BY GIRMACHEW GASHAW
Today’s Guest is the winner of the 2021 Ghanaian Beauty pageant Dr. Setor Arba Norgbe. By profession, Setor is a medical Doctor. But because of her long time passion for becoming a person that accomplishes extraordinary feats, she decided to compete at the famous Ghanaian Beauty Contest/ pageant. One of the challenges of the contestants is to choose any African country and display how she promotes the culture, history … etc.
Fortunately, she won the competition partly as she chose to project Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government warmly welcomed her as she promoted Ethiopia to the rest of the world using the Ghanaian beauty contest pageant platform as a tool. She has visited Ethiopia, the country that she proudly calls “the country of her ancestors” to realize her dream of knowing her “Second Home”. In her brief stay with The Ethiopian newspaper, she raised a range of issues about Ethiopia in particular and Africa in general. Have a nice read!
First of all, I would like to thank you on behalf of our esteemed readers for your zeal to provide this interview, particularly to The Newspaper. How do you explain Ghanaian Beauty Contest? Did you expect to win the pageant? You raised many points about Ethiopia, what encouraged you to do so? Is that helping you to win the competition?
Generally, Ghanaian’s are beautiful. The competition brings together very intelligent women to promote culture and unity. That is their theme- promoting Ghanaian culture and African culture as a whole. In the particular competition that I went into, there was one particular week where we promote the African culture and I am fortunate to promote Ethiopia. Did I expect to win an award that night? I do not know what I expected that night but I think that I was graceful; so somehow I picked up the award. Did I expect to be an award winner in the whole competition? I do not know I just said that I am pretty much to put out my best, and put out my knowledge about Ethiopia.
Yes, my knowledge about Ethiopia helped me to be an award winner in Ghana’s beauty contest. Ethiopians came together to rally behind me, and 110 million Ethiopians in Ethiopia and thousands of others all around the world sent me so many messages congratulating me on the depth of knowledge that I had about Ethiopia. That was a surprise to me because I used one week to learn about Ethiopia. And I seem to have the nitty-gritty of Ethiopia and actually, pretty much I was grateful because I am here right now to be an award winner to be in Ethiopia.
Do you have a plan to participate in the international beauty contest? If yes, is the visit helping you to further explain Ethiopia’s history, culture and traditions than ever before?
As I said, you never say never! Do I think about participating in the international beauty contest? Yes, why not? If the opportunity opens up for me to go to the international beauty pageant where I will be able to showcase everything that Africa has to the whole world, yes I would. Do I intend to learn more about Ethiopia? Yes! I will never stop learning even about Ghana, where I come from, even about Nigeria, even about South Africa.
I keep learning as it is African culture and I intend to showcase it to the world-yes. Because I intend to showcase as I believe that Africa yet not discovered they need to know the truth about Africa. They need to know the right perception about Africa because there are beautiful people in Africa with beautiful resources and a very powerful nation. So the world out there needs to know who and what Africa is.
Did you have a desire to visit Ethiopia? What was your feeling when you were invited? How did you get the welcoming ceremony and hospitality?
This is a very interesting question because when I was in medical school, there was an opportunity. After all, I was part of the African Union students, African Union medical school. Some of the leaders had to come to Ethiopia, to come and observe at one of the African Union summits. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity. Ethiopia is a country I had to go to for medical school.
When the Ethiopian government invited me, I was surprised! Because I knew the way a lot of Ethiopians all over the world supported me, but I did not do so much to Ethiopians to the extent that the government found, what I did very important is the government officials pay attention to very important things. The little speech I did in less than two minutes meant so much for them. I was pretty much graceful.
The welcoming ceremony, trust me! I did not expect it. I was so grateful because I had just come on a tour and I got to the airport. Even before I come out of the aircraft the people outside welcome me with a placard, “Her Excellency, you’re welcome” and there was a coffee ceremony for me, there is traditional dancing. I love dancing and participating in the dancing ceremony. I was very happy. I was very grateful. I understood in-depth how much the two minutes speech I did was many for Ethiopians and I just believed that this is probably our ancestors’ home and I bonded with Ethiopians so well. Yes! I was surprised and grateful! I was happy! So, thank you Ethiopia.
