Wolleka (Falasha Village)

Village in Gonder

Around 3km north of Gonder, several craft stalls with ‘Stars of David’ and ‘Falasha Village’ signs signal what’s really the former Falasha village of Wolleka. Once home to a thriving population of Falashas (Ethiopian Jews), most were airlifted to Israel in the 1980s and today none remain. There are a few original houses with interesting artwork on their fronts and the small synagogue; for Birr10 you can look inside, but be prepared for an entourage of persistent sales kids.

After the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, Falashas had their land confiscated for refusing to convert. To survive, many became skilled craftspeople. Research suggests Falashas may have provided the labour for the construction and decoration of Gonder’s castles. Sadly, the pottery for which they were once famous has mostly degenerated into half-hearted art, though the figurine trinkets do make cool souvenirs. Project Ploughshare Women’s Crafts Training Centeris helping disadvantaged women rekindle this craft, along with traditional Amhara weaving and basketry. You can watch the women working Monday to Saturday and buy the high-quality pottery every day.