Top > African Study Monographs > ASM Supplementary Issue Back Number > No.41 (2010)
Preserving Local Knowledge in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Collaborative Research in Oral Literature, Music and Ritual Practices

Edited by Belle Asante TARSITANI, Simone TARSITANI, Masayoshi SHIGETA


pp.1

PREFACE

Belle Asante TARSITANI, Simone TARSITANI, Masayoshi SHIGETA

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pp. 5-18

INTEGRATING LOCAL KNOWLEDGE IN ETHIOPIAN ARCHIVES: MUSIC AND MANUSCRIPTS IN THE COLLECTION OF ABDULAHI ALI SHERIF

Belle Asante TARSITANI
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University

Simone TARSITANI
Department of Music, The Open University, UK

ABSTRACT
      Since the early 1990s, important examples of Harari tangible and oral cultural heritage were preserved in the private home museum of Abdulahi Ali Sherif in Harar, Ethiopia. The volume and quality of audio recordings of musical and ritual practices, along with the manuscripts from this collection indicate how a resourceful individual, when supported by a community of local patrons, can be instrumental in conserving heritage in a local archive, even in the absence of major funding sources. This case study presents a review of Mr. Sherif’s museum collection and explores pertinent challenges in conservation and curatorship of the private holdings. Having followed the transformation of the collection to a public-private partnership, the authors consider the wider implications of collaborations in the management of archives in regional museums in Ethiopia. This research employs examples of various forms of documentation used in the analysis of local Islamic ritual practices to show that local actors are integral to the sustainable management of archives. The collaborations involving the collection of music and manuscripts in the Sherif collection are presented as exemplary of how a community-run museum project can be a particularly appropriate and accessible venue to engage audiences in the legacies found in archives.

Key Words: Community museum; Music; Manuscripts; Harar; Ethiopia.

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pp. 19-34

SCHOLARSHIP ON ETHIOPIAN MUSIC: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE PROSPECTS

SIMENEH Betreyohannes
Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University

ABSTRACT
   Broad and signifi cant appraisals on Ethiopian studies have been carried out with thematic and disciplinary orientations from authors such as Bahru Zewde, Alula Pankhurest, Gebre Yntiso and Belete Bizuneh. One might expect music to be a relevant aspect of such works, yet it is hardly addressed, resulting in a dearth of independent and comprehensive assessments of Ethiopian music scholarship; a rare exception is the 3 volume Ethiopian Christian Liturgical Chant: An Anthology edited by Kay Kaufman Shelemay and Peter Jeffery (1993–1997). Generally speaking, music is one of the most neglected themes in Ethiopian studies, especially as compared to the dominant subjects of history and linguistics. Although some progress in musical studies has recently developed, the existing scholarly literature remains confi ned to limited themes. Beside inadequate attention to various topics there are problems of misconceptions and lack of reciprocity in contemporary scholarship. This paper outlines the evolution of Ethiopian music scholarship and exposes general trends in the existing body of knowledge by using critical works from a variety of disciplines. It also introduces the major subjects and personalities involved in Ethiopian musical studies. The paper concludes with highlights of pertinent problematic issues followed by practical suggestions for fostering Ethiopian music scholarship.

Key Words: African studies; Ethiopia; Cultural studies; Music scholarship.

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pp. 35-49

UNESCO’S ACTIVITIES FOR THE SAFEGUARDING OF THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE IN THE HORN OF AFRICA

Fumiko OHINATA
UNESCO Nairobi Office

ABSTRACT
    One of UNESCO’s main activities in the fi eld of culture concerns the promotion and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. For this purpose, the Member States of UNESCO have elaborated the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was adopted in 2003 and entered into force in 2006. Intangible cultural heritage consists, according to Article 2.1 of that Convention, of practices and expressions that are handed down within groups and communities from generation to generation, that are in constant evolution and that give a sense of identity and continuity to these groups and communities. UNESCO was and has been involved in a number activities related to intangible cultural heritage in the Horn of Africa, not only in Djibouti and Ethiopia that already ratifi ed the 2003 Convention, but also in Eritrea and Somalia that are considering ratifi cation. Some of these UNESCO activities are aimed at raising awareness about the 2003 Convention, others were designed to reinforce or create, in line with the objectives of that Convention, conditions under which practitioners and tradition bearers may continue to enact, to develop and to transmit their traditional expressions and practices.

Key Words: UNESCO; Intangible cultural heritage; The 2003 Convention; Safeguarding; International cooperation; Horn of Africa.

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pp. 51-62

TEXTS IN THE MAWLID COLLECTION IN HARAR: SOME FIRST CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS

Alessandro GORI
Department of Linguistics, University of Florence

ABSTRACT
    In my paper I would like to try to describe in a philological and comparative perspective the content of the constellation of texts most commonly known under the title of “Mawlid sharaf al-‘alamin.” The collection is preserved and transmitted in a quite relevant number of manuscripts kept in Harar, in Ethiopia and abroad and in at least four different printed editions. It contains the basic textual material recited and sung in Harar during Mawlūd feasts and other Mawlūd related ceremonies. The main literary features of the texts of the collection will be dealt with. The complex and variegated nature of the infl uences and of the different suggestions that were at work in the process of formation and development of the “Mawlid sharaf al-‘alamin” will be highlighted. Moreover, the relationship between the written tradition and the musical and liturgical functions of the texts of the collection will be analyzed. The role that the collective performances of the “Mawlūd ” played in catalyzing a process of change in the structure and the content of the written tradition will be tentatively studied.

