(OAVA, 1 October 2013) The Australian Oromo Community in Melbourne celebrated its indigenous Oromo-African Thanksgiving Day , Irreechaa, at the Footscray Park river bank on 29 of September.
The Melbournians Oromo gather together at riverbanks and thank the Creator for past rains and ask for sustained weather and crops, for children to grow, for the sick to heal and for fraternity to prevail among human beings.
Melbourne based blogger of Far.From.Africa, Marion Cabanes, writes on her facebook timeline, “…I was invited by the Oromo Community (from present-day Ethiopia) to celebrate Ireechaa (‘Thanksgiving’) where Muslims and Catholics gathered to pay tribute to their god living in all parts of nature. Men explained how their women are powerful and respected in the community.”
A Melbourne-based human rights activist and freelance writer, Siinqee Wesho, reports the event toOpride.com.
As seen elsewhere, on Sep. 29, the Australian Oromo Community in Melbourne gathered at the Footscray Park and river to celebrate Irreecha. Their heart raced as if to catch the moving wind, their face radiated as if to outshine the sun, they all smiled and greeted each other from distances until they meet and hugged each other tightly and fondly. Nostalgia about the serenity and calmness of home set in.
At the Footscray Park, slightly damp green and evenly trimmed grass rose an inch above the ground. The morning’s mild wind propelled the leaves of various trees from left to right graciously. The Ixoraand Bogenia shone brightly to reflect the onset of spring and the Footscray River stayed calm as if unaware of the activities around it.
South American drummers beat their drums uninterrupted, a group of Africans fried tender BBQ, and others simply basked in the sun while a curious few joined in the Irreecha festivities. Much of the park’s cosmos maintained its disorganized balance but the hearts of Oromo Melbournians beat erotically with excitement – as if the auspicious day was a therapy for their trauma for the loss of home, culture, and ways of being.
The green park was covered by the rainbow color of Oromia’s dress codes. Children run around showing off their Qoloo and Callee while women’s beads sparkled from their necks and foreheads. Men superbly dressed in Kumaala andBullukko (top wears) holding Bokkuu decorated in the colors of Faajjii Walaabuu.
Women holding their Siinqee and Coqorsaa (a bunch of thick untrimmed grass) led the crowd to the riverbank whilst chanting songs of prayers and thanksgiving. The crowd followed by repeating the chorus slowly behind. Once at the pointed creek, the elders explained the official Irreefanna procedure.
This involved elders from the Borana tribe; the Angafaas led the awaiting crowd with Eebba or blessings. Everyone dipped the Irreessa inside the water as the prayers went on.
The elders later explained, while dipping this grass in the water, one’s heart and mind has to forget worldly evil and focus on the good. This was a tender moment of forgiveness, thanksgiving, and gratitude for the bounties of Waaqa.
Once this was done, the public joyously exchanged greetings more as follows:
“Baga furdaa (bacaqii) gannaa baatanii booqaa birraa argitan, akkasuma kan hortanii horattan mara wajjiin saddeetni sadeetattii isiniif haa naannawu .” This roughly translates to Merry Spring and thanksgiving. May Waaqa bless your wealth and belongings throughout the Gadaa cycle.
Once Irreefannaa was done, the Oromo traditional banquet such as miciirra/shakaka, caccabsaa, marmaree, Daadhii (homemade honey wine) were shared.
The BBQ chops replaced the sheep that would be slaughtered in Oromo homes or festival places such asHulluqqoo in Borana and Hora Arsadi. Freshly roasted coffee filled the air and ushered in the Ragadaa, Shaggooyyee, Tirrii and Dhiichisa songs from around Oromia.
Young and old, men and women were drunk in celebration. A small group huddled together to recall something of Irreessa back home while others listened dreamily and intently.
As the sun sat over Melbourne, elders gave the final blessing to conclude the festivities on this significant day. For the first time in Melbourne, an aftermath party that was hosted by the Melbourne Oromo youth and notable musicians like Jawe Bora entertained the crowd till late night.
