Irreecha 2013 “Thanksgiving” Oromo National Holiday Colorfully Celebrated in Oromiyaa and Across the Globe

September 29, 2013) – An estimated 2-3 million festival goers and pilgrims celebrated this year’sIrreecha at Hora Arasadi in Bushoftu, Oromiyaa, despite Woyane’s attempt to disrupt the Oromo National Holiday with trivial distractions in the capital. Hundreds of Oromos across the globe have also celebrated the month-long Irreecha “Thanksgiving” festival, which was kicked off in Toronto on August 31, 2013.

PHOTOS FROM OROMIYAA:
(September 29, 2013)

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ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ጊዳዳ ታሰሩ

አንድነት የፊታችን እሁድ ለሚያደርገው ሰላማዊ ሰልፍ መቀስቀሱን፤ ኢሕአዴግ ማሰሩን ቀጥለዋል

negaso-gidada-300x202September 25, 2013 (Zehabesha) — የቀድሞ የኢትዮጵያ ፕሬዘዳንት እና የአሁኑ የአንድነት ለዴሞክራሲና ለፍትህ ፓርቲ (አንድነት) ሊቀመንበር ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ጊዳዳ መታሰራቸውን ብስራት ወልደሚካኤል ከአዲስ አበባ አዘገበ፡ ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ጊዳዳ መታሰራቸው የተገለጸው ዛሬ መስከረም 15 ቀን 2006ዓ.ም. ሲሆን ዘ-ሐበሻ ወደ አንድነት ጽህፈት ቤት ደውላ “ዛሬ እስከ ጠዋት ድረስ ሥራ ላይ ነበሩ’ የሚል ምላሽ አግኝታ ነበር። አሁን ይህን ዜና እየዘገብን ባለንበት ወቅት ወደ አዲስ አበባ የአንድነት አመራሮች ጋር ስንደውል ስልኮቻቸውን ያነሱ ሁለት የአንድነት አመራሮች የዶ/ር ነጋሶን መታሰር ለዘ-ሐበሻ አረጋግጠዋል።

የፍኖተ ነፃነት ጋዜጠኛ ብስራት እንደዘገበው “አንድነት ፓርቲ አባላት በጉለሌ ክፍለ ከተማ መስከረም 19 ቀን 2005 ዓ.ም. በአዲስ አበባ መስቀል አደባባይ ለተጠራው ህዝባዊ የተቃውሞ ሰላማዊ ሰልፍ በሽሮ ሜዳ ቅስቀሳ በማድረግ ላይ ሳሉ መታሰራቸውን ተከትሎ የፓርቲው ሊቀመንበር ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ያዘዝኩት እኔ ስለሆንኩ ልጆቹን ልቀቁ፤ ከፈለጋችሁ እኔን ማሰር ትችላላችሁ በማለታቸው የጣቢያው ፖሊሶች ዶ/ሩ ነጋሶን ማሰራቸው ተረጋግጧል።”

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(የአንድነት አባላት በቅስቅሳ ላይ) ፎቶ ምንጭ የሚሊዮኖች ድምጽ ለነፃነት

ፖሊሶች ዶ/ር ነጋሶን ከያዙበት ሽሮሜዳ ወደ ጉለሌ ፖሊስ መምሪያ በፖሊስ መኪና እና በበርካታ ፖሊሶች ታጅበው መወሰዳቸውን የዘገበው ብስራት በቅስቀሳ ላይ እያሉ የታሰሩትን የአንድነት ፓርቲ አባላትን ለማስፈታት ሄደው ዶ/ር ነጋሶ በምትካቸው በመታሰራቸው የተለቀቁት የአንድነት ፓርቲ አባላትም ቅስቀሳቸውን ቀጥለዋል።

በእሁድ መስከረም 19 ቀን 2005ዓ.ም. በአዲስ አበባ መስቀል አደባባይ ለሚደረገው ሰላማዊ ሰልፍ ቅስቀሳ እያደረጉ የሚገኙ ከ28 በላይ ሰዎችን ለማስፈታት ወደ ፖሊስ ጣቢያ ያመሩት ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ‹ልጆቹ የፈጸሙት ህገ ወጥ ድርጊት የለም፣ሲቀሰቅሱ የነበሩትም እውቅና የተሰጠውን ሰላማዊ ሰልፍ ነው፡፡ቅስቀሳው ህገ ወጥ ነው የምትሉም ከሆነ እነርሱን የላኳቸው እኔ በመሆኔ እኔን ልታስሩኝ ትችላላችሁ” ማለታቸው ተዘግቧል።

