In a useful report at qspirit of an early African saint with a female partner, Kittredge Cherry provides material that as well as being an intriguing report of an Ethiopian queer saint, is also a reminder that:
- Christianity was well-established in Africa more than a thousand years before the arrival of the colonial missionaries.
- Same-sex relationships were common in Africa before the colonial period
- Ethiopia had a literary tradition and written script before the colonial period
- Ethiopia was never colonised by missionaries
- “Saints” are not exclusively those formally honoured by the Vatican.
Walatta Petros is a 17th-century Ethiopian nun and saint who had an intense lifelong friendship with another nun and led a successful movement to drive out foreign missionaries. Her feast day is Nov. 23.
Her biography, written by her disciples just 30 years after her death, is the earliest known depiction of same-sex desire among women in sub-Saharan Africa. That section was censored until 2015, when the first English translation was published.
Cherry’s source is a 2015 translation by Wendy Belcher and Michael Kleiner, of a 17th-Century African Biography by by Galawdewos. Acknowledging that the story is “controversial”, for more background on the story, she includes a link to Belcher’s webpage.