad feelings of the entirety (or major part at least) of a whole people – be it tribe, nation, whatever – but from only one person or a handful of people at most, which have their own personal interests against another people. And even that handful of people may be cleverly manipulated by yet other person or group for the interests of the latter.
        So in this case I wonder what would be the real interests of the Tigrinya leaders for waging war against the Amharinya. Or is it really their interests…?
        Well, I could always be wrong. We’ll see – or at least someone will hopefully see the end of it.
        Be well, mon ami! 🙂

      • yes, Evil a great multitasker… 🏴‍☠️
        Curiously, not so much the eyes, the skin colour. The original photo was very dark, so the warrior’s face was almost hidden in the shadow, I had to do several layers of brown… (Ethnicity, right? 😉)
        And yes, left on their own most people don’t care whether the other is dark, white, blue or green. In Africa, with the “right” people, on both sides, skin colour was irrelevant. But, there always are some eager to exploit the tiniest difference to pitch people against people. The Tigriniya and Amharinya are very similar. Take the French and the English? Extremely similar. But if things go on like now, we might have serious trouble soon… C’est comme ça.
        You too. Be well. Au revoir.

      • Maybe there are other photos online to offer good hints on the correct skin color/tone. After all we wouldn’t want to misled the public and – heavens forbid! – fall into some racial dispute. 🙄

        You understand why “the few some” are so desperate not to let the majority of the people get properly educated. Those tribes might wake up and say “fuck no; what, are we crazy or stupid!? we won’t fight and kill our brothers for the sole benefit of a handful of wankers!” Actually all Earth’s “tribes” might wake up and settle the world right as is should’ve been all along.
        So no proper education – or none whatsoever – but instead fear and terror in any way, shape or form to ensure total submission. Get it – the terran world is but a slave market. Either we change it as we, the people, want/need it, or – as you said somewhere around – leave for Mars or whatever other planet in whatever other galaxy. But I’m afraid it’s too late. 😦

        Enjoy the week-end, while there still is one. 😉

    • Circuit breaker. That is a very powerful choice of words Paul. Thank you. it reminds me of an image of two little kids exchanging blows at the schoolyard, with the teacher (in another century) grabbing each one by the ear or the coat and saying: “Enough! You will spend the rest of break perfectly still at one and another corner of the yard. And the rest of the day in detention.”
      I guess those were circuit breakers…
      Stay safe.

  7. Awww… The jig’s up! You’re BUSTED as my benefactor! In reviewing comments here on my way down to leaving you my new site address I stumbled across one containing your very distinctive first name!! Hahaha!

    Speaking of warriors, I believe I may have shaken my stalkers at last — it’s taken five (count ‘em) cities, a new online identity, e-mail, phone, and website, plus the disablement of my gypsy cart’s power ports (Remember that mysterious battery drain? GPS tracker.)

    Here’s a link to the first post at the new site:


    Hope you didn’t send to the old address because I can’t open it without being rehacked.

    Bright blessings to you and all of yours,


    • LOL. I’ve been made. 🤣 You had no idea right?
      The freakin’ battery drain was a GPS tracker? Jesus. When is the next ship to Mars? I’m outta here. I sent you a first half of an answer to your mail. Is that gone too? I’ll hop to your new site…
      Au revoir.

      • Yes, you have!

        No, I had no clue — and neither did any of the mechanics or even auto electric people I talked to. It took piecing little bits of information together from all of them plus a sleazy home spy store guy and considerable online searching before I figured it out myself.

        Think I have it disabled while I seek out a people’s mechanic for removal. Certainly am in the final stages of shedding this ultra creepy asshole and his buddies (forgive le francais) — looking forward to calming down.

        Though I have certainly been at wit’s end, I figure after this last year I’ve got every justification to be hanging upside down naked from the tree branches, quoting deconstructionist gibberish 🤣

        See you ‘round bro

      • No-one in his or her right mind could figure out the tracker. I was wondering how the guy(s) could follow you from one city to the other. Well done.
        Glad you deconstructioned your tracker.
        What I was saying was, did you get my mail or should I send it again?