ይህ ዜና እክሰተጠናቀረበት ጊዜ ድረስ ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ያልተፈቱ ሲሆን የፊታችን እሁድ ለሚደረገው ሰልፍ ቅስቀሳ ላይ ያሉት የአንድነት አባላት በቄራ አካባቢ ሲታሰሩ የሚቀሰቅሱበት መኪናም በፖሊስ ታግቷል።

 

 

Zehabesha

Call For The Sidama Lunar New Year, Fichchee, To Be Recognized as The UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

 

By: Wolassa L. Kumo (Sidama Worancha) | September 18, 2013

Wolassa Kumo

Wolassa Kumo

1. Background

The Sidama people live in South Ethiopia. They belong to the indigenous African Kushitic (also written as Cushitic) group of peoples that have inhabited north eastern Africa stretching from the current Southern Egypt and northern Sudan to Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and Tanzania for the past 7000 years. The Kushitic peoples living in various parts of north east Africa today include: the Beja in northern Sudan and Egypt, the Saho in Eritrea, the Sidama, Oromo, Agaw, Afar, Somali, Hadiya, and many others in Ethiopia, and the Rendile and the Sakuye in Kenya and parts of Tanzania. The Alaba, Xambaro and Qewena people who currently live in Kambata and Gurage administrative sub regions in Southern Ethiopia belong to the ethnic Sidama people. They had migrated from the current Sidamaland during the medieval period for search of better economic opportunities, particularly grazing land. Studies indicate that the Kushitic peoples of north east Africa are also related to the other Hamitic groups in northern Africa such as the Berbers and the Tuareg.

The ancient Kushitic civilization at Kerma in northern Sudan predates the ancient Egyptian civilization. The current ruins of Kushitic empire in Northern Sudan provide vivid evidence of the ancient power of the Kushitic kingdom in the region. The ancient Kushitic civilization influenced the ancient Egyptian civilization and was in turn influenced by the latter. The Kushites invaded Egypt during the 8th century BC and formed the 25th Pharaohnic dynasty. Notable Kushitic Pharaohs who ruled Egypt include Pharaoh Taharqa and Pharaoh Piye or Piyenka. After 100 years at the helm of the Egyptian power, the Kushites were pushed out of Egypt by the invading Assyrians. The center of Kushitic power remained Napata and later Meroe in Northern Sudan. The ancient Greek historians such as Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus used the word Aethiopia to refer to the peoples living immediately to the south of ancient Egypt and specifically the area now known as the ancient Kingdom of Kush, now a part of modern Kush in Egypt and Sudan, as well as all of sub-Saharan Africa in general.

Sidama People

Sidama-PeopleThe ancient Kushitic Empire in Napata and Meroe was a greatempire with trade links with ancient Egyptians and the Arabian Peninsula as well as other Kushites in the Horn of Africa. The Kushitic empire in North East Africa disintegrated after King Ezana of Aksum defeated the last Kushitic king at Meroe in 350 AD and incorporated part of the Kush kingdom into the Aksumite Empire. Ezana not only conquered the Kush kingdom but also borrowed the Kushitic name Ethiopia and used as the name of his newempire in the vicinity of Aksum. The Kushites never regained political supremacy in the region until the Kushitic Zagwe Dynasty led by the Agaws with its capital at Lalibela reclaimed power from the Aksumites in the 9-10th century and ruled northern part of the present day Ethiopia until 1270 before being toppled by the claimants of the mythological Solomonic dynasty. According to the chronicles of the Kebre Negast, King Solomon of Jerusalem and Queen of Sheba were believed to have had a son together known as Ebn Melek (later King Minelik I) who was the founder of the Solomonic dynasty.

The Sidama people along with Agaw and Beja in Sudan were the first settlers in the northern parts of the present day Ethiopia, before migrating to the South looking for more fertile lands. Following the European partitioning of Africa in the late 1880s, the North east African Kushites were scattered across several “sovereign” counties in the region and until today continue to lament about their lost civilization and political supremacy in the Horn region.

