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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MOHAMMED Idriss Moussa, Head of Afar-Af Department Semera University; M.A. Ethiopian Linguistic and Philology Addis Ababa University

This presentation challenges frequently used terminologies and the set focus for history-writing about the ‘Afar people in North-East Africa. Terms like ʽAsa Māra (ʽAsā-Yāmarā) and the ʽAdo Māra (ʽAdō-Yāmarā), which have been commonly applied to divide the ‘Afar into two different groups, “nobles” and “commoners” respectively, are found in various publications without well-defined clarifications. The present paper will show that these terms have neither genealogical meanings nor to do they refer to genealogical relations. Moreover, for the greater majority of the ‘Afar people, especially in the middle and north of the ‘Afar Region in Ethiopia, the terms are of no importance in daily life, nor do people attach much significance to them. This presentation also aims to show that research about the history of ‘Afar is almost entirely reduced to the history of five Sultanates of ‘Afar, namely the Sultanates of Awsa, Tajorra, Raḥaytō, Gōbaʽad and Girrifū or Birū and their relation to the central Ethiopian state. These five Sultanates are well known due to their contacts and dealings with European colonialists in the areas near the Red Sea; meanwhile, this focus has left extensive ‘Afar areas un- and understudied. Based on long-term qualitative research in the ‘Afar Region, this paper aims to challenge recent research and history-writing about the ‘Afar by stressing different aspects of the ‘Afar culture, history and traditions. By doing so, the presentation will show that there is huge potential for further long-depth research among the ‘Afar in North-East Africa, which can contribute to better understanding the ‘Afar people in particular and the role of the ‘Afar people in North-East Africa in general.