      • Still in process, but think I do see the light at the end of this tunnel. Stand by for oh god i hope liftoff 🤞

        Not opening old accounts at all, so resend by all means — or we can just begin all afresh… 🙏

  8. It is hard to watch, is it not, especially if one has friends or loved ones in dangerous situations, be it war, be it natural disasters.
    It is a bit disappointing that we still “need” war to solve conflicts. By now we should have risen above that,

    • Yes, we should be above that. And God, do germany and France know it, but it seems like there is no “collective” memory, as Jung thought there was a “collective unconscious”. I’m more of a Freudian myself, so I have my doubts about that.
      What is absolutely certain is that there exists a collective stupidity. LOL.

  9. Pingback: Warriors – Nelsapy

    • Thank you. That image has been with me a long time. I actually still have the poster. Rolled up, a bit scarred, but still there. I took a picture tyo serve as a model…
      And for common sense, we’ll see. Times of crisis do make new people emerge. Good or bad. But at least different. The common French election has already produced 2 or 3 major surprises. Hopefully, the good one will emerge.

    • PS. Don’t hate me, I just realize I forgot your name. I’ts not Birgit or Brigitte, it’s like a French name, right? Jeanine? (No! No! Please don’t hit me!!!)
      (Got it on the tip of my tongue…)

      • No worries Bruce 🙂
        These things happen + it’s a lot easier with people who use their names on their blog. Jeanine is right. You even remembered the funny spelling!

      • “Bruce”? (I also use Bruno Martinez here when I book a table at a restaurant. Or used to book. Easier for the locals. Happy New Year, Jeanine. (This comment was hidden by WP’s evil garden gnomes…)

  10. I really like the way you’ve written this micro story, and the evolution of the drawing. It’s so sad and dispiriting the way people solve their differences with violence and war…I guess because other ways to change the situation are unavailable. It’s a warning to democracies like ours that when people feel powerless to achieve change by other means, they turn to fighting

    • Thank you. Glad you liked it. I agree with you totally. Not sure where you live (will check in a minute) but democracies in the Western world are new affairs. In France I would say 1944, when women finally got the right to vote! And I i’ve lived in enough countries to see how easy Tyranny creeps in or back…
      And yes, there is a serious risk right now.
      Take care.

  11. The way you use local references and talk about your place n people , it really makes me feel sad as well as smile. Sad because of what has happened to your land, smile because of the way you write about it . Really good piece. Keep writing !

  12. How did the girls wear the prize? Earrings? 😳
    You have the most fascinating memories and friends, Mzungu.
    Thank you for sharing your stories and art. Bises.

    • Earrings would not have been a bad idea. No. They wore them on the forehead… 😳
      I don’t think you’re falling short on memories and friends my dear Julie… (I still remember your N.Korea trip…)
      Bises back.

    • How many schools? I didn’t go to school, except for that last year of Senior High. (Forgot the British equivalent). There were no French schools in the far away places we were posted. Home schooled. I had to learn to organize myself early to tell my Mom: “I’m finished, can I go and swim in the sea?”
      Definitely gave me Wanderlust…
      Glad you learnt something. I just talked to one of my former classmates in Addis. Situation is bad…

      • Home schooling isn’t as popular in the UK as it is in the States and the resources are not as comprehensive. Your parents were obviously very skilled and talented to be able to home school you. I prefer teacher led training, at the moment I have a brilliant sign language coach we do lessons online, a language teacher solo lessons in preparation for examination and group practice sessions in German, I wish she’d run one in Italian and French too. I also continue with professional vocal teaching and coaching. We call secondary schools High Schools too. I’m sad that places like Addis are in such turmoil I don’t understand who benefits from it to keep it going? Is there gold or other important resources there?

        I would guess it is good to have a bit of movement in childhood, it can make you very wary and cautious if you only ever live where you grow up.

      • Home schooling is actually frowned upon in France, but living in africa… My sister and I actually followed long-distance (by mail) classes from the French Ministry of Education. We’d get a fortnight’s worth of classes my mother would make sure we “took” and did the exercises. Then in Secondary school we had private teachers for science disciplines.
        So I guess that would be teacher led?
        You are very busy learning and learning… And yes, I imagine Italian and French would be a must for you…
        (On peut toujours continuer en Français… 😉) Italiano parlo un po…
        Addis? It’s the position. North-east of Africa. Djibuti is a tiny independent speck that controls the entrance to the Red sea. So Americans and China are competing for control form what I heard. Sad.
        Last but not least: “Les voyages forment la jeunesse”. (an old saying)
        Keep moving.

  13. photog, writer, historian, memoirist — & painter! I am much impressed. also saddened by the reminder of how things can change so quickly. we take peace for granted, forget that we might keep constant vigilance over it

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