2. Sidama: Administrative Arrangement, Economy and Culture

Sidama is currently part of the Southern Ethiopia Region. Hawassa is the capital of Sidama. Administratively, Sidama is divided into 19 rural districts and 2 urban administrative units: Hawassa and Yirgalem. The rural districts are further subdivided into 547 rural clusters of villages known in national language as kebelles and 41 towns, akin to rural municipalities in other parts of the world.

Agriculture remains the mainstay of the Sidama economy. Enset is the most dominant staple crop in Sidama. Enset has various economicvalues in Sidama society. Varieties of foods are prepared from it including Buurisame (fine and dry Enset food prepared with butter and spice) , which has become a source of tourist attraction in Sidama since recently; and Bu’lla (the fine part of Enset which is also exported to Europe and America particularly to meet the demand of the Ethiopian Diaspora). Enset also has multitude of other economic values. Ropes made of Enset are used to build rural houses while fibers are used to make sacks and so on. Enset is drought resistant compared to other crops and has therefore cushioned the people from threats of food insecurity for centuries. Nevertheless, its farming as well as processing technology remains rudimentary and laborious for women, who are solely responsible for preparing food from Enset. Attempts to introduce improved processing technologies have not materialized due primarily to lack of financial support for research and development.

Coffee is another dominant crop produced in Sidama. Sidama, Yirgacheffe and Harar are known for their best quality specialty coffees loved by consumers across the globe. In spite of being the major suppliers of best quality coffee to the world market, farmers in Sidama continue to languish in poverty. This is partly because Ethiopia does not have control over the determination of the international coffee prices. In spite of being the origin of coffee, Ethiopia, supplies less than 3% of coffee to the world market and therefore has no influence whatsoever on theinternational coffee prices.

Sidama is endowed with variety of geographical, historical and cultural heritages. On top of the lash green topography filled with gasping agroforestry system from the outskirts of Hawassa town to the Welle Magado and Welle Hangala villages at the South Eastern tip of the Sidama land, natural bestowed the Sidamaland with amazing beauties such as volcanic springs at Hawassa, Wondogent, Burqito, Gidawo, Lagadara, Wene Nata, and Abaya among others. Lake Hawassa and lake Abaya remain two major tourist attractions. Logita and Galana waterfalls in the highland districts of Harbagona and Bansa are breath taking. Garamba, which lies approximately above 4000 meter above sea level is the highest mountain pick in Sidama followed by Bansa, Agana, and Hema mountains scattered across Sidama.

Other physical historical sites in Sidama include the solid rock statues believed to have been erected by one of the Sidama legendary superman: Dingama Koya, known as the Dingama Koya Statues. These rock statues are found in various places acorss Sidama as Gorbe Salla and Beera in Dalle, Boa Badagallo, Dongora in Alata Wondo, Futahe, Shabbe and many other places.
Sidama is also endowed with variety of cultural heritage: Luwa, Fichchee, Qeexala, circumcision, marriage and mourning ceremonies, the Qale and Qolle cultural sports, and war games by young adults are some of the most prominent cultural heritages of the Sidama society. The age-grade based Luwa system of administration akin to the Oromo Gada system is an indigenous democratic system of governance in Sidama society. The Sidama society has unique circumcision ceremonies associated with the Luwa system. In traditional Sidama society circumcision is based on one’s Luwa age grade cycle and is followed by an elaborate celebration by community members. Among these Fichchee, the Sidama New Year stands out to be the most dominant cultural in Sidama society today.

3. Fichchee: The Sidama New Year

Fichchee is the Sidama New Year celebration. Sidama follows a lunar calendar which is different from both Ethiopian (Julian) and Western (Gregorian) calendar systems. Fichchee, is unique in the world and is based on the Sidama calendar system. According to the Sidama calendar system, there are only 5 days in a week. These are known as Qawado, Qawalanka, Dikko, and Deela to be followed by the first day Qawado to complete the 5 day week cycle. A month consists of 28 days, equally divided into 14 days of moonlight and 14 days of darkness (known in Sidama language as Agana and Tunsichcho, respectively). Each of the 28 days of the month has a particular cultural significance attached to it in Sidama society. Some days are believed to be days that would bring peace and prosperity while others are regarded as days which would lead to challenges and misery. A day that ushers in peace and prosperity is known in Sidama culture as “Adula” day. Anyone who intends to start a new venture, such as marriage, building a house, building a business, is encouraged to begin it on the “Adula” day. Likewise elders advise anyone planning to commence a new venture to avoid days that lead to challenges and misery.

