Many of you that are a part of the Berhan Teff community know that all our Brown Teff Flour & Grain products feature a stunning illustration of a regal African Emperor sitting with his pet lions. What many don’t know is that the scene depicted in the illustration actually took place. Emperor Tewodros II was widely known to take meetings with his pet lions around him, especially when meeting with foreign guests. An Ethiopian hero, he is most widely known for uniting Ethiopia and ensuring that it remained uncolonized to this very day, even to the point where he took his own life to prevent invading British Forces from capturing and parading him. Emperor Tewodros II represented everything that colonizers feared, being a proud African ruler who saw unity as strength and would not let domestic or foreign issues delay that vision from becoming reality. Under his rule Ethiopia became united, putting an end to the chaotic “Era of Princes” that had split the great empire for centuries and led to parts of modern day Eritrea being occupied by colonial forces of the Ottoman Turks. Despite being long-time allies with Britain, when Emperor Tewodros called on them to join his forces to repel the Ottoman Turks his requests fell on deaf ears. Realizing their betrayal he furiously jailed the British Consul and other European officials and diplomats. Britain sent their response to his request with over 60,000 soldiers and war elephants except this time their target was not the Ottoman Turks but Ethiopia itself. With his forces divided and after being abandoned by many of his own people, he bravely rallied his remaining followers and fought bravely and ferociously.
During the final battle, after being surrounded on all sides and down to his last bullet he shot himself instead of surrendering, being captured and paraded around by his former allies. After the battle the British went on a looting spree taking so much treasure they needed 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry it away, among which were over 500 sacred ancient manuscripts, crowns, crosses and chalices made of gold, silver and copper. The British also cut and took his braided hair from his head and kidnapped his 7 year old son Prince Alemayehu, the rightful heir to his father's throne, taking them to the UK. His hair was only just returned last year after countless petitions, over 150 years later, and the body of his son and most of the treasure remains unreturned till this very day. Despite this Emperor Tewodros’s vision of a strong and united Ethiopia lives on and continues to inspire Ethiopians and Africans till this day. Ethiopia still remains the only African country to remain uncolonized serving as a beacon and symbol of African unity and independence.Emperor Tewodros II is the face of our brown teff product lines not just because the illustration is stunning and captivating, but because his vision and memory must live on. He is a symbol of African pride and unity, he refused to adapt to the norms that were expected of him by foreign powers and chose a defiantly African approach to his interactions with the outside world. He refused to wear a suit or tie to any diplomatic meeting and no one dared ask him to move his lions. He established royal libraries filled with ancient Ethiopian books, manuscripts and artwork and under his rule Ethiopia entered a new modern era of unity and strength. Imagine meeting Emperor Tewodros II at his palace in Magdala, surrounded by his lions and telling stories while sharing a plate of injera.
Teff was discovered over 10,000 years ago in the Ethiopian Highlands and remains the staple of Ethiopian’s diet. To learn more about teff visit www.berhan.co and Rediscover the Lost Grain!