The Ethiopians storm the Italian fort at Mekele. This victory was prelude to rout of Italians at Adwa. Artwork: Obedirwoth Ken Darnton
The kickstarter campaign for a new dramatic-history graphic book about the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopia’s spectacular 1896 victory over an invading Italian army seeking to colonize the country has raised $9,397 and is on track to meet its target of $15,750 with 10 days left in the campaign.
The book is titled “ADWA: Empress Taytu and Emperor Menelik in Love and War.”
“I’m grateful for the support this project has received. This is a story that needs to be more widely known,” says Milton Allimadi, author of the book. “As a result of its victory at Adwa, Ethiopia was the only African country not conquered by a European power in the 19th century.”
“The campaign has already reached 58% of its target. With a little extra support over the next 10 days we’ll be able to cross the finish line,” Allimadi says.
During the last 20 years of the 19th century there was a mad rush by European powers who had recently undergone industrialization to conquer territory in Africa; the Europeans were desperate for raw materials, cheap labor, and captive markets in Africa for their manufactured products.
The period of brutal colonial conquest was referred to as “The Scramble for Africa.” The European powers met at what became known as The Berlin Conference, in Germany, from November 15,1884 to February 26, 1885.
At the Conference the European powers–Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain–carved out the African continent among themselves. “I’m determined to get my share of this magnificent African cake,” King Leopold II of the Belgians said. The United States attended as observers.
African leaders were not even aware that a meeting was being conducted to partition the continent.
Many of them had already been engaged in fighting the armies of the European invaders. Between 1884 and 1885 Muhammed Ahmed bin Abd Allah, the Mahdi, had defeated and killed Britain’s Gen. Charles Gordon at the Battle of Khartoum. In West Africa, Samori Ture, defeated French colonialist invaders in several battles until he was ultimately captured. By 1910 almost all of Africa had been conquered. During his diabolical reign over Congo Leopold II’s regime exterminated as estimated 10 million Africans through massacres, mutilations, and slave labor.
It was in Ethiopia, at Adwa, that European imperialism and white supremacy met its deadliest defeat in Africa on March 1, 1896.
Prior to the battle, while still in Rome, Italian commander in chief of the invasion, Gen. Oreste Baratieri, had promised Italy’s King Umberto that he’d return to Rome with Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik II in a cage.
Instead, the Ethiopians killed nearly 3,000 Italian soldiers, including two generals. They captured an almost equal number of Italians as prisoners of war, including one general. They also captured dozens of artillery pieces and thousands of guns. Gen. Baratieri himself fled the battlefield for his life.
During the battle, Empress Taytu Betul, a remarkably strong and determined woman, had 6,000 men under her command. It was the Empress who pressed her husband Emperor Menelik to wage war rather than negotiate with Italian imperialism.
The Italian prisoners were marched off to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Women lined on each side of the road, jeering at and spitting on the rag-tag prisoners as they stumbled into the capital.
In Addis Ababa, the prisoners were put to work cleaning and building the city, or sent to work on farms. Suddenly, the tables had been temporarily turned, with Europeans working like enslaved people, supervised by Africans.
The prisoners were released the following year after Italy paid reparations to Ethiopia.
“A successful Kickstarter will allow this story to come to life to a youthful American audience through my graphic book,” Allimadi says. “It’s important for the youth, especially African Americans, but even those on the African continent and in the African Diaspora in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and South America to know that Africans resisted colonial conquest and that in Ethiopia they scored a tremendous victory.”
The book will contain between 28 and 30 original full-color pieces by Ugandan artist Obedirwoth Ken Darnton. The proposed publication date is by mid-November 2022.
Link to the Kickstarter