3.1 Fichchee and Sidama Astronomy: The Sidama New Year –Fichchee is determined by observing the movements of stars and the moon by the Sidama astrologists known in Sidama language as “Ayyaantto” who have deep knowledge of space and astronomy. The Fichchee, New Year date is not fixed. It depends on the relative movements of stars and moon in space. Every year, after different Sidama astrologists assess movements of stars and moon at night for several days they make a preliminary determination of the New Year date. Nevertheless, the preliminary findings of the “Ayyaantto”, the astrologists, must be reconciled with the traditional calendar system before the final date of for Fichchee is determined. Therefore following the conclusion of their assessment of the movements of the stars and moon and their relative positions in the solar system, the Sidama astrologists convene wider consultation meetings with the Sidama elders and clean leaders to decide the most appropriate date for the New Year, Fichchee. The Fichchee date is therefore determined by collective consultative process among the Sidama astrologists and wise men, elders and clan leaders. The consultation is needed to ensure that Fichchee doesn’t fall on any day. As a New Year, Fichchee always falls on a day of peace and prosperity.

Lunar calendars are used to determine traditional holidays in parts of the world such as Arabia, India, China (Lunar New Year), Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Nepal. However, what makes the Sidama New Year, Fichchee different is the elaborate processes followed and unique astrological observations made by the Sidama astrologists before the declaration of the New Year. The Sidama astrologists use a combination of Lunar movement and constellation of stars known in Sidama language as Buusa to determine the Fichchee date. The Fichchee date will be determined when the apologists see close approximation of the moon to five constellations of stars (five Buussa). Even after such elaborate astrological evidences, the Fichchee date will not be determined without close consultation with elders and clan leaders to reconcile the New Year date with the traditional values associated with each of the 28 days in a lunar month. It is this unique processes that qualify Fichchee to be the global cultural heritage.

The Fichchee process does not end with the determination of the date of the New Year. About a month before Fichchee, the Sidama respected elders known as Cimeessa in Sidama language and traditional leaders known as Woma begin to fast to repent for their sins and the sins of the Sidama society. They eat very little at night and nothing during the day. This cultural practice is known as Unsura. At the end of Unsura elders announce the imminent approaching of the Fichchee celebration by qeexxaala (popular chanting) ceremony, ushering in the commencement of the eve of the Fichchee celebration.

The Fichchee date is announced in rural markets across Sidama through popular pronouncements known as Lallawa, in Sidama language: The pronouncer would normally lament: ”Fichchee will fall on this date. Be ready to usher in the New Year. Tell those who have not heard!”. Fichchee falls only on Qawado day every year.

After the fastening, Unsura ceremony, and some 10 days before the New Year (Fichchee) elders carry out a cleansing ceremony by slaughtering animals and by painting blood of the slaughtered animal at the faces of the community members. Then unmarried boys and girls begin to sing and dance in their villages and major rural markets. When 2-3 days are left to Fichchee New Year, community members gather together again to confess their sins. In Sidama culture all conflicts, grievances, sins that have taken place during the current year must be resolved before the beginning of the New Year. People who have fought with each other must confess and ask each other for forgiveness. Society has to be clean to usher in the New Year with the new spirit of peace, love and fraternity! Elders must ensure that all conflicts in the community are reconciled before New Year begins. This is the most valuable contribution of the Fichchee culture for reconciliation and peace building in the Sidama society. Sins to be cleansed include adultery, eating animals which were not slaughtered by elders, any kinds of lies and misinformation in community, stealing, etc…Those who have confessed their sins will be placed rings made of green leaves on their necks by an elder who is regarded in the community as the least sinful and who is authorized to carry pout the cleansing. Then they would be cleansed with blood of animas slaughtered only with spears, which are also regarded as clean implements in Sidama culture.

