Grand daughter of Emperor Yohannis IV.
As a devout Christian, without any formal art education produced and dedicated spiritual paintings to the church….Yisehak’s grandmother.
Her Heritage – Princess Wellete Israel was born on January 23, 1914. A member of the Ethiopian aristocracy, she was the great granddaughter of Emperor Yohannes IV. Her childhood was as extraordinary as it was brief. In 1925, at the age of eleven, she became a wife and in 1927, at age thirteen she had her first born, a son, Zewde. Her marriage to Dejazmach Gabre-Sellassie ended in due to his death, leaving her a widow at the tender age of sixteen.
Two years later, in 1932, a second proposal of marriage was sealed. Marriages of the nobility were driven by political maneuvers, a common practice of that era. While the first arranged marriage was part and parcel of a peace accord between two regional (Tigrean) political rivals. The second marriage was a tactical move to merge the old Northern bloodlines with the new Shoan ruling family. This marriage, between the daughter of Ras Seyum Mengesha of Tigre and the son of the newly coronated Emperor Haile-Sellassie I, therefore served the purpose of consolidating the central (Shoan) power structure and laid the ground-work for future unity and expansion of that dynasty. She married the crown prince, Merid Azmach Asfa-wossen. In 1934 at the age of twenty, she bore her second child, a daughter, Edjigayehu. Princess Wellete Israel joined the Royal family in exile in 1936, and soon after the end of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1943, her second marriage also ended, this time in divorce. From this time forward, she became an ascetic, and devoted her life to a remarkable spiritual journey.
Love of knowledge –
From a young age, she was driven with a sense of purpose, inspired by her devotion to her faith in the Ethiopian Tewahedo religion. This aspiration permeated every aspect of her life and found expression in the manner and extent to which she cultivated a vast body of knowledge about the Ethiopian Tewahedo faith and its ancient ecclesiastic heritage. She also exerted much energy in the study of Geez, hymnology, Qine poems (a hymn genre of Ethiopian literature) as part of liturgical tradition, apocrypha, the miracles, and lives of the Saints. In addition, she had a great appreciation for religious paintings and iconography. Here too she developed her God-given talent and produced a number of icons. Her work which consisted of depictions of the scriptural scenes, were intended as an offering to the church.
Over the course of her seventy four years, she was by any standard, a scholar of inestimable stature. Her knowledge was not only gleaned from the written books but no less significantly, she garnished great insight and wisdom from the rich Ethiopian oral tradition. This she sought out and acquired from numerous sources, mostly elders but also other talented individuals. Similarly, she became very skilled in homeopathy. She was tireless in the pursuit of knowledge and she spent her life wisely collecting, teaching, and applying her knowledge in practical terms. She gave spiritual counsel, shared her wisdom freely and generously for anyone who sought it.