Hadiya Ethiopia: Book Cover for A History of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia

A History of the Hadiya in Southern Ethiopia

We think this is the most comprehensive scholarly book ever written about Hadiya people of Ethiopia.

Quote from Amazon’s book description:

The Hadiyya are an ethnic group of 1.5 million people in central-southern Ethiopia. Linguistically they belong to the Highland East Cushitic cluster. In Ethiopian and Arabic chronicles between the 13th and the 17th centuries they were mentioned as representatives of a powerful Muslim state which continuously challenged the hegemony of the Christian Ethiopian Empire in that region. Following the expansion of the Oromo from the 16th century onwards the Hadiyya were territorially fragmented and adopted different ethnic identities, for example, of Gurage, Allaaba, Sidama and Oromo. In their historical traditions they however preserved the memory of a common origin, the Hadiyya state. As this becomes most evident among the people who have maintained the ethnonym Hadiyya to this day, Ulrich Braukamper focused his study of the Hadiyya in this area. Because it was taking place in an illiterate culture, the reconstruction of history until the conquest of the area by the Ethiopian Empire in the second half of the 19th century had to be based on oral traditions. The results of this event were deep-rooted, whereas the brief phase of Italian colonialism (1936-41) remained peripheral. Braukamper’s chronological representation ends with the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, and it is presently complemented by an ethnographic monograph of the Hadiyya proper. The revised and translated edition of the book published in 1980 was done on the explicit request of members of the Hadiyya people.

This book is available from various sellers and libraries.  The following is one of the reviews left on book’s page of Amazon quoted verbatim:

It was a great discovery for me to find Prof. Dr. Ulrich Braukämper’s wide ranging work in greater Ethiopia, especially on Hadiya and peoples of southern/central Ethiopia. Once I found his work, I purchased his two books: 1) A History of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia and 2) Fandaanano: The Traditional Socio-Religious System of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia. Note that his spelling of Hadiyya with an extra y, based on how Hadiya pronounce their own group, differs from how most written sources spell the term off/online. That is unfortunate because googling ‘Hadiya’ would not show you this book on page one. I have now finished reading both books. People who left lukewarm reviews must have not read the whole book which I encourage them to do. I respect your views regardless.

As you read his work, this scholar’s pioneering contributions to the history of the country as a whole and Hadiya in particular leaves you in awe. He has unearthed treasure troves of lost history of people considered less important in Ethiopian historiography. Fact is that these people and their contributions are just as important as those that conquered them in the last hundred years, at least for the people of this origin. Ethiopian history we learned in schools are at best partial and at worst the history of recently victor ethnicities and cultures.

That is where Braukämper comes in. He has connected innumerable dots that I had not even know existed in the formation of what is now known as Ethiopia. (Note that his work traverses many regions of Africa) While I come from Hadiya ethnic background, I am one who also believes in Ethiopia as a nation. I believe regardless of our past, we need to chart our futures together as one people with equality while respecting each other’s cultures and histories. In research, schools and practices we should no longer glorify certain ethnicities while suppressing or glazing over that of the historically subjugated people. Ethiopia is whole only when all cultures, languages, histories, and identities, are honored within the union.

Scholarly speaking, I feel as though Ulrich Braukämper has single handily leveled the history’s playing field for a significant populations of Ethiopia. Now it is up to other academicians to build upon that foundation. We as Ethiopians are indebted to Ulrich Braukämper. His works are being quoted and will continue to be quoted in many other scholarly or other works. There is not doubt that now and in the future his research will be used by many others as well to support or as a foundation for their own research studies.

I highly recommend Ethiopians who are interested in real history of Ethiopia to read these two books. You will certainly know your country better as a result. The consciousness you gain in these books does not make you wish for the disintegration of Ethiopia along ethnic boundaries, but leaves you with some regrets: about the formation of Ethiopia as we know it today, what happened in the aftermath of formation (in its current form), subjugation of nearly all ethnic groups (especially those in the Central, West, South, & East) in Ethiopia up until very recently.  The impact of these policies are still lingering.

Growing up the Ethiopian the history of Ethiopia we were taught in schools is all about some elite families that belong to very few ethnic groups and that we should all be proud of their accomplishments. The purpose here is not to belittle these accomplishments. Let me also say at the outset that I don’t believe that Amhara is a ruling ethnicity for the purpose of my discussion here and that the responsibility for issues I raised here goes only to the elites groups of Amhara, particularly of Shawa, who also victimized the common Amhara people and who set the rules for Ethiopia. Of course we can’t deny that individuals or families of regular Amharas were at a relative advantage accrued to them as a result of them belonging to the ruling ethnicity. A few of many advantages even the common members of Amhara ethnic group include the superiority that their language and culture enjoyed  throughout the country, giving them leg up for opportunities and other facet of life.

Defeating groups in war and bringing them into victor’s orbit is normal in the context of history, but was it necessary to subjugate, dehumanize, and enslave the losers up until very recently for nearly a century especially when the stated objective is to create a unified harmonious country?

Another regret is that once these things happened why was it necessary to suppress the real history, for example the impact of Menelik II’s creation of permanent serfs out of southern peoples after he subjugated them. (We were only “taught” that he was an example of perfection, benevolent father of the country who was good to all peoples, angelic figure.) Does it mean that people of the South rise with with rage if they had learned the truth about his real deeds? No. It would only mean that we all know about the past, openly discuss them, and continue to build the country as one people who know their historical differences and share hope for their common future.

I wish that I didn’t have to learn about Ethiopian history only now, and only after reading the books written by an author/researcher from Europe. Many fellow Ethiopians will never have the opportunity or access to the contents to do independent reading that I just did. I hope to be a part of the solution on education and information accessibility. I have no bitterness towards any groups, ethnicities, or even ruling elites of the past and present. That is not what this is about. I am just happy that I know truths about Ethiopia better today than I did yesterday and I am ready to learn even more. We should all know this country better and become truly one people with multiple identities within it. We must also be more open people courageous enough to discuss truths and to forgive each other.

It is perfectly OK to disagree with some of Braukamper’s conclusions about aspects if Hadiya history, especially where he might have allowed biases from some informants to sip into the book a few times, and still like the book. It has no equal as a comprehensive Hadiya study book. He has no competition so far in Hadiya scholarship and Hadiya corpus development and we should celebrate him for that.

This is a must-read for any Hadiya and great read for all Ethiopians.  Can we hope for someone to translate it into Amharic and/or Hadiyyisa? It should be a required reading for Hadiya kids at high school level and above and elementary school children if we can produce a a version suitable to them.  Happy reading!

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