After the cleansing process is completed the cleansing elder will take the rings and hand them over to his wife to declare that the sins of the repentant community members have been taken away from them. On the eve of the Fichchee, every household should fence its compound with new fences, and prepare enough fire wood and materials required for preparing food for the feast during the celebration. The first day of Fichchee is known as Fixaare. During the early hours of Fixaare elders slaughter an animal and read the stomach of the animal to determine if the New Year is going to be the year of prosperity or there will be challenges ahead. If there will be challenges ahead they warn the community to be ready for it and take some remedial actions. During the afternoon of Fixaare, community members carry out a ceremony of transition to the New Year known as Hulluuqa (meaning passing through in Sidama language). Hulluuqa is an arch made of various strong woods through which every humans and cattle should pass during the first day of Fichchee to signify transition to the New Year.

The Hulluuqa process is conducted according to the age and social status in the society. The first to pass through Hulluuqa are elders, to be followed by mothers, young adults and then children and at last cattle to show love of the Sidama people for their cattle. After Hulluuqa elders will kneel down and thank God for allowing them to transition from old to New Year. The Fichchee feast begins at the elders’ home in a village. Everyone comes together and eat and enjoy together. During Fichchee, the main food eaten is called Buurisame made of Enset and butter prepared well with natural spices. The Buurisame is prepared usually on shaafeta a big clay bowl that preserves the quality of food intact for many days.

Festivity  begins with prayer to one God, Kaaliqa, and the creator: “Fichchee diruni dirro iillishinke”. “Fichchee, transition us from one new year to another”. Food is handed out in accordance with age and social class. Elders mothers, young adults, and then children. Everyone must eat Buurisame. An egalitarian system.

People move from house to house eating and drinking milk. But everyone has to return to his house before midnight. The Sidama people never eat meat during the Fichchee ceremony. Even if there was meat in the house it would be taken out during the Fichchee celebration. Husbands and wives should not travel away during the Fichchee night. Even those who were separated with their husbands would return for the Fichchee night if they were not married with someone else.

The second day of Fichchee ceremony is known as cambalaalla. On this day, children move from house to house chanting “Ayide cambalaalla” similar to saying Happy New Year. Someone in the house usually mothers would reply: “Iille”. Something like: “happy new year to you too, come and join us”.

During the Fichchee day, animals must also be fed well. Cattle are fed Boole, salty soil also rich in calcium, which cattle in Sidama like most.

The third day of Fichchee is known as Shashiiga. During the third day and subsequent days people flock to the Gudumaale, public square and big rural market places and elders conduct qeexxaala public chanting of happiness, well-wishing, and determination to build and protect the society.

Young boys and girls play Faaro and Lembo, popular Sidama traditional songs and dances. Girls and boys also identify their potential partners during the celebration. Hair style and cloth should reflect Sidama cultural clothing style made within Sidama, by the Sidama entrepreneurs. Fichchee preserves the culture and also protects the local industry.

The last stage of the Fichchee celebration involves going out in mass to celebrate and is known as Fichchii Fulo in Sidama language. During this phase all Sidama clans flock to the public square, Gudumaale and sing and chant side by side. Newly married women and newly circumcised men who have missed the long process of celebrating Fichchee will come to the Gudumaale to be part of the process.

The Fichchee celebration will end after 14 days with blessings from elders all over Sidama. Fichchee is a valuable cultural heritage of the Sidama society which has survived massive influence of Christianity during the past half a century. About 90 percent of the Sidama people are Christian today and do not endorse some ritualistic practices of Fichchee although every Sidama person celebrates Fichchee today as New Year. Fichchee is an indigenous and ancient cultural practice handed down from generations to generations and uniquely preserved by the Sidama society. It is a unique cultural heritage not only of the Sidama people, but also of Ethiopia, Africa and the whole world.

4. The Negatives and Positives of the Sidama New Year, Fichchee, Culture

The Fichchee culture has several positive contributions to the Sidama society:

   It encourages peace building and reconciliation and maintaining the cohesion of the Sidama society and its cultural values;

   Encourages assessments of the performance of the society every year;

   Encourages discussions of the plans for the new year,

   Preserves and encourages the development of the local industry by prompting use of locally manufactured goods.

Nevertheless, Fichchee also has some negative implications. Among these:

   The extended period of festivity may undermine economic activities;

   Slaughtering large number of animals prior to the actual Fichchee celebration may be wasteful.

