Hadiya Ethiopia: Book Cover for Fandaanano: The Traditional Socio-Religious System of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia

Fandaanano: The Traditional Socio-Religious System of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia

Quote from Amazon’s book description:

Monographic analyses of ethnic groups have always been a major concern of Cultural Anthropology. Yet, a holistic approach encompassing all spheres of culture in one volume is usually unachievable. Publications on the history and the agrarian economy of the Hadiyya, a group of about two million people in southern