Key Words: Islamic culture in Ethiopia; Islamic literature in Ethiopia; Harari literature.

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pp. 63-79

ORIGINS AND TRANSFORMATION OF THE HAMINA SONG-MENDICANT TRADITION

MESELE Terecha Kebede
Department of History, Addis Ababa University

ABSTRACT
    The Hamina are a group of people who are practicing song-mendicancy in order to ward off debilitating physical impacts of leprosy coming down from a legendary leper ancestor. Leprosy is an age-old scourge of humanity with an unrestrained power of shaping human identities including identities in Ethiopia. Its age-old prevalence, mysterious pathology and dreadful physical impacts helped leprosy to secure a special place in the Ethiopian traditions throughout history. This paper intends to examine the social history of the Hamina with parallel evaluations of medical, social, economic, political and cultural changes that occurred in twentieth-century Ethiopia.

Key Words: Leprosy; Mendicancy; Hamina; Lalibela; Charity.

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pp. 81-89

BEYOND AUTHENTICITY: DIVERSE IMAGES OF MUSLIM AWLIYA IN ETHIOPIA

Minako ISHIHARA
Department of Anthropology and Philosophy, Nanzan University

ABSTRACT
    Historians and anthropologists studying local customs of venerating awliya (Muslim holymen) are likely to encounter diffi culties in collecting their life histories from sources contemporary and remote, consanguineous and unrelated. This article presents examples of my attempts to collect historical information on three awliya and discusses approaches that may be viable in accommodating diverse images of awliya without denying authenticity of some information in favor of others. The consideration of various oral and written life histories begins with Al-Faki Ahmad Umar (d.1953), a Tijani shaykh from Bornu, who is widely venerated among Muslim Oromos in western Ethiopia. Accounts of Hajj Bushra, a well-known Muslim reformer in 18th century Wollo who is widely venerated today in Wollo (northeast Ethiopia), are also explored, as are chronicles of Sitti Momina (d.1929), a highly venerated Muslim holywoman from Wollo well-known for her spiritual powers. Based on personal experiences in facing the challenges of collecting oral and written histories of awliya, this study suggests that researchers can approach historical information as ‘local knowledge,’ which uses a variety of media to express diverse experiences and beliefs in the cult of awliya.

Key Words: Ethiopia; Wali veneration; Muslim; Authenticity; Life history.

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pp. 91-100

RITUAL ACTIVITIES OF TARIQAS IN ZANZIBAR

Chiaki FUJII
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
    The aim of this paper is to describe the activities of tariqas (Islamic ritual orders that perform zikri, the practice of reciting the name of God repeatedly) in Zanzibar, and to show the importance of their practices in local culture. Since the latter half of the 19th century, the spread of tariqas, such as Tariqa Qadiriyya fromsouthern Somalia by Uways b. Muḥammad al-Barawī and Tariqa Shadhiliyya from the Comoros by Muḥammad Maᶜrūf b. Aḥmad b. Abū Bakr, contributed to the Islamization of the Swahili Coast. Zanzibar emerged as one of the early centers of Islamic scholarship in East Africa where tariqas disseminated Islamic doctrine and related Islamic rituals. Today tariqas found all over Zanzibar are active on the anniversary of the Prophet Muḥammad’s birthday (maulidi), the festival after the end of Ramaḍān (idi el fi tr), the festival of sacrifi ce (idi el haji), during visitations to saints’ tombs (ziara), wedding celebrations (harusi), the fortieth day of mourning (arobaini), and other occasions. This paper demonstrates how tariqas also play an important role in the daily life of Zanzibari people, even if local Muslims are not always aware of the tariqa origins of some activities.

Key Words: Tariqa; Zikri ritual; Islamic practice; Zanzibar; Swahili Coast.

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pp. 101-109

INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE ON THE VISUALIZATION OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: FILMS ON HEREDITARY SINGERS IN ETHIOPIA

Itsushi KAWASE
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
    This paper explores the constructive dialogue between an anthropologist/ fi lmmaker and the audience on the visualization of knowledge through anthropological fi lms. The dominant discourse in visual anthropology has paid insuffi cient attention to the general viewer’s role in the construction of meanings and evaluation of ethnographic inquiry. This paper examines how viewers from different cultural/screening contexts interpret and respond to my works on musicians and children in Ethiopia. It also seeks ways to project the active voice of the audience in regard to the development of existing ideas on how local knowledge is best conveyed via visual media. I consider cases from academic fi lm festivals in Europe, screening seminars among Ethiopian immigrants in North America, discussions via blogs and university lectures in Japan. The paper focuses on the role of the audience in the formation and rediscovery of cultural identity with regard to local knowledge presented via fi lmic documentation, and explores the appropriate manner of fi lm-presentation in the form of montage and screenings, on the basis of my experience using fi lms as an educational medium.

