Art -Based Approaches and Identity from War-Making to Peace-Making: Exploring the Ethiopian-Eritrean Experience

Gezaey Desta


Presiding on theoretical and empirical explorations, this paper views the Ethio-Eritrean scenario as a “demarcation between Romeo and Juliet” and examines it in retrospect and prospects. Art-base approaches such as music and identity bridges humanity both for conflict and peace. This paper analyzes the scenarios of art and identity for war and peace including within historic core Ethiopia and the Ethio-Eritrean ill-fated relations since the secession of Eritrea in 1993. Historic core Ethiopia has passed and inherited rooted anomalies. In the pre-1990s, the assimilation policy project under and into single dominant ethnic group, i.e., the Amhara language, culture and the Orthodox Christianity, disregarding about 85 languages and identity groups, gave birth to ethnic resentment, hostility and formations of radical groups contemplating national questions and seeking for radical changes. Fueled by the intelligentsia, the Ethiopian Students Movements, the national-wide discontents burst-out to ethnic armed liberation movements with converging and diverging motives. This ended up in secession of Eritrea in 1993 and the surgery of Ethiopia into an ethno-linguistic based federal state in 1991. Ever since and up to the existing “no war no peace” Ethio-Eritrean stalemate situation, art and identity has been used and abused for humiliation and war mobilization which was and is constructs of the political elites. Today, in a clear contrast, art and identity has continued to neutralize, resurrect and entrench fraternity within the federal democratic Ethiopia since 1991 and towards Eritrea even sometimes during war and stalemate period. The paper concludes that art and identity is a double edged sword for peace and conflict as well, presenting windows of opportunity for conflict transformation at hand yet requiring honest political commitments by the elites and by peace actors and practitioners including from below. Such creativity transcends rethinking the status quo separation into sorts of recognition, acceptance, empathy, and a route to confederal political marriage that sets out their common problem.

Keywords: Art-Based Approaches, Music and Identity, peacemaking, state formation and nation building, Ethiopia assimilation policy project, ethno-linguistic based federalism, Ethio-Eritrean “no war, no peace” situation.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-574X ISSN (Online)2224-8951

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