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The Jolly Legend

The Jolly Legend
Part I
Jolly Zenachew
In the 1930’s, the world was in chaos and in the midst of World War II, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had occupied much of Ethiopia.  During his occupation, a legend was born on the streets of Addis that turned into a cultural phenomenon like no other.  This is the birth of “Jolly Zenachew” or “Jolly Be Cool”.

The word Jolly comes from the old Middle English or Old French word Joli or Jolie; which means beautiful.  Among many definitions, the dictionary also defines Jolly [jol-ee] as a fun and joyous place or a pleasurable trip or excursion.

And so it was, during this time in Ethiopia, Mussolini had set up the city of Addis Ababa with strict segregation laws between Italians and Ethiopians.  Many Italians themselves did not agree with Mussolini and hence discreetly lived within the community and the people of Ethiopia, the law, however, remained unchanged.

One of the many places that remained segregated was the Piassa Strip, just outside Arat Kilo.  Today it is one of the most popular shopping destinations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Here in the Piassa, only the Italians were allowed to enjoy the shops, the movie cinemas and the fine dining restaurants located throughout the strip.  Of course, this was back in the 1930s.  The only none Italians ever entering this area were said to be Ethiopian servants of the Italians.  These servants were usually dressed in impeccable suits which included fedora hats, and flashy dress shoes.

You see, during that time, nearly all Ethiopians wore “Gabis” the large white cotton gowns we now mostly see the older traditional people wearing, especially during church visits.  Mussolini of course thought this type of attire was uncivilized (just like much of the western mentality in regards to African clothing during the scramble for Africa) and so Mussolini ordered every local to dress more “western”.  This also was a sign that they were civilized and show no rebellious desire.  And so when a well to do Italian took his or her servant to the Piassa for shopping to carry their items, that servant was usually dressed to impress.

From a distance, the locals that were forbidden from entering this area would see that servant dressed like a star.  To them, he was cool because he had access to a place that was beautiful, that was fun, that was Jolly.  And so the first legend was born…”Jolly Zenachew” or “Jolly Be Cool.”  Today, here in Ethiopia (especially within the city limits) anyone entering a place filled with a fun atmosphere dressed in a cool and stylish way is known as Jolly – Jolly Zenach!



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Jolly Arada

Part II
Jolly Arada
In the 1930’s, the world was in chaos and in the midst of World War II, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had occupied much of Ethiopia.  During his occupation, a legend was born on the streets of Addis that turne  .... Read More

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Jolly Berd Aiyferam

Part III
Jolly Berd Aiyferam
In the 1930’s, the world was in chaos and in the midst of World War II, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had occupied much of Ethiopia.  During his occupation, a legend was born on the streets of Addis   .... Read More


 
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