Ethiopia: The Unique Culture of Dorze Community

Ethiopia is one the most culturally diversified nations in the world with more than 80 nations, nationalities and peoples. These ethnic groups have their own peculiar culture, history, tradition, language, beliefs, norms, values and mode of dressings that are reflected in the day to day life of the communities, mark their uniqueness and portray their identities.

The Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State (SNNPs), which is a home for more than 50 different ethnic groups is the best example in this regard. The State is home for a number of ethnic groups that have their own distinctive culture, tradition, values and philosophical beliefs that makes them distinct from any other ethnic groups living within the State and in the country.

The Dorze community is one of the many indigenous tribes' living in the small town of Arba Minch.

The Dorze are a small ethnic group who speak a language belonging to the largest Afro-Asian family of languages and known as Dorze. The communities live in villages near the cities of Chencha and Arbaminch, which are located in the Semien Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples State (formerly in the Gamu-Gofa province).

As various studies indicate, communities of Dorze are renowned for a rich weaving tradition, be it cotton, bamboo and other natural fibers and materials. Weaving is a primary profession for many of the people. The Dorze tribes, that are famous these days for their cotton woven cloths and beehive huts, once were warriors.

Not only that, but, they cultivate their own food and prevent erosion by terracing along the mountainside. In their farmlands, the Dorze will grow highland cereals. They also grow spices, vegetables, fruits and tobacco within their compound.

As Exploring Africa posted in its website referring to the Dorzes' oral tradition, the society consisted of 25 clans, these clans all came from different areas but managed to give life to a united group settling on the highlands.

A Dorze hut is made up of hard wood poles, woven bamboo, enset and other natural materials. It can stand two stories tall and last up to 80 years. Inside the main hut, one will find a fire place, a seating area and bedrooms. Smaller huts can include guest houses, a workshop, a kitchen and even cattle shed. When termites attack the hut, the Dorze can just remove it from its foundation and relocate it. This allows the home to last much longer, but every move shortens the height of the hut.

Although these huts look fragile, they can last up to 60 years. The huts can also be transported to other locations, due to the structure made of vertical poles.

The houses are built very high because, each time they can be attacked by termites and ants, the affected area is removed and the structure is lowered; however, this also creates a problem with the entrance door that is likely to become too low.

The Dorze have solved the problem by building, on the front of the hut, a protruding structure that they use as an antechamber but which allows you to cut a piece of roof and raise the door without affecting the supporting structure.

This structure looks like a big nose and together with the two ventilation holes always placed on the front of the hut, make the construction resemble the face of an elephant.

The huts inside are incredibly spacious, the bamboo structure does not need support columns and the interior space houses a sleeping area for the whole family, an area where to light the fire, an area dedicated to the distillation of grappa and sorghum beer and where to store food supplies and finally an area where the animals are found.

Keeping the animals inside the hut has the double advantage of protecting them from thieves and having a natural and free source of heating during the cold nights on the highlands.

Each family lives in a compound formed by the main hut and other smaller huts, one of which is used as a kitchen, while the other is a sort of honeymoon shelter; in reality this hut is used by the new couples for three months, the time required to build the main hut.

Around the clearing dedicated to the huts there is a garden where the Dorze cultivate the enset, or false banana, cotton and coffee and where the main activities of the family are carried out.

In the fields outside the village the Dorze mainly cultivate sorghum and other cereals.

The women of the Dorze tribe have most of the responsibilities within the family. They take care of children and homes and are responsible for preparing food, spinning cotton, collecting firewood and especially processing the enset that represents the main food source.

The Dorze men spend most of their time in the fields. They also build huts and weave; the Dorze society is indeed famous for the hand-weaving industry, locally-woven cotton products known as shemma which are very beautiful and colorful. The Dorze communities are known for their unique and special funeral ceremony. Members of the community sing and dance before, during and after the celebration of the funeral rites, and the songs and dances have the function of defeating death and avenging the deceased.

More From: Ethiopian Herald

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