NEW YORK – Lizy Manola’s photographs are breathtaking. Her new book, Ethiopian Highlands, which reveals the land and people of an Ancient Eastern Orthodox nation, is spellbinding.
Published by New York-based Assoiling Publishing at the same time the photos were being exhibited at the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Manola’s photographs focus on the religious communities, the ceremonies, the mystical, the customs and traditions of the East African nation that have their origins in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Manola, who divides her time between New York and Athens, visited the headquarters of The National Herald to talk about her book and her impressions of Ethiopia.
As she stated in the book’s preface, Manola visited Ethiopia a few years ago as a tourist, but her experience of its mountains, churches and monasteries “took my breath away, so I decided to visit not once but seven times more times with my camera,” – which enabled her to capture the essence of a nation
“I took the photos without flash and tripod,” she said, “because I had the utmost respect for the places. It was not ideal technically, but emotionally it was perfect.” Some would say miraculous.
She was charmed and impressed even more by this people than by Ethiopia’s natural beauty – which is spectacular.
“It is a huge country with great beauty. The north and south are very different. Christianity is prevalent in the northwest of the country and Islam in the South. There are also pagans of all races in the South,” she said.
Referring to the Church services she attended and the solemn prayers she observed, Manolis said “it is captivating.”
“Their faith is really alive. The Ethiopians have had wretched lives. They have suffered famines, plagues, and wars. Their only ally in all that misery is their faith, which unites them. They are people with great dignity. I saw bright within those people and was deeply moved, even though I am not a particularly religious person. They are a special people.”
She also noted that there is a small Greek community there, and said “The Ethiopians love the Greeks. They respect them.”
They live an acetic life. “I have met a woman who has not visited the neighboring village in thirty years. Their life is centered on the fields and cooking at home, and their social life is intertwined with their religious life,” she said.
Ethiopians enter church barefoot, do not eat pork and are circumcised, so they received a mixture of customs from Christianity and Judaism. Their Churches, which bear resemblances to the Temple of Solomon, are evidence that they are descended from Jews.
Manolas is very grateful to Assouline Publishing. She said, “I respect this company because they produced the book exactly as I wanted so that I could convey everything to my readers.”