Universität Erfurt

Projekt von Woldemariam Ambo Zegeye M.A.

The Kingdom of Kafa: An Ecological and Political Ethnohistory from the late 14th to the early 20th centuries

Local Knowledge of Borders and spatial networks of South Western Ethiopia: Territorial trajectories of the Kingdom of Kafa in the historical map of F. J. Bieber (1905)

Prior to the mid-19th century, the geographic information about the diverse Kingdoms lying south and south west of Abyssinia (current Ethiopia) is hitherto laid before is most meagre as compared to North. As historical retrospect revealed, it was during  the mid-19th and early 20th centuries that some prominent European travellers and missionaries visited different traditional Kingdoms and small scale states  located towards south and south-western part of the oldest Abyssinia or today’s south-western Ethiopia. Nonetheless, they put down partial description about the geographical and political information of the area and sketched map of the southwestern Kingdoms like the Kingdom of Kafa based on the larger extent of local information.  However, the Austrian Fredrick Julius Bieber perhaps used his prior knowledge from the previous traveller’s account successfully, spent long time in Kafa, and collected numerous geographic and ethnographic data describing the Kingdom of Kafa and its people in the beginning of 20th century.

Historical and recently conducted anthropological evidences indicates that the Kingdom of Kafa was one of the historical independent Kingdom prior to its subjugation in 1897 and its subsequent incorporation in Ethiopia as an Ethiopian province. However, it has remained as one of Africa’s least known cultures and states yet despite its enormous significance as one of the few ancient Cushitic Gonga peoples to survive the ravages of the past. 

As a result, this study as part of my ongoing PhD project focusing on cultural and political history of the Kingdom of Kafa from ethno historical approach, throws at least a considerable light on how the local geographical conception of borders and territoriality or oral map knowledge of Kafecho represented on Bieber´s Map of Kafa. 

Furthermore, this paper also tried to describe and re-examine how local geographical and ethnographical research questions interact each other. How the neighbouring diverse interconnected historical Kingdoms represented or not, which specific ethno historical information and territories are missing or (in) visible on the Bieber´s route map of 1905 which was printed in 1908 by Perthes publishing house in Gotha. Thus, this serve as a springboard to understand the knowledge from the map and to reconstruct the entangled indigenous political institution, cultural and material history of the Kingdom of Kafa.


Zegeye Woldemariam Ambo holds BA degree in History from Haramaya University and MA degree in cultural study from Addis Ababa University. He worked in Bonga college of Teacher Education as Lecturer and coordinator in different positions for at least six years. He has also worked in Bonga University as guest lecture of Ethiopian history and Historiography. Now he is a PhD candidate in History and Cultural study in Mekelle University, Ethiopia.



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