With certain measures to minimize wasteful expenditure and limit the extended period of festivity, Fichchee remains a unique cultural asset to be preserved and nurtured by the country as well as the international community.

5. The Sidama Lunar New Year, Fichchee, is an Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of Urgent Safeguarding.

Fichchee is a valuable and unique cultural heritage of the Sidama society, of Ethiopia, of Africa and the world. As provided in UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on Intangible Cultural Assets, Fichchee, qualifies to be inscribed in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. As such it must be recognized and protected as national and world heritage. The Ethiopian government has indicated that it would send a request to UNESCO to register Fichchee and Meskel as two cultural world heritages in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, the onus is on the Sidama administration to take the lead to make sure that Fichchee is first recognized in the country as the national heritage and then proper documentation has been prepared by the Government of Ethiopia to submit to UNESCO to justify the demand for global recognition and protection.

The Sidama people both at home and in Diaspora wish to express their support to the current movement in Ethiopia to ensure the international recognition and protection to Fichchee and Meskel as the UNESCO global intangible cultural heritages. We wish to see these unique cultural assets of the world accorded the necessary national and global protection sooner than later.

 

About The Author: Dr. Wolassa L. Kumo – is a development practitioner and researcher. His research interests include risk and uncertainty, productivity and efficiency, finance and investment, currency substitution and development problems of Africa. Currently, he is working as a researcher in a public institution with a primary responsibility in econometric modelling. Previously, he taught Principles of Economics in an academic institution. FaceBook:www.facebook.com/people/Wolassa-Kumo/100000140891395

Afro Articles on Sidama Worancha

Names and Identity: The case of Oromo names cultural genocide

By Hawi Chala | September 8, 2013

Our names distinguish us from billions of people in this world. To many of us names, the most fundamental part of a human being, gives us a sense of identity and belonging to a given society. Because names are part of every culture of a given society, they often put a strong connection between the individual who receive the name and the society that give the name. By giving a name the society acknowledges the personal existence in that society and simultaneously the society confirms its own responsibility towards that person. In other words, names are preliminary prove whether a person belongs to a given society. If we take these names Megersa, and Abreha, we can identify that the former belongs to Oromo identity and the latter belongs to Tigrean identity. Therefore, We are able to identify their identity just only by looking their names because we know that these names only belong to that community.

By carrying that particular name, the individual share the history of his society and become part of the nation. Since that particular name differentiate that child from others, the society will foster and socialize the child with needs and feelings different from those of others. That is why many of us own different feeling and needs depends on where we came from and the ethnic group we have been socialized with. Because of that name his /her needs and feeling will exist different from others. For instance, an Oromo child born and grown up in Norway will remain an Oromo, and have different feeling and needs from his/her Norwegian friends.

Having an Oromo name by itself will make her/him able to feel a sense of attachment to his/her Oromo heritage and culture.

There are different ways of naming a child in Oromo culture. When families give names to their children, they have usually, if not always, put a reason behind that, such as for example religion, specific situation the family find itself, places, hopes they have for the child and etc.

Religion plays a significant role in names.

A religious family usually names their child from their religious perspective.  A Christian family may either give a baptismal name or after people in the bible; while a Muslim family give a name after people in Quran or from Quran perspective. The same applies in other religion too. By doing so, each family need to assert that the child belongs to their respective religion. These names given after people in Bible or Quran helps the person to have the attachment to the faith and to feel that they are part of the faith.

In Oromo culture when a woman get married, she is given a new name in addition to her previous name to indicate that the woman now onwards belongs to her husband family. Women from the western culture are not required to change their name but they instead change their family name to their husband family name. The logic behind the new name in both cultures is to indicate that the woman will belong to her husband kinship family and the new name indicates her new identity.

Influence of ‘famous individual & literature on name choice

In this modern world media and literature play important role in choosing names. The more medias cover about models, artists, influential people, the more we became familiar with their names and the more we became inspired by them and their names..

Names like Tilahun (after the singer Tilahun Gessese, Mengistu after X-president Mengistu H/Mariam, Aster (after singer Aster Awoke), Tewodros (after king Tewodros).etc , have been commonly used among many Ethiopian.

