They worshipped the serpent. / They planned to kill the serpent. / They mixed poison. / They fed the poison to the goat. / They took the goat. / They gave the goat to the serpent. / The serpent was dead. / They took the news to the King.
And so begins the story of the Kebra Nagast. Laid out in forty four pictures the Ethiopian Epic tells the mythical history, lineage and genealogy of Ethiopian rulers.
The main story depicted in the scroll is the meeting of Solomon and Sheba. The scroll exhibited in the museum is eleven rows of four pictures, sometimes scrolls are arrayed as four rows of eleven pictures, but painters keep to the same subject matter and order although minor stylistic changes occur artist to artist.
Storytellers have long used these scrolls as a backdrop and guide to their tellings of this epic and the tradition continues today.
We'd like to thank storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton for sharing the fruits of her researches into The Kebra Nagast and storyteller Helen East who has loaned this beautiful story cloth to the museum.
Come along to the museum and we'd be happy to talk you through the other thirty six pictures painted onto the canvas scroll.