Key Words: Visual anthropology; Reception of fi lms; Intercultural dialogue; Azmari; Lalibala.

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pp. 111-117

HARAR-WALLO RELATIONS REVISITED: HISTORICAL, RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL DIMENSIONS

HUSSEIN Ahmed
Department of History and Heritage Management, Addis Ababa University

ABSTRACT
    Since at least the sixteenth century, the areas of the present day regions of Harar and Wallo have been important centres of teaching and diffusion of Islam as well as of preservation of Islamic culture and education. Preachers and scholars from these areas played a decisive role in the introduction and dissemination of the faith in the country, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They contributed to the further development and consolidation of both Islamic institutions and law, and mysticism as manifested in the propagation of the religious orders, veneration of saints, and visits to shines. They also actively promoted and sustained a tradition of Islamic reform and renewal. Overcoming their geographical distance, the two regions maintained close contacts through the Islamic school system, movement of teachers, students and instructional materials, and exchange of goods and services. This paper examines the nature and extent of the interregional relationships, the part that learned men and merchants played in strengthening those relationships, as well as their impact on the lives of the common people and elites of the two communities. It then suggests new areas for further research, which may shed more light on some controversial aspects of the Harari-Wallo links.

Key Words: Harar; Wallo; Interregional relationships; Islam; Ethiopia.

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pp. 119-131

COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH ON THE SONGS OF THE CITY

Ilaria SARTORI
Independent Scholar

ABDULMUHEIMEN Abdulnassir
Independent Scholar

ABSTRACT
    Harari songs, called gey fäqär, “the songs of the city,” are among the signifi cant expressions of local intangible cultural heritage. Traditional gey fäqär (usually employing a voice-percussion confi guration) are presently mostly performed at weddings: women sing in choir, led by an expert singer/poet (wāli); they may also play solo (salley) or in duo (ğāliyei, kōtankōt). Harari sung verses, fi xed or improvised, are quite stratifi ed semantically; themes include religion, patriotism, friendship, love and marriage. Performance of gey fäqär combines the expression of a shared literary and musical patrimony with the ability of poetical creation and melodic variation; texts and melodies of gey fäqär, considered as a whole, are strictly interconnected with the social and ritual events they accompany. Documentation and analysis of the songs of the city thus implies an interdisciplinary approach –including linguistic, philological, literary, anthropological and musicological study– and cannot be removed from a positive relationship with the community and cooperative interactions with local and international researchers and intellectuals. While women sing symbolically for “the city,” thus expressing an important facet of Harari living culture, synergy between local community, scholars and cultural institutions may contribute to develop projects, refl ections and activities towards preservation and valorisation of intangible cultural heritage.

Key Words: Ethiopia; Harar; Song; Poetry; Music.

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pp. 133-147

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HARARI MUSIC: THE CASE OF POP SONGS IN RELATION TO THE OBJECTIVES OF THE EDUCATION AND TRAINING, AND CULTURAL POLICIES OF ETHIOPIA

WOUBE Kassaye
College of Education, Addis Ababa University

ABSTRACT
    The purpose of this article is to show that cassette and CD recordings of Harari pop songs are signifi cant in that they foster local knowledge of cultural traditions and may be useful in promoting public policies in the education and culture sectors. The method employed for this study is both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The study is based on Harari songs released on seventeen cassettes or CDs, and is supplemented by an investigation of objectives set forth in Ethiopia’s Culture Policy, and Education and Training Policy. Purposive sampling was considered and categories were delineated for the songs as well as the objectives of the policies. Then the core messages of the songs were compared with the objectives of the policies. The fi ndings of the study indicate that thirty-nine songs refl ected the objectives of the Education and Training Policy while eleven songs refl ected the Cultural Policy. The core message of these and similar songs may best be evaluated in terms of the overt and subtle contributions of musical expressions in preserving local knowledge; they can be useful in promoting education, protecting cultural heritage, and maintaining societal norms and values.

Key Words: Harari pop music; Ethiopian music; Culture; Education; Content analysis.

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pp. 149-151

WIRSHATO: THE GOURD-SMASHING CEREMONY

ABDULMUHEIMEN Abdulnassir
Independent Scholar

ABSTRACT
    On Ashura, the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, Hararis celebrate Wirshato, a gourd-smashing ceremony that commemorates the prohibition of alcohol indicated by the Prophet Muhammad. During the ceremony, young boys run around the city holding sticks and singing the Wirshato song; when they enter the house compounds, they are given traditional gourds, habitually employed to contain liquids. The boys hence smash the gourd with their sticks and make toys out of the broken pieces, to symbolize the benefi ts that derive by breaking bad habits. Other members of the community take part in the festivities by donating gourds and by feasting on porridge to usher in abundance for the coming year. This brief paper will show how the activities surrounding the Wirshato ceremony in Harar are concerned with the concept of renewal and are derived from Islamic and customary sources.

Key Words: Gourd; Wirshato ceremony; Islamic rituals; Harar; Ethiopia.

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