Far away from Oromia, the Oromo diaspora community eagerly expressed their longing for home in the best way possible. This was their way of saying: Aadaa bareeda qabna hin jiru ka keenna gituu, seenaa bareeda qabna hin jiru ka keenna gituu…yaa Oromoo kumnillee hin bitu.
(Oromocentre, 7 June 2013) It is with great pleasure that to invite you to the annual Irreechaa festival, Oromo National Thanksgiving day, of the year on Sunday 29 September 2013.
Irreechaa Birraa is a celebration that repeats once in a year-in birraa and involves special activities or amusements as it has a lot of importance in our lives. It symbolizes the arrival of spring and brighten season with their vibrant green and daisy flowers.
It’s a day all Oromian’s celebrate and cherish due to our ties to our root: Oromo Identity and country. It’s a time for reflection, celebration and a good connection with our best heritage, Oromummaa.
Moving Forward: Promoting Oromummaa
This year’s Oromian Irreechaa Festival is going to be bigger and better than ever, with a whole theme park devoted to diverse Oromian cultural exhibitions. The theme of this national Thanksgiving Day is “Moving Forward: Promoting Oromummaa” in which it aims to celebrate Irreechaa festivals to follow and promote our tradition and religion in society, to create public awareness where Oromo cultural and religious issues will be discussed to provide a better understanding of Oromo culture and history, to pave the way for promotion of the Oromo culture, history and lifestyle and to celebrate Irreechaa, a national Thanksgiving Day.
We celebrate Irreechaa to thank Waaqaa for the blessings and mercies we have received throughout the past year at the sacred grounds of Hora Harsadi (Lake Harsadi), Bishoftu, Oromia. The Irreechaa festival is celebrated every year at the beginning of Birraa (the sunny new season after the dark, rainy winter season) throughout Oromia and around the world where Diaspora Oromos live.
We celebrate Irreechaa not only to thank Waaqaa (God) also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season associated with nature and creature. On Irreechaa festivals, friends, family, and relatives gather together and celebrate with joy and happiness. Irreechaa Festivals bring people closer to each other and make social bonds.
Moreover, we are celebrating this auspicious event to mark the end of rainy season, known as Birraa, was established by Oromo forefathers, in the time of Gadaa Melbaa in Mormor, Oromia. The auspicious day on which this last Mormor Day of Gadaa Belbaa-the Dark Time of starvation and hunger- was established on the 1st Sunday of last week of September or the 1stSunday of the 1st week of October according to the Gadaa lunar calendar ‐‐ has been designated as our National Thanksgiving Day by modern‐day Oromo people. Oromo communities both at home and abroad celebrate this National Thanksgiving Day every year.
Irreechaa as a medium for bringing all Oromians together
The Oromian Irreechaa Festival will not only serve as a medium for bringing all Oromians together, from all its diasporas, as one voice, but will also focus on promoting and enhancing Oromummaa in freedom struggle, tourism, arts and crafts, business, restaurants and hospitality, and entertainment. Moreover as a moving and flourishing heritage, Irreechaa also connects our Oromo identity with the global civilization in which the industrial and manufacturing sectors of heavy and light machinery of natural resources and raw materials.
During the event, we will be serving with Oromo foods and featuring with traditional dances by Oromo children, youth and dance troupes. Irreechaa is about a lot more than just putting on shows, it encourages engagement and participation from everyone in the greater community across our great city, country and the globe.
Please come and experience our Oromo culture with people from various communities, social organizations, agencies, volunteers, friends and families.
OROMIANS SEEK BLESSINGS AND LOVE AT ANNUAL OROMO FESTIVAL
(OAVA, 3 Septembre 2013) October 2, 2013 Millions of Oromo were gathered in the south east town of Oromia, Bishoftu – some 50 km from the capital Finfinnee (Addis Ababa), to celebrate the annual Irreechaa Festival at the weekend.
According to our reporter from Oromia more that three millions are attended the annual Irreechaa festival from around Oromia. Despite heavy police presence at the lake, the Irreechaa celebrations and related festivities, including a concert in Dukem town, were orderly and peaceful.
Irreecha marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of spring — along with hopes for an abundant harvest. Although there is strong government surveillance every year, Irreechaa is still one of the most significant celebrations for the Oromo.
