Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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ADMASU Abebe, lecturer at Mada Walabu University and Ph.D Student of Social Anthropology, Ethiopia

This study examines the artistic values of Manchela (decorated sleeping hid mat) and to explain its significance in social interaction among Dawuro society. It is a kind of ethnographic inquiry on indigenous art objects or visual art in the pre-colonial or colonial societies typically “primitive” art - now called as ‘Ethnographic Art' (Gell 1998:1-7). An evaluation and categorization of non-western aesthetic scene needs ‘Ethnographic’ studies to grasp culture-specified meanings behind the art objects. It is also the way of seeing a cultural system that focuses on particular artwork production, circulation, and utilization and evolution in particular social milieu. So, its' emphasis is not on aesthetic principles, but its' mobilization in the course of particular social interactions. Therefore, the main objectives of this paper were to investigate Manchela making, symbolic meaning embedded in socio-cultural spheres, and to explain the roles in social interactions. Data collected through field observation (exhibition conducted in November 2016), interview and document analyses. Thus, it found that Manchela is a decorated and local made sleeping hid mat that mainly used for sleeping and as gift object provided for the bridegroom. It is produced by an occupational minority group called Degela. Oral tradition traces their origin claim to Jewish (Bet-Israel or Flasha). It is decorated by using local made color, handmade painting tools and depicts publicly constructed styles and symbols. Skins tanned by using stone tools (ancient technology) that are a long vanished tradition in many parts of the world. However, it survived in the study area (Alula and Gebre 2012; Abrham 2013). This might be due to an artistic value embedded in that culture and its steady social interaction transited in different human development stages. Furthermore, it argues that due to change, if the survivals (tanners) failed to practice it for their livelihoods, the tenacity of products' social value and its consumer is changing does institutional intervention is capable to preserve an art? Is the involvement of “primitive” art in modern industry (tourism and fashion) per se able to open new opportunities? How can local art in South Ethiopia be categorized in a production of “Self-image” and maintaining “public image”?