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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WUHIBEGEZER Ferede, Blue Nile Water Institute, Bahirdar, Ethiopia
AKLILU Kahsay, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

This study was undertaken in central Tigray, which is the epicenter of a significant legacy of Ethiopia’s ancient Axumite civilisation. It is also a living museum, with many traces of artistic excellence and innovation by artisans. The indigenous craft knowledge system was critical to the production of technology and to the transmission of intellectual traditions and technical skills from generation to generation. However, over time, the profession lost social support and technological innovation and excellence declined at an alarming rate, as the new generations became indifferent to craft vocations and learning. The purpose of this research was to examine the causes of the marginalisation of artisans/craftsmen and its concomitant impact on rural livelihoods in central Tigray. The research points to a close link between the rural economy and the products of artisans. However, the consumers of these craft products usually denigrated, ostracised and marginalised artisans. The analysis of the data collected through FDG, in-depth interviews, field observation and informal discussions with various sections of the community in and around Axum, along with secondary documents, indicates that the source of this paradox was a mix of foreign conspiracy, feudal mindset, monastic orders and the association of the belief in the evil eye (Boudda) with the craft professions. As a result, a technological renaissance in the country at large and the transformation of rural livelihoods in central Tigray demand a revival of the indigenous skills of the craft professions and the demystification of the beliefs held about artisans, by empowering them socially, economically and politically.