Friday, December 9, 2022
HomeOpinionRobyn Howes' Repatriation of Eleven  Ethiopian manuscripts from Johannesburg, South  Africa to...

Robyn Howes’ Repatriation of Eleven  Ethiopian manuscripts from Johannesburg, South  Africa to Ethiopia’s National Archives and  Library Agency 

Ethiopian Manuscripts  _ South Africa

Robyn Howes, Steve Delamarter, Kaleab Demeke, Yikunnoamlak Mezgebu Introduction (Yikunnoamlak Mezgebu) 

We are here today to witness the repatriation of a collection of eleven manuscripts to  Ethiopia. They have been absent from the country for more than sixty years. Ms. Robyn  Howes of Johannesburg, South Africa, has owned the collection for six years. She has  brought the manuscripts back to Addis Ababa to turn them over to the National Archives and  Library Agency. It is appropriate today that we should tell the stories of where these  manuscripts came from, how they came into the hands of a German family in Ethiopia in the  1950’s, how they were moved to South Africa, how they were eventually bought by Ms.  Howes, and why she desires to give them back to Ethiopia today.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you Ms. Robyn Howes. 

The Provenance of the Collection with Robyn  Howes, 2016 to 2022 (Robyn Howes) 

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and future scholars. I am the one who is honored to  present to you today (along with my colleagues Prof Delamater, Mr. Kaleab Demeke and  dignitaries at NALA (Mr. Yikunnoamlak Mezgebu). 

I was born in Durban, South Africa in 1971 and raised in Pretoria as part of a large  Anglican Family. We were raised as part of a christian church community which had no  additional significance other than being immersed in community service and a respect for the  efforts of others. My parents had always instilled in us kids that you are here in service to 

Robyn Howes’ Repatriation of Eleven Ethiopian Mss from Johannesburg to Ethiopia’s NALA 

others in everything that you do. So, I went on with my life as a young adult and progressed  in a career in medical In Vitro Diagnostics which continues to fill my life today. The only thing  that I kept with me during my younger years and throughout my life was a simple bible which  was the hallmark of my tiny contribution to our community church being built in Pretoria  (South Africa, Corpus Christi Anglican Church). My brother Vernon Foster is now an  Anglican Priest so has been a great resource in understanding the role of bibles and prayer  books used during the church service, and his reluctance to change utilizing digital  platforms. 

So, I was very surprised at my response when I was presented with an opportunity in  2016 to “have a look” at this bible which my friend Doron Locketz1 had in his bookshop.  Doron always knew the special interests of his customers and would always let you have  “first peek” at whatever treasures he had stashed behind his counter. I had already collected  rare books on the KoiSan people for safekeeping and future donation. It so happened that  Markus Reichardt and myself were special collectors. Wandering around his tiny bookshop  was like visiting a living museum. During these years (2015 – 2019) I had begun to get a  sense that all these precious books and collections would soon disappear and be eternally  lost in time. I got a sense that as the older generation would pass away, their children would  dump boxes on the doorstep of the bookshop. The number of bookshops have been  diminishing rapidly over this very short period of 5 years along with antique collections at an  alarming rate.  

Read full story in a PDF formant HERE

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