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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Leila QASHU, Concordia University (Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling)

Over the years of living and researching in Arsi Oromo communities in Ethiopia, young female informants have shown me many examples of daily challenges: butaa (marriage by abduction), abuse, difficulties accessing education, falling into problematic relationships for economic reasons, and general concern for rights, autonomy and livelihood. Scholars in anthropology, human rights and gender studies have analyzed complexities of negotiating and resolving human inequities (Cowan et al. 2001, Green 2007, Hodgson 2011, Merry 2009, Oyewùmí 2003) and anthropology, ethnomusicology and communication scholars have been examining how expressive arts are used to enact social change (Diamond 2012, Jackson 2004, Meintjes 2004, 2015). I have sought to bring forth Arsi Oromo narratives representing different generations of women. Married Arsi women enact ateetee, a sung judicial ritual that enables them to claim their rights when they have been abused (Qashu 2016), but young women must look for other avenues of expression. Using multimedia representations made with project participants, I will discuss a collaborative multimedia project with an under-represented younger generation of Oromo women. Through participatory media, the aim of the project is to explore challenges facing young Arsi women, and their strategies – especially the use of expressive arts – for questioning, resisting and changing cultural practices. Theoretical approaches used to frame this collaborative research model include: 1) a vernacular feminist approach, which is both experience-based and culture-specific (Green 2007, Nnaemeka 1998, Oyewùmí 2003); 2) documentary and participatory film theory, that is related to the (self-) representation of young Arsi women (Miller 2009, Milne, Mitchell and de Lange 2012), and 3) emerging discourses on participatory and collaborative research (High 2009, 2014, Miller 2009, Sillitoe 2015) and the arts (Barz 2011, Robinson 2014). This presentation will be related to a film presented during the film screenings at the conference.