Tsehai Publishers is an independent, academic press based at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. The press focuses primarily on indigenous African knowledge production, and in particular subjects relating to Ethiopia. It has various imprints, and is run by its founder, exiled Ethiopian journalist and publisher Elias Wondimu.
Wondimu founded Tsehai Publishers in 1998. From 1998 to 2001, he ran the company while also working full-time, as managing editor of the Ethiopian Review and for UCLA-based Chicano journal Aztlán. In an interview with Tadias Magazine, Wondimu explained the inception of Tsehai Publishers. “Living in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, I noticed a major void in the publishing field on the subject of Ethiopia. Hardly any literature was available on Ethiopia, and what was there was seriously incomplete and flawed. I was tired of waiting for change to happen, and decided to take matters into my own hands.”
Wondimu explains, “In 2001, I left a job at UCLA and began running Tsehai full time. Since then Tsehai has published over 60 books, started three academic journals, and founded three imprints—African Academic Press, Marymount Institute Press and Chereka Books.”
In 2008, Tsehai moved its headquarters to Marymount Institute, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Together, Wondimu and Marymount Institute Director Dr. Theresia de Vroom founded Marymount Institute Press, an imprint dedicated to upholding the tenets of the Marian tradition. The Press has “a commitment to artistic diversity, social justice, internationality, and knowledge production.”
In August 2013, Tsehai Publishers launched a new venture, Tsehai Films, a production company through which it plans to release documentary films exploring subjects such as media bias and perception of Africa. Tsehai Films released two short films on Vimeo in 2013, one exploring photographer Robert Radin’s philosophies on art and life, the other looking at the way in which English scholars Richard and Rita Pankhurst made Ethiopia their home.
Mengistu Hailemariam Scandal
In January 2012, the website Debteraw.com posted a pirated copy of Ethiopian politician Mengistu Haile Mariam’s memoir, which was slated for release by Tsehai that same winter. The UK-based site is affiliated with the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party, a Marxist group.
The electronic distribution of the book was an act of protest against Tsehai’s decision to publish the volume. Debteraw.com released the following statement in the wake of its actions: “Mass murderer and brutal dictator Mengsitu Haile Mariam (exiled in Harare, Zimbabwe) has written a 500+ pages book that has been published by Tsehai Publisher[s] of Los Angeles. This mass murderer has not yet atoned or paid for his horrendous crimes and the mass killings of the Red Terror. He now hopes to benefit from the sale of his book of lies. We strongly feel that this criminal should be tried before a court of law and should be hindered from benefiting from his crime. Thus, we have published the book in PDF and we are posting it for free usage of all interested readers."
Wondimu responded to the actions of Debteraw.com by saying, “Professional publishers publish books coming from various political and ideological quarters and by people who have been involved in all kinds of activities. This does not mean publishers agree with the contents of the book they publish. Publishers are not politicians or judges. They are not agents of censorship. They believe in freedom of expression, in the intelligence of the reading public, its capacity to separate the wheat from the chaff and to make informed judgments. This is precisely the perspective of Tsehai publishers also.”
From Tsehai's section of the Marymount Institute website: “Tsehai Publishers exists to give voice to otherwise voiceless writers, cultures, peoples, histories, nations, and regions.
Tsehai Publishers exists to provide a platform for indigenous African knowledge production -- to create an alternative, honest, homegrown narrative of Africa divorced from the cultural bias, value judgements, and historical interpretation and misinformation pervading Western media.
Tsehai Publishers exists to provide the next generation of African leaders and thinkers access to their own cultural, historical, and academic heritage.”
Tsehai publishers new books and re-publishes rare, out-of-print, and hard-to-find volumes of some importance.
Tsehai publishes several new volumes each year, ranging in nature from biographies (Soaring on Winged Verse: The Life of Ethiopian Poet Playwright Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin) to history (Haile Selassie’s Government), political volumes (A Political History of the Tigray People's Liberation Front Revolt, Ideology, and Mobilization in Ethiopia), and memoirs (Ethiopian Reminiscences).
As of 2013, the company is prepping the publication of its first two coffee table books, Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow and Uniting a Continent: The OAU at 50. The former is a book of profiles of prominent Ethiopians of the diaspora, those who left their home country and found professional and personal success in their new adopted homes. The book exists as a means of combating media bias against Ethiopia while also inspiring a young generation of Ethiopians the world over.
Uniting a Continent is a celebration of the Organisation for African Unity on its 50th anniversary. The book highlights the positive aspects of the Organization, and contains profiles of the attendees of the first session of the OUA in 1963, newly commissioned portraits of those profiled, information in each member country, historical photographs, and text of speeches given at the first session.
Tsehai has republished numerous out-of-print or hard-to-find books of some importance to Ethiopian or African studies. Some of Tsehai's republished titles include Richard Pankhurst's canonical Economic History of Ethiopia (1800 – 1935) and Donald N. Levine's Wax & Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture.
International Journal of Ethiopian Studies
Tsehai Publishers’ International Journal of Ethiopian Studies (IJES)is a bi-annual publication containing scholarship on Ethiopian history, culture, politics, and more. The journal contains new scholarship in English and Amharic, as well as newly translated pieces, poetry, important government documents, and other relevant pieces.
The December 2012 issue of IJES contained recently declassified documents written by Henry Kissinger for then president Richard Nixon in anticipation of Ethiopian emperor Halie Selassie’s arrival in Washington DC on a diplomatic mission.
- "Tsehai Publishers: History". Marymount Institute Official Site. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Miller, Anthony. "Ethiopian Dreams". LA Weekly. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Q&A with Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers". Tadias Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "About the Marymount Institute Press". Marymount Institute Official Site. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Tsehai Films Official Facebook Page". Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Tsehai Films". Official Tsehai Films Vimeo. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Levine, Donald N. "Illegal PDF of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Memoir". Tadias Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Tsehai Publishers: Mission". Marymount Institute Official Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Soaring on Winged Verse". Tsehai Publishers Webstore. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Haile Selassie's Government". Tsehai Publishers Webstore.
- "A Political History of the Tigray People's Liberation Front". Tsehai Publishers Webstore. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Ethiopian Reminiscenes". Tsehai Publishers Webstore.
- "Tsehai Publishers: Upcoming & Recent Books". Marymount Institute Official Site. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow Campaign". Kickstarter. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Wondimu, Elias. "7 Ethiopian Women to Watch". Ms. Afropolitan. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Economic History of Ethiopia (1800 - 1935)". Tsehai Publishers Webstore. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Wax & Gold". Tsehai Publishers Webstore. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "International Journal of Ethiopian Studies". Tsehai Publishers Webstore. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "International Journal of Ethiopian Studies". JSTOR. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "IJES: VI; 1&2 - Content". Tsehai Publishers Webstore. Retrieved 5 September 2013.