Monthly Archives: January 2020

5 Fascinating Facts About The Oromo Language and Culture

By Maia Nikitina

Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, and Oromiffa, is a language from the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, and the third most widely spoken language in Africa, after Arabic and Hausa. The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. They are an indigenous African people who have maintained their cultural identity and language despite the Oromo language being forbidden for much of the 20th century. Most Oromos live in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Somalia), Kenia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, as well as in the Oromo Diaspora abroad.

  1. The Oromo Written Language Is One Of The Youngest In The World

The Oromo language was banned in Ethiopia for many years, forbidden from being used in schools and in the public sphere. In 1991, the language was allowed again. In the early 1970s, the Oromo Liberation Front decided on the Latin alphabet as the official script for the Oromo language. It is also sometimes written with the Arabic script, as well as the Ge’ez script and the Shaykh Bakri Sapalo orthography. The Oromo writing system based on the Roman alphabet is called Qubee. Due to the political situation that affected the Oromo language for a long time, it is one of the youngest languages in the world to become a written language.

Speakers of all variations of Oromo can easily understand each other, although the relatively late development of the writing system means that there are some differences in written dialects as the writing system is not fully standardised across all of the Oromo language.

  1. Oromian Literature Was Mostly Oral Until 1970s

The Oromos have a rich oral literary tradition which is expressed through various songs for all life eventualities, as well as poems, proverbs, and storytelling.

Since being allowed again, the language has experienced a literary revival, with popular plays, novels, and short stories published in the Oromo language. Dhaabaa Wayyessaa’s play Dukanaan Duuba (Beyond the Darkness), propelled the playwright and novelist to national fame in the early 1990’s. Another good example of Oromo’s development as a literary language is Gaaddisaa Birru’s novel Kuusaa Gaddoo.

  1. The Oromo People Created One Of The Earliest Democracies

The traditional Oromo society is structured according to the Gadaa system, also spelled as Gada. The system is considered to be one of the earliest democratic societies in the world and is based on an 8-yearly election of all political, military, economic, religious, and social administration.

The society has five classes with one fulfilling the function of the ruling class; this changes every 8 years. Each class progresses through a number of grades before it can participate in authority.

A Gadaa election is preceded by a campaign. One of the basic rules of the Gadaa is that a father and his son are always exactly five grades apart, which is always forty years. This means that the Gadaa class incorporates people of various ages.

  1. Most Oromos Live In Rural Areas

Around 90 percent of Oromia’s population are employed in agriculture, producing coffee, pulses, oil, and animal products such as hides and skins.

  1. The Irreechaa Ceremony Is Oromo Thanksgiving

Each September, millions of the Oromo people gather on the shores of Hora Harsade (Lake Harsadi or Arsadi) for the Irreechea Ceremony. The meaning of the ceremony is to give thanks and to pray to Waaqa (God).

Many Oromo people practise monotheism, and the Irreechaa ritual ceremony is believed to be one of the oldest forms of monotheism in Africa.

There are two types of the Irreechaa ceremonies: Irreechaa Tulluu (Irreecha on a mountain) and Irreechaa Malkaa (Irreechaa on a river). Irreechaa Tulluu is practised on top of mountains and hills during dry season. It is usually performed in March. Irreechaa Malkaa is celebrated either near a local body of water or at Lake Arsadi in Bishoftu which is located about 45 km from the capital of Oromia, Finfinnee.

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