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[PANEL] 0212 TRANSNATIONAL ENTANGLEMENTS OF CULTURAL FESTIVALS IN ETHIOPIA AND THE HORN OF AFRICA
Kim GLÜCK, Frobenius Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology, Germany
Sarah BUSHRA, Ankeboot Publishing House, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
SELAM Balehey Gebremicale; MULUBRHAN Balehegn Gebremikael; Kim GLÜCK; Sarah BUSHRA;
Over the last decade, the complex format, manifold histories and stakes of cultural festivals attracted the interest of scholars to the extent of creating a new, thriving field of inquiries which analyses the ongoing processes of the “festivalization of culture” (Murphy 2016, Dovey 2015, Boum 2012). However, very few studies have focussed on festivals set up in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. But events of this kind do exist in the region and, being the result of collective efforts, they mobilize a fair amount of people, energies and ideas. Festivals which are not run anymore also survive in the scattered memories and often fragile archives of institutions and individuals involved as organizers, artists, politicians, volunteers or viewers.
To appreciate the wealth of existing experiences, suffice here to think at the “Addis Foto Fest” (2010) which is today firmly established in the world map of photographic festivals along with, in Africa, the Bamako Biennale (1994) and LagosPhoto (2010) or, back in the 1980s, the Mogadishu film festival “Mogpafis” which had Pan-African and Pan-Arabic scope and views. Indeed, as political objects in their own rights (Malaquais et al. 2016), festivals offer fascinating opportunities to excavate entangled histories dealing at once with political, economic, social and cultural issues, which have impacts and resonances with local and international debates.
We are interested in proposals highlighting the transnational connections and circulations (in all directions and, particularly, beyond the well-known, top-down, North-South route) of ideas, persons, fundings and “objects” related to specific festivals. Special attention will be granted to festivals in the area of visual arts (cinema, photography, fine arts) which will be analysed through different angles (the nature of the organizing institutions and their purposes, the trajectories of the people involved or of the objects shown, the production aspects, etc.). But proposals on other art forms will be equally considered. Papers may also focus on festivals which had ephemeral lives or which were planned but never came into being; on festivals organized within the diaspora; and on significant experiences of collaboration between artists from the Horn and international festivals.
ASHENDA, AN INDIGENOUS GIRLS' FESTIVAL IN NORTHERN ETHIOPIA: THEORIES ON ITS ORIGINS, ITS MATERIAL AND ORAL GRADITIONS AND THEIR GENDERED INTERPRETATIONS [Abstract ID: 0212-01]
Indigenous people's cultural traditions are embodiments of the philosophy of life of the community that holds them. Ashenda is a traditional and highly popular women's cultural festival celebrated during the summer season in the last week of the month of August in parts of northern Ethiopia, appreciated for its cultural and aesthetic beauty during the greenest of seasons. Despite its popularity, however, no attempts to analyze, popularize and internationalize the festival have yet been undertaken, with coverage limited to television and radio portrayals only, which fail to paint a detailed picture of the festival and its societal implications and values. This study is, therefore, undertaken to analyze the oral and material traditions of the Ashenda festival and to specifically shed light on the gendered explanations of the Ashenda songs and poems as well as their origins. While a theory of religious origin seems to be the most prevalent explanation, our evidence suggests that Ashenda might have originated as a Christianized form of Pagan traditional harvest festival or traditional match-making festival. Moreover, the Ashenda oral songs and poems can generally be divided into four categories, namely: 1. Freedom songs and poems, 2. Appreciation and compliments, 3. social criticisms, and 4. Identity and communality markers. In the first type of songs, which are the most common ones, young girls express their delight at the seasonal physical and mental freedom they get during the Ashenda festival. It appears a the time when girls become free of any gender-based discrimination and restrictions and become free to express and do whatever they want. The second types are these that are focused on the appreciation and exalting of community heroes. By singing such songs, young girls serve as a form of social recognition and encouragement for those who do good. The third type of songs is where young girls openly criticize societal misbehaviour, thereby practising their full right in community affairs. In the fourth type of songs, girls sing songs that express harmony, cooperation and commonality between themselves, thereby strengthening societal bonds. Our findings indicate that the Ashenda festival, though only for short-lived, empowers, inspires and provides freedom to women and girls in a society that traditionally subordinates women and girls. Therefore, the spirit and principles of Ashenda can be used to inspire women and girls to stand up for their rights and equality.
SHOW ME YOUR DANCE: REFLECTIONS ON ETHIOPIA’S FIRST INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL [Abstract ID: 0212-03]
Adey, the first international dance festival in Ethiopia took place from October 26-28, 2017 as a result of a 3-months road tour across the country. Considering the influence of funding institutions and organizing companies on the proposed and achieved goals of this festival, this paper analyzes the methodology involved in the inception, preparation, organization, and presentation of a festival and its impact in shaping the appearance and overall characteristics of the outcome. ADEY project was organized by DESTINO dance company, a private institution that secured funds from European Development Fund (EDF), EU’s main instrument for providing development aid to Africa, under the division: “Promoting Heritage and Culture for Ethiopia’s Development – support to the development of cinema, photography, and visual art sector”. What are the aims of this multinational operating economic and political union in providing monetary support to this project and how do these aims align with the goals of the fund recipient and eventually with the general public for whom the Festival is meant to benefit. As part of the travelling group in the Adey project, our investigation draws from the organizers’ approach in engaging with locals throughout the places they visited, in an endeavor to document, preserve, and advertise traditional dances of various ethnic groups in Ethiopia. We study the impact of constraints of the journey, including shortage of allocated time for visited regions, language barriers, and the presence of cameras that encouraged curated situations in lieu of documenting what is observed. Bearing in mind the monopoly of the organizing company on the decision making process involved in shaping the festival compounded with the requirements and expectations of its funding institutions does the Festival celebrate culture or the selected benefits of culture to the organizing companies? Furthermore, we put to question the nature of the “object” a Festival produces. Is festivilization of culture equivalent to commercialization of culture and does it run the risk of folklorizing the culture it aims to promote?
THE ROLE OF INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION; A CASE STUDY FOR THE DOCUMENTATION, PUBLICATION AND PROMOTION OF THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THE ENDAMEKONI, RAYA AZEBO WEREDAS OF THE SOUTHERN ZONE OF THE TIGRAY REGIONAL STATE [Abstract ID: 0212-02]
The Endamekoni wereda is one of the 9 weredas of the southern Tigary Zonal Administration, located 125 km to the south of Mekelle, and base of a number of unique local cultural traditions and activities; Endamekon has a population of 15000 people who speak Tigrigna predominantly. The Raya Azebo Wereda is found 138 km to the south-east of Mekelle, and has a population of 180,000; meanwhile, the Ambalage wereda is found 85km to the south of the Mekelle. The native people of these weredas are Tigreans; however, there is also a not insignificant number of Oromo people are living in the Raya Azebo wereda, particularly in the HUJIIRA Werabaye kebelle which crosses the new high way from Mekelle to Alamata. The people of the above-mentioned weredas have different intangible cultural heritage practices of potential universal value yet to be documented, preserved and promoted in a proper way. However, these intangible cultural heritages are yet seldom known to scholars and researchers and are still known mostly only in practice and action of the peoples that created them over many lines of generations. As younger generations struggle to preserve these practices, this paper attempts their documentation in the face of possible future abandonment.