Do you think that Africa and the rest of the world know Ethiopia well? If not, what do you advice in terms of popularizing its tourism, investment and the like?
First of all, I am going to take that question in bits. I doubt that the rest of Africa knows about Ethiopia. I do think a lot of Africans know about each other and that is a flaw that we need to fix in Africa. We must begin to learn about each other i.e. the only way to come together and promote Africa unity and peace.
We can do that through tourism, and investment opportunities like you said. Now, the African free trade area has been introduced as you said. So, we have to begin to look very carefully at some of these things. For me, in my little capacity, I intend to start an African unity campaign that includes the Ethio-Ghana friendship that I have already put across on almost every media to help facilitate the friendship between Ghana and Ethiopia.
In the future, I hope to be able to create this friendship between other African countries as well. First and foremost, Africa has to begin to learn the culture of all African history. I went to the African Union building and I could see a lot of African history that I didn’t even know. I went to Unity Park and there is a whole lot of history from Emperor Menelik II to a whole lot of African history that I am sure that a lot of Africans do not know. So, we have to start from us, as Africans so that we begin to understand each other.
I think there is an erroneous perception of what Africa is out there, because there are a lot of things in this continent that the world doesn’t know and should know. And we need people; intelligent men and very beautiful women, who project the whole continent for the international community to see Africa. Trust me! There is a lot in every country on the African continent. We need to start voicing up what Africa is.
In your tweet, you put Ethiopia in plain words: “Second home” Would you explain it a bit further?
After visiting Unity Park, I learnt something- the region of Afar where the origin of all human beings is from. So clearly, we all come from Ethiopia anyways because, I am amazed at the way I can connect both physically and spiritually, we are almost Ethiopian. And who would have thought of this Ghana’s beauty pageant, I think it is a 40 something edition. It has been going on for years. I think I am the first Ghanaian to have that kind of international recognition in the competition and it came because of Ethiopia. And it is interesting how people all over the world, whom I thought I did not know and even now connect with me; easily embrace me like we had known misses like I was born here. Trust me! This is my second home!
What do you say about pan African-ism? What do you contribute to the success of Pan African-ism?
Pan- Africanism is promoting African unity and supporting African stand. For me, as I said, the first step for us to understand one person as Africans and the only way to understand that we are one people as Africans is to learn about each other. All the countries in Africa have to begin to accept that others are brothers and accept that they are one people. That is the first step.
First, we have to understand that we are one people and begin to share ideologies on how to push the African continent together. Like I said, in my little way, I am beginning to promote African unity and pan African-ism. Firstly, by starting the Ethio-Ghana friendship that we already talked about; which I hope to expand it to other countries once I have an affiliation with them.
Pan African-ism – I have a huge Twitter, Instagram and Face book followers. What am I using this for if not projecting Africa? So, these are what I would do in my little ways. Chat with the people I have influence over to see how we can push African unity. That is what I am doing and that is what I have set out to do.
What is your sentiment about neocolonialism which is emerging now? How could Africans resist such western pressure? What is your take on that?
African countries should be free in their affairs, as every country is an independent state. Every independent state has its own rules and regulations. It should run its internal affairs free from international interference. Now, how are Africans going to do that? The only way as a person you can stand everybody to interfere is by being able to develop your resources. Because the more you go to the international community for funds, we will remain under international interference. That is why African unity is important. We have to begin to understand what Africans have. What do we Africans have? We have resources; my country has gold, coal. Ethiopia which is also my country has coffee and very beautiful resources that we should have to explore and internally develop.
Secondly, you cannot go forward without understanding where you are coming from. And you find that many Africans do not even understand their history. If they don’t know it, how can they understand it? These are the things that we have to do to promote African history, the true indigenous African history. The one that had our forefathers doing very wonderful architecture; the one I saw in Lalibela which cannot be explained; the beautiful church and architecture. And the one I saw our forefathers making was a very interesting survival method back in the day.
In Unity Park, I saw the ancient and historic buildings, historic things. I went and said if they had all these things hundred years ago, beautifully crafted cups out of the horn animals but still have resisted the test of time till now. What are we doing now with all the technology? You cannot go forward until you understand where you are coming from. And I talk about the true indigenous African history, not the one we have been made to believe. Does the true one show how intelligent our forefathers were? Until we understand those things we are being sorted at.
Another thing is, being able to teach people to accept themselves as Africans. I am Setor Norbge. That is my name and indigenous traditional Volta region name from Ghana. That is the first step. My father gave me a traditional name so that I could understand where I was coming from as a Ghanaian. Fortunately, I came here; to Ethiopia and almost every region gave me a beautiful traditional name. In Sidama, they named me “Faya”, in Oromia they named me “Beshatu ‘’. These are things that we should be able to stand accepting our names, culture, and origin. These are the first two steps. If we can do the first two steps, the rest is a walk in the park. Understand your history, accept who you are and develop resources. That is the only way we can break away from international interference.
Do you encourage Africans to use traditional dresses instead of buying expensive costumes from western countries? How do we value our traditions?
I was in Sidama a few days ago. Those clothes with accessories that I was given in Sidama are very beautiful. Why can’t we develop all these things? We can develop them. I spent a lot of time in Unity Park; I found a lot of information in the Park which was so grateful that Dr. Abiy had the idea to put up the Unity Park that has so much information in that place. I saw the clothes of Emperor Haile-Selassie I, the clothes of Empress Zewditu, her bed and clothes. These cloaks are more beautiful and indigenous than many dresses that we wear these days. Why can’t we go back to these things? As time goes by, when you add a little trick or two these are African things and they are all very beautiful.
So how can we make it attractive to the international community? I am not saying that there is anything wrong with international clothes because obviously If we project our culture and start wearing them. We should be able to put our things, market our things for the international community to embrace. I want somebody to go to Unity Park and see what I saw today in the history part of it where the palaces and clothes of all these Emperors, crowns made of beautiful metals and ask myself: how do they do all these handmade costumes. Why aren’t we doing these things with even more technology? So I think these are things that we can do. So, it is time for us to project more African clothes and there is no doubt about that.
You were promoting Ethiopia emphasizing that Ethiopia has a great significance to the continent? What does that mean?
Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonized. That is an interesting history. It means that you are the mother of the nation. You are practically the first country in Africa as every country was colonized somehow through the breakthrough. My country Ghana first gained independence from sub-Saharan Africa but we are still colonized. However, Ethiopia has never been colonized. That is beautiful and conscientious Ethiopians about the importance of Ethiopia.
The heart of Africa lies here because the headquarters of the African Union is seated here. What does African Union mean? It means that Ethiopia has a very significant role to play when it comes to uniting all these 50 + countries across the continent. I stood in the African Union building and I was told by my tour guide “you are standing in the whole of Africa”. That was true. I was standing in 50 something countries building and this building is in Ethiopia.
Women and girls in Africa have been suffering due to war, lack of education, traditional harmful practices and the like. Could you reflect on that?
That is heartbreaking in the year 2022; women are suffering due to these things especially in Africa. As I said, the only way we can move away from that is, to conscientise ourselves as Africans to understand what we are as Africans. Secondly, women have to understand their place in society. We have moved away from the place where women were believed to be good for the kitchen. I am sitting here today and I am speaking to 110 million Ethiopians sitting in their home and listening to my ideas about Africa. Who says the next young girl could not even have brighter ideas than the one I am sitting for projecting? We need to make our young girls believe that they are important to their society and their voices are also very relevant.
I am very happy when I see her Excellency the President of Ethiopia, Sahle Work Zewde who’s a very graceful one. I was grateful. She greeted me with a local Ghanaian language “Akwaaba” which is the way somebody learned to know another African country. Basically what I am saying is that we Africans both men and women need to begin to move away from the ideology that women are good for the kitchen, or women should take the relegating room. We should start projecting our women. Our women should make the effort to protect themselves and I see Ethiopia doing a great job because I met a lot of women in very powerful positions.
About harmful traditional practices, the only way to stop the harmful practice is the rules made in our constitution to protect not only women but any person against any sort of harmful traditional practices and make sure these laws are implemented. That is the only way we can protect human rights for young girls who probably do not understand what they mean to their society.
Thank you for your willingness.
Thank you, Ethiopia
The January 29/2022