Hadiya Ethiopia: Women wearing traditional clothing, hairdo, and beauty decorations Nov 2014

Welcome to Your Hadiya Journey Site!

This site, maintained by volunteers, will have information for anyone who seeks to learn something about Hadiya people of Ethiopia – their culture, language, history, and more.

We wish to contribute towards the preservation of cultures and identities in Ethiopia especially the ones at risk of disappearing due to their being historically marginalized. But we realize we can only focus in the one we know closely and natively, the Hadiya. We therefore started to document on this website cultural, social,  historical, and other aspects of Hadiya people of Ethiopia – primarily by bringing forth existing knowledge about the people in comprehensible presentation suitable for online consumption. By doing so, we hope to contribute to the knowledge available about Hadiya ethnic group of Ethiopia – to the Hadiya themselves (yes, there is a shortage here too), other Ethiopians, and the wider world. Note that our definition of Hadiya people is inclusive of persons who live or grew up in Hadiya areas and who identify themselves as ethnically Hadiya regardless of their ancestry.

We hope others Ethiopians who share our concern about the loss of cultures and languages is in the country do something in their own way to educate and expose information about endangered cultures and languages of ethnic groups they know closely.  In our work, we aim to stay clear of news cycle-driven, transient, and petty political considerations.

Hadiya Ethiopia: Shaashoogo Hadiya dignitary (1970-1)
Hadiya Ethiopia: Shaashoogo Hadiya dignitary (1970-1). Credit: Frobenius-Institute of Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Among other functions, culture is a source of dignity and identity for the people. It encompasses people’s shared beliefs, moral codes, value systems, art, law, customs, habits, wisdom, skills, and more.  People would not voluntarily lose their culture, but they certainly get complacent and fail to preserve good cultural assets. The losing community may not even be aware of the erosion due to its slow nature spanning generations.

It is a concern for the country as well. A country like Ethiopia would not want to lose the richness of its divers cultural assets. Majority of Ethiopians at home and in the diaspora seem to be proud of the country’s diversity. That is a positive new-found consciousness.

The nation would want to preserve its cultures and languages assets. But this requires hard policy choices in practical terms in a country with the history like ours.  In Ethiopia, many formerly marginalized cultures, identities, and languages, have to be seen as already-damaged assets needing repair and revival. We know for instance, that many Hadiya youth have never heard that Hadiya was once one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time in the Horn of Africa. Is it any wonder then, that they show no inclination for learning their heritage language, Hadiyya (Hadiyyisa)? (Our article here argues that Hadiyya language is heading for extinction in a generation or two due to this and other factors.)

But this is not a problem of young people alone. Older people too are not aware of what has been lost to external acculturation forces – as manifested, such as, by their use of words borrowed from dominant Amharic language when a perfectly valid Hadiyyisa equivalent exists. Part of any cultural and language reinvigorating effort at the national level and at the level of formerly marginalized ethnic groups themselves must consider two-faceted approach.

Hadiya Ethiopia: Badawacho Hadiya man with a sword (1970-1)
Hadiya Ethiopia: Badawacho Hadiya man with a sword (1970-1). Credit: Frobenius-Institute of Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The first is the recognition of what has been lost in order to explore the possibility of reviving.  If certain lost elements of culture is worth reviving, methods and policies of revival must therefore be implemented through campaigns, institutions, education (e.g., immersion training), arts, music, and other social tools.

The second facet is recognizing and identify cultural assets that are at risk of dying.  Here the effort would be preservation and not revival. The essential methods and policies prescription will be the same.

Impetus to build this site comes from the realization:

  • That Hadiyya language (Hadiyissa) and its associated orally transmitted narratives, oral poetry, chants, songs, and recitals are nearing extinction due to variety of forces at play (hegemonic power of dominant language, Amharic, modernization/globalization/urbanization, legacy of social stigma associated with historically marginalized language, lack of institutional preservation efforts, etc…) According to www.endangeredlanguages.com, one of many great sites focussed on preserving language diversity of the world, Ethiopia has 45 languages that are in various stages of withering away, most of these in the Southern region.  That is over 56% of languages that exist in the country and 83% of languages in the southern region.  It seems that this is country where languages go to die despite the partially ethnic federalism created by the constitution of 1995. When it came to the southern region of Ethiopia, expediency trumped ethnic federalism. Seems that the designers are saying to southerners: “we give you what you never had before. We will decide who qualifies as nation, nationality, or people. You should take it or leave it.” Of course they deserve credit for initiating the recognition of identities in the country, but they should not forget that rights are never given, they are natural, delayed only by human imperfections.  Fifty-six distinct ethnicities were lumped together as single regional entity/state known as Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region making it a  geographic state and not one based on ethnicity.  Thus, we point out that Ethiopia follows partial ethnic federalism, the point missed by much of the literature out there, even the global media.  We will not get into basic question of whether or not “true” ethnic federalism, ethnic or not, exists in the country leaving the subject to other political forums.
  • That dominant cultures and modernization trends are swallowing up the indigenous ways of life, even the good ones that we wish to preserve.
  • That there is no preservation effort to save at least the positive aspects of ancient Hadiya heritage assets and to document those that are disappearing
  • That some religions have adapted attitude of hostility towards all indigenous traditions sometimes without basis in their own religious teaching.
  • That younger people of Ethiopia particularly of Hadiya decent (for the purpose of our discussion) are in the dark about their ancestral heritage
  • That with some exception, even the scholars remains uninterested in documenting Hadiya history and culture
  • That studies and books of pioneering scholars of Hadiya history and culture, such as Ulrich Braukamper, remain unknown and underutilized.
  • That the scholarly resources & collections of institutions pioneering Hadiya studies, such as Frobenius Institute of Germany, remain underutilized.
  • That there is an observed acceleration in the pace of loss of Hadiya culture and that of Hadiyissa language seemingly due to globalization (e.g., the Internet, increasing contact with the outside world), and pressures of pop culture (e.g, affecting the youth).
Hadiya Ethiopia: Sooro Hadiya celebrating the dead (1972-4)
Hadiya Ethiopia: Sooro Hadiya celebrating the dead (1972-4). Credit: Frobenius-Institute of Frankfurt am Main, Germany

By bringing out less known traditions, history, artifacts, pictures, videos,  blogs, and news of Hadiya people of Ethiopia we hope to help readers acquire knowledge and understanding of Hadiya people and possibly even collaborate with each other on cultural and language preservation and revival projects. Our focus will not be on the ethnic politics of the day. Instead, we focus on discussions that have long-term impact on Hadiya, linguistically, culturally, socially, and economically by using  objective facts, data,  and scholarly products where possible and our editorial opinions are clearly distinguishable.  We hope you enjoy our contents.

So, perhaps start learning from our Hadiya Resources – General page, or by checking out our Hadiya in Pictures – Recent page, or by navigating to any other page from the menu at the top. Also, our home page is a good starting spot as it lists links to most of our content.

Thank you for stopping by!