Followers show their gratitude to God — known as Waaqa — a force that rules the cosmos. The Oromo believe Waaqa’s creative power is found in each living entity, whether it’s human, animal or a plant. At the shores of Lake Hora, whose waters are believed to carry nature’s blessings, Elders and Qaalluus splashed pilgrims with water.
According to the Oromo elder, Qajeelaa Waatiroo, Irreechaa signifies more that seasonal change. “The reason why the Oromos perform the Irrecha ritual is to thank God that we came out of the rainy and dark season in to the light in good health and to pray that we stay safe in the coming season. We also thank God for the cultivation and for the good harvest we will have this spring,” said Qajeelaa Waatiroo, an Oromo elder.
Irreechaa has evolved over the years from a religious ceremony to a social event and a chance for Oromos scattered across the country to meet. For many young people the festival also presents an opportunity to find love.
Twenty three-year-old Bikila Etana a loan clerk at a bank in Finfinnee attended the festival this year not only to fulfil his cultural duties but also to search for a wife. “I know a lot of people who met here and finally got married. You can get luck here. I also took a couple of numbers and I will be making phone calls when I go back and see how things will work out,” Etana said.
Irrecha was closely monitored the existing government and even banned in the successive Ethiopian governments until 1990 because they thought it was a chance for their enemies- Oromos to come together in large numbers.
As the ceremony was first celebrated by Oromo Liberation Front during the transition period in 1991, it became a prominent part of the country’s cultural calendar, more people looking to reconnect with their Oromo culture have been taking part within the country and the diaspora.
Now young Oromo like Etana and his friends egged each other on as they collected phone numbers, with plans to follow up when they got back home. “It was really a very interesting day. The festival itself was very interesting and in addition to that I’ve taken two to three phone numbers. I came back praying to God that I succeed in one of these,” said Etana as he shared a drink with his friends after the festival.
According to anthropologists, Irreechaa holiday is primarily about celebrating nature’s harmony with a nation at different stage. Meanwhile, it becomes a cultural institution that promotes sustainable ecology, encourages respect for life on earth, and highlights concern over pollution of the soil, air, and water.
Moreover, Irreechaa plays a significant role in reinforcing, and sometimes redefining, our values as a nation or as a community. It also plays an important role in maintaining a common heritage as well as in building community relations and creating national identity.
In Oromia, the Oromo homeland, winter is a busy and muddy season making travel and social life difficult. Spring (booqa birraa) ushers in a new beginning as rain eases, river levels drop, flowers blossom, and newly budding leaves prop to life. During this season, mother earth wears the green gowns of natural beauty –Irreessa or Keelloo.
But today, Irreecha has been revived and signifies much more than a seasonal change for the Oromo people. It is a symbol of rebirth as well as resistance against Oromo’s continued repression. Each year millions of Oromos – from all stripes and religious persuasions – gather at Hora Arsadi in Bishoftu, 50kms southeast of Finfinne (Addis Ababa), Oromia’s capital to rejoice and celebrate Oromummaa.
Beyond its traditional religious significance, which is curtailed due to the government’s ban on Waaqeffanna associations, Irreechaserves as a unifying cultural practice for the Oromos without losing connection to Waaqa. An estimated three million people from around Oromia attended this year’s festival, according to different blogs and media reports.
In recent years, the vast Oromo diaspora has taken this tradition to many lakes and parks in the Western world as a way to recreate a sense of home and belonging. For them, these “foreign” parks and lakes represent Hora Arsadi – the site of Oromo cultural rebirth – for it is in the wide waters of lake Arsadi lay Oromos hope of freedom, harmony, and unity.
Over the last weekend of September, thousands of Oromos – from Melbourne, Australia, Washington D.C. to San Diego, Castro Valley in California to Minnesota, Johannesburg in South Africa to Amsterdam in Holland to name but few –danced, ululated and gave thanks to Waaqa for a smooth transition to a new season and the abundance that comes with it while also praying for nagaa (peace), bilisummaa (freedom),tokkummaa (unity), and araara (reconciliation).