Historically since Oromo people have been denied any government key positions, and since the Oromo literature have been weakened purposely by government, since our talented artists were unable to shine out due to oppression and limited opportunities given, it has been a big challenge for Oromo names to get promotion opportunity through Ethiopian medias and literature. Due to this, their popularity of Oromo names couldn’t shine out rather remained mired in rural setting of Oromia.

Our names make the core of our identity.

The link between personal identity and a given name is at the heart of this article wants to discuss thoroughly.

As we have discussed above, many scientific studies confirmed also that there is a strong link between a given name, identity and personality.

The link between a name and identity happens in our daily life starting from when we introduce our selves to a new friend, to various daily events. If I tell you that my name is Roberto, you can easily distinguish me that I might be an Italian, or if your name is called “Hawi” I can easily guess that you are an Oromo. If your friends hold the name Abrehet, we can guess that she is Tigrean and if the other friend also has the name Wi Hu Zhao we might guess that he/she is a Chinese. More than their metaphorical usage. these names  help us to distinguish  the person identity, where he is from and the society she/he belongs to.

When people have odd names, names that don’t explain his/her identity, it would make hard for others to easily distinguish who is he/she and to whom she/he belongs. In other word through his/her given name, the name is unable to explain his/her identity.

During the colonial period, many of African indigenous names were changed to the colonizer interest names to indirectly change their mind to loose their identity. If you travel to Nigeria today you hardly find indigenous names among the new generation instead people are favoring British names.

During the slave trade times when Africans left the continent, they left also their names, culture and all of their identity, where they were in return given new slavery names with new identity. They lost their identity and their roots. This is a proof why these days the Caribbean and many black Americans have lost the feeling of African identity. In resistant to this identity crisis many black American civil right activist marched various movement condemning their cultural genocide. One of the prominent activist was Malcolm who refused the name given by white imperialists and changed his name to Malcolm X , which became later one of the cause for his assassination. . He chose the new surname “ X” to signify his lost tribal name and identity.

The same cultural genocide has happened in Ethiopia against Oromo people names. In Oromo people culture, names represent an important part of life and have been a pillar of our identity. Since Oromos population largely surpasses other ethnic group in number, there has been groundless fear among successive Ethiopian leaders to be overwhelmed by this majority groups. In response to this, one of the strategies used by these successive repressive regimes has been to make the Oromo people systematically loose their identity through developing a feeling of proud Ethiopianism while feeling embarrassed with Oromuma identity. To ensure the domination of Abyssinians‎ culture over the Oromo people and to strength their assimilation policy, these successive governments have banned the Oromo language, culture and names. Speaker of Afan Oromo language and holders of Oromo names were privately and publicly ridiculed and embarrassed.

Following the victory of Minilik on the war with Oromo, between 1868 and 1900, where more than 5 million Oromos were killed, hundred and thousand of Habesha settlers were dispatched in to fortified settlements across Oromia. These Habesha settlers didn’t only take away the vast land of Oromia, but also changed Oromo place name to Amharic names and banned Oromo cultural practice. Classic example of this names genocide is the name of the following Oromoia cities: Addis Ababa (Finfinne ),  Nazret (Adama), Debrezeit (Bishoftu), Zeway (Batu), Asebe Teferi (Chiro), Hageremariam (Bole-Bora ) ….etc were the victim of the eradication policy of Oromo names.

During various resettlement program in the country history, many Oromos , who has lost their own land by the government to give to multinational cooperation, were also resettled in different parts of the country including Gojjam and Gonder. Even today if you travel around Gojjam and Gonder you will surprisingly hear a lot of indigenous Oromo names. This was one of government strategy to silently kill the booming of Oromo culture through the assimilation policy at the back of the settlement program. These Amharized oromos have Oromo roots but baptized under Amhara culture. Holding surnames may keep the attachment with Oromo people, but that alone wouldn’t make them proud of Oromumma since they have lost the feeling and the culture of Oromo people.

Now we came across two paradoxes. In one hand we have said that there are few indigenous Oromo names in Gojjam and other parts of the Amhara region while in other hand we know that there are millions of Amharic names among Oromo people.

Let me stop you here and give you two minutes break while thinking your friends or families who is holding Amhara names.

Roughly 2 out of 3 Oromos have an Amharic names.

