15 June 2017

Ethiopia: Uniqueness, Beauty of Hararis' Ritual Performance

The Harari people are familiar with a number of rituals that they perform during their joy or mourning times. They trust in God for each involvement alongside with their tireless effort. They reside in the city of Harar, situated in the Harari State, eastern Ethiopia.

Harari people have a traditional tool in their homes made up of mud designed as a cemetery. They use it for two purposes: as a Holy Quran table or a remembrance of death. They believe that thinking about religion and death would help one to be diligent and disciplined. This means, when anyone remembers about mortality, he would be committed to use his lifetime to bear notable fruits that come after hard working before confronting of his last moment.

Hararis also erect a statue called Awach or Inayach for men and women who passed away after accomplishing invaluable favour to the society in their religion, knowledge and discipline. Therefore, everyone in the society is curious to carry out such success and deserve this reverence. This is the major reason behind the peaceful life norms and hospitality of the Harari people. Recently, this and similar cultural experiences were presented at the Ethiopian National Theatre. The occasion was also observed with the presentation of various researches conducted on the culture and ritual performances of the Hararis.

Presenting a paper on the ritual performances, National Theatre Ritual Performance Research and Training Director Lakemariam Lisanework said that as they dwell in a city that has long history of mankind, Harari people have been living peacefully and cooperatively with their neighbours. "They have been leading their lives with the norms of Afocha, a group of people that would help each other either the good or bad times. They share feelings during marriage, mourning and field work."

During Ashura, New Year's festivity, youths enjoy through breaking a gourd, a fruit with a very hard shell, to show their strength to their peer mates and to attract girls. And the girls would give response to the guy they are interested with.

The Hararis New Year celebration is consisted of various activities including the porridge feeding programme and observation of the show of hyenas. It seems very adventurous but interesting scene to look at such interaction between a human and wild animal. The programme is led by the leader of the group of the hyenas. If the leader hyena does not eat the porridge, the rest would reflect similar response. But if it takes its portion the others would immediately follow.

In the custom of the Harari people, this ritual performance has been carried out for a long period. Feeding the hyenas has two meaning to this society. First, if the hyenas eat the porridge, it means the New Year is hopeful. However, if the opposite occurred the Hararis would start the eve with long prayer assuming the year would bring something bad.

On the occasion, researches on marriage proceedings, burial ceremony, group work, traditional medication and ethics of this historic society were presented. Researching on such rich culture would help to bring them to the stage to promote and draw lessons about how this people have been living with neighbouring societies and untamed animals as well. In his recommendation, Laikemariam suggests that researchers need to exploit such ritual performances within other ethnic groups and bring them to the public for artistic and societal purpose. He also stated that the excavation of such cultures would also help for tourism promotion and policy making.

National Theatre Evaluation and Training Senior Expert Samuel Tesfaye elaborates the significance of the ritual performances from its artistic value. He believes that studying the cultural values of various ethnic groups would help to promote the culture via theatre. "Traditional ritual performing spheres have not been well discovered yet. However, the recent motives by various experts seem inspiring to identify the current status of the traditions and to promote them with the necessary rehabilitation support and paving way to advance tourism," Tesfaye added.

Peoples at every corners of the world have their own norms in which they demonstrate their happiness as well as sorrow. Especially, in a country like Ethiopia which is the home to various ethnicities, there could be several rituals that are unique to the society. Because of their uniqueness, they can serve as input to tap tourism potential. Moreover, acknowledging them among other peoples has significant role in art.

As to Samuel, some of the traditional inheritance of the country are invaluable to perform on stage with few decorations to add artistic value. He believed that in an effort to promote ritual performance within a given art, the artists have a great responsibility in decorating or adding some fascinating art colours.

House of Peoples' Representatives Culture, Tourism and Media Affairs Standing Committee member Momina Mohammad attended the paper presentation programme. She gets the study as a significant method in promoting and sharing cultural values among ethnic groups.

According to her, the ethnic relation would help to consolidate national unity. "And this effort should be implemented across the country. Harar is a city where people and animals are living in friendly manner. It is miraculous to observe this cordial relationship between humans and animals. I believed that the experience of Harari people could be best example to the societal coexistence of people of the country." She also pledged that the counsel would continue its inspection and support to similar studies conducted in other ethnic cultures of the country.

Assistant Prof. Ahmed Zekaria from Ethiopian Research Institute of Addis Ababa University noted that studying ethnics, cultures and ritual performances means exploiting something special to the other group of societies about a new life style. It is very important to assimilate such cultures specifically to solve social problems with especial parameters. Using such norms to develop artistic pieces is also critical in reflecting the real life of the people.

Conducting ethnographic research is critical to identify and promote cultural values and indigenous knowledge. This is clearly seen in the theatre entitled Yekake Werdwot currently on display to audience at the National Theatre. However, insignificant number of theatrical arts has been performed so far comparing to the numerous cultural inheritances that the nation is endowed with. Provided that the attention of conducting such researches and their findings are used by the art peoples, the nation would have invaluable theatres that are directly related to the real life and daily routines of the people. Furthermore, the endeavour would be helpful to reduce the cultural barriers and improve communications among various ethnics.

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