Advocacy for Oromia was established in 2010 with the purpose of enabling and empowering Oromo people by providing accurate and timely information that will help to make better choices to create the kind of future in which they wish to live.
It also provides information focus on the major issues facing us in the 21st century and it is going to try and bring a balanced approach with factual information that is positive and solution based.
The website has been in operation for the last nine years with the mission of promoting and advancing causes of Oromo people through advocacy, community education, information service, capacity building, awareness raising and promotion.
The website is also the official site of Advocacy for Oromia Association in Victoria Australia Inc., a non-profit organisation, registered under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012 in Victoria as April 2014.
Our team already had considerable community development experience and expertise. Our various projects helped to develop our confidence and the capacity of our agency. Our team used every gained knowledge, skills and experiences as an opportunity to design and develop new approaches, to documenting progress, supporting positive employment outcomes, liaising with community stakeholders, and conduct evaluation.
Advocacy for Oromia is devoted to establishing Advocacy for Oromia organisation to close the gaps where we can stand for people who are disadvantaged and speaking out on their behalf in a way that represents the best interests of them. We are committed to supporting positive settlement and employment outcomes for Victoria’s Oromo community.
Advocacy for Oromia Office
39 Clow St,
Dandenong VIC 3175
247-251 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Springvale Neighbourhood House Inc
Address: 46-50 Queens Ave, Springvale VIC 3171
P. O. Box 150
Noble Park, Vic 3174
With your support, we can continue to help community build a better future.
Advocacy for Oromia Mental Health Program
The aim of the program is to improving the mental health and well-being of Oromo community in Victoria. It aims to assist those experiencing, mental ill-health, their families and carers of all ages within this community to address the social determinants of mental health for Oromo community. It helps:
Identify and build protective factors,
Reduce stigma and discrimination
Build capacity for self-determination
Better understand mental wellbeing, mental ill-health and the impacts of trauma
The goal of the project is to increase mental health literacy of Oromo community that aims:
To assist people with mental health issues
To increase the capacity of mental health worker
To better understand mental wellbeing
To provide mental health education and information
To address the social and cultural causes of mental health issues
Advocacy for Oromia will organise information session, women performance, radio programs, culturally adopted conversations on Oromo Coffee Drinking ceremony, providing training for mental health guides and forum and producing educational materials on the selected groups and geographical area.
Human Rights Education Program
The Human Rights Education Program is a community based human rights program designed to develop an understanding of everyone’s common responsibility to make human rights a reality in each community.
Human rights can only be achieved through an informed and continued demand by people for their protection. Human rights education promotes values, beliefs and attitudes that encourage all individuals to uphold their own rights and those of others.
The aim of the program is to build an understanding and appreciation for human rights through learning about rights and learning through rights. We aimed at building a universal culture of human rights. Thus, we aimed:
To build an understanding and appreciation for human rights through learning about rights and learning through rights.
To build capacities and sharing good practice in the area of human rights education and training
To develop human rights education and training materials and resources
The goal of the project is to increase human rights literacy of Oromo community that aims:
To better understand human rights
To increase the capacity of human rights worker
To analyse situations in human rights terms
To provide human rights education and information
To develop solidarity
To strategize and implement appropriate responses to injustice.
The ultimate goal of education for human rights is empowerment, giving people the knowledge and skills to take control of their own lives and the decisions that affect them.
Human rights education constitutes an essential contribution to the long-term prevention of human rights abuses and represents an important investment in the endeavour to achieve a just society in which all human rights of all persons are valued and respected.
Advocacy for Oromia will organise information session, performance, radio programs, culturally adopted conversations on Oromo Coffee Drinking ceremony, providing training for Human Rights guides and forum and producing educational materials on the selected groups and geographical area.
Community Safety Program
The program aims to strengthen existing collaborations and identify opportunities for the development of partnerships aimed at community safety and crime prevention activities. This approach seeks to improve the individual and collective quality of life by addressing concerns regarding the wider physical and social environment. Importantly, community safety means addressing fear of crime and perceptions of safety as without this any actions to address the occurrence of crime and anti-social behaviour are of less value.