Then my big question is :

Why Oromo families name their children by Amharic names instead of Oromo names? Or  why the name Adane is preferred than Feyisa among Oromo families?

Well, It undeniable fact that from our grand –grand fathers to the present Qube generation, having an Oromo names make us embarrassed and feel less valued. It was not a hidden history that many Oromo families changed their names in to Amharic names when they moved to towns in order to escape from discrimination and easily integrate in to the dominant Habesha culture.

Until recently it has been regarded that holding Oromo names was perceived as foolish, ruralist, impulsive, not moody, “geja” and many more abusive words. They made us feel that an Oromo names is less valued over Habesha names. Take for instance these names, Tolesa, Kiros, Gezahegn, Megertu, Hiwot ? Which name is better off the other ? Names are names. Every name is beautiful to the society it belongs. But the successive Ethiopian brutal governments make us feel down with our names, made us feel embarrassed with our beautiful Oromo names, made us feel that our names is backward, regressive & unmodernised, made us feel that our Oromo names has negative implication rather than its identity justification. They ridiculed and insulted us for we are holding Oromo names.

Many Oromo children change their name when they start school because they inherited that embarrassing feeling with holding Oromo name at school. The Habeshas used to insult and made jokes on our Oromo names. This inhuman mistreatment made our Oromo families feel ashamed with their names and their children names. These insults and discrimination made by Habeshas forced many Oromo familes to give Amharic names to their children.

They changed in to the Amharic names not because they changed their oromuma identity but only because they need to protect the psychology of their children not to feel embarrassed and ashamed with Oromo names.

Until recently many Oromo job-seekers are forced to change their Oromo names and hide their Oromuma to increase chances of being hired by employers.

This cultural genocide against Oromo names by successive Ethiopian government was supposed to bury our Oromo identity. I am not going to naysay the very fact that we have been affected by identity crisis. But at the same time we could survive the name genocide and regained our Oromo identity. Thanks to those who have fought and sacrificed their life, we are now able to feel proud with our survived identity and names. But the scarce of our name genocide will never be forgotten.

Names build a nation

The connection between names and identity does not only affect people. Names and naming also constitute an important part of the work of the building of a nation. This becomes quite evident if we take a look at the history of Norway and Eritrea during the period following the independence of Norway from Denmark in 1814 and Eritrea from Ethiopia 20 years ago. After the end of 400 years of Denmark rule, the Norwegian people gained a new feeling of freedom and independence which provoked a strong wave of National Romanticism, and this, among many other things, also called forth a strong agitation to bring back the Old Norwegians names and put them to use instead of imported, foreign colonial names. This revival of the so-called national names has later become known as the Nordic Name Renaissance. The same history has recently happened in Eritrea. As a consequence of National Romanticism, Eritrean government has implicitly prohibited Ethiopian music, language and names in Eritrea so as to boom Eritrean own culture, than imported names and cultures.

The same logic should work for Oromo cultural revival.  By giving Oromo names to our children, we should play important part of building greater Oromia. We should provoke a strong wave of OROMIA ROMANTICISM and RENAISSANCE.  In fact many Oromo youngsters, especially the Qubee generation has showed their resistance to the system by changing their Amharized name in to the beautiful Oromo names. To continuously pass our identity from generation to generation and attach the feeling of Oromo identity, we should name our children with our beautiful Oromo name. We have cultural responsibility to stop this cultural genocide of our identity names by making our self and our children feel proud of Oromumma by naming with indigenous Oromo names. Through naming of Oromo names, each of us has a responsibility to build a nation that feels proud of its identity, a nation that struggle for its freedom and a nation that proudly say I am a Oromo first and no more Amharic names!

References:

Adler, Peter (2002) : Beyond cultural identity : Reflections on multiculturalism , Pepperdin University, school of Law, USA.

Benedicta, Windt, (2012) : Names and personal identity in Literary context, Oslo studies in language. Vol 4, No 2 (2012), Oslo , Norway.

Taylor, Paul et al (2012): When Labels don’t fit: Hispanics and their views of identity. Pew Research center´s Hispanic Trends project, USA.

Hawi chala : can be reached by this email : hhunduma@yahoo.com

Facebook: hawi.chala.5@facebook.com

Related:

1. Born to Serve and Die Serving , by Hawi Chala