In 1996, I set up a project with the British Council in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to collect stories from traditional storytellers in the many regions of Ethiopia. The aim of the project was to write readers in simplified English, so that Ethiopian school children could increase their fluency in reading English while learning and enjoying their own cultural heritage.
Over five long journeys, I travelled the length and breadth of Ethiopia, from the blisteringly hot Afar region in the north east, through the cool highlands of Tigray and Amhara, to the lakes and hills of the vast lands of Oromia, the ancient walled city of Harar, the steamy heat of Gambela, the patchwork of languages and cultures in the Omo Valley and the region of Beni-Shangul Gumuz. A great variety of storytellers contributed to the project, and they told me many interesting and beautiful stories. My account of the journeys, the storytellers and the stories has been published under the title The Lure of the Honey Bird.
Eight books were published in the end, but only a fraction of the stories were used. In 2010 the Christensen Foundation came to the rescue and provided a grant to my colleague, Michael Sargent, and myself so that we could create a website in English and Amharic, containing all of the 300 stories I collected. Click on the link below to visit it, and read the huge variety of stories.
A new website containing the readers and accompanying exercise material is now online.