Monday, 12 September 2011

A Tryst with Philately-Some of my Ethiopian Stamps



I made my first stamp album way back in 1975, and those were the days when it was easier to come across a large variety of stamps. By 1975, I had quite a few stamps, mostly Ethiopian stamps. Once I got hooked on to collecting stamps, there was no turning back, and here I am, still an avid collector of stamps, and coins. Thus it wouldn’t be wrong to state that I am both a Numismatist and a Philatelist. When I was working in Delhi, I met Mr.Pulak Gupta, another Philately expert, and my hobby got a fillip! What turned me on as a young stamp-collector was to see colourful stamps belonging to different countries, then it was all about owning the whole series of stamps. I remember how I used to exchange stamps with friends. Gradually, novel shapes of stamps began to attract me. Today, I have lots of stamps which are triangular in shape! The hunt for rare stamps began long ago, and I began looking for rare stamps. By rare it would mean a stamp that was printed the wrong side, or perhaps a stamp which was printed in very few numbers!


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Afewerk Tekle was a very well known Ethiopian Painter and the above two stamps bear his stamp!


My brief  association with the Department of Posts and Telegraph made me realise the importance of First Day Covers, the importance of first day issues, and cancellations. I learned that postal stationary too is collectible! Thus, under postal stationary you have greeting cards with stamps printed on the envelops!


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The language in both the stamps is French. Later on, French was replaced by English. The first stamp depicts Lake Tana, an ancient and rather Mythical lake,  while the second stamp depicts the famous Blue-Nile falls. In Amharic, it is translated as Tississat, literally, “water that smokes!” The Ubiquitous Dakota, or DC-3 can be seen flying over the landscape. The DC-3 was a versatile workhorse, it was rugged and could land on a hastily cleared runway!


Massawa was an important sea-port in Ethiopia. Today, it is part of Eritrea.

There is a lot that the stamp collector learns from his stamps. As a stamp collector, you learn about the scripts, languages, currency, history, flora, fauna, important personalities, discoveries, inventions, Geography, …etc. The list is endless! I was especially interested in collecting Ethiopian Stamps belonging to the era of Haile Selassie’s  reign. The language in the earlier stamps of the Emperor Haile Selassie is French, showing the closeness that the Ethiopians shared with the French. And so, I too ended learning French from Alliance Francaise! The stamps belonging to the period of Haile Selassie’s reign point out to a fledgling Nation coming to term with modern science, setting up of Railways, Dams, and discovery of new species of animals, birds, plants, a desire to depict the Ethnic Culture, and a depiction of various people of historical importance. It wouldn’t be wrong to state that stamps are a window into a country’s culture, customs, traditions, Geography, History, language…etc.

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The above three stamps are part of a series of stamps with different denominations. They portray the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile-Selassie who was overthrown by Mengistu Haile Mariam. This series of stamps was replaced by the series of stamps shown below during the years when Mengistu was the Chairman of Ethiopia:



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If you look closely you will notice that the symbol in the centre represents the Plough-Bit. It symbolises the agrarian Nature of the country. This symbol is significant as it came after the Ethiopian famine that struck the country in the middle seventies.


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1 comment:

  1. There is simply no end to the topics you can write on. All you need is an inspiration and there you go . The above has rekindled my childhood hobby of collecting stamps . Do you know , I took out my collection after nearly 12 years and sat to gaze at them in excitement. I plan to pass this interesting hobby to my children. I remember that in the late ‘70’s and early 80’s we used to exchange stamps with our friends from Greece , Ethiopia , Ireland and especially the ones you used to get from Malta. Stamp collecting was a major pass time with friends from all over the world and at the Embassy . I remember how we used to go to British Council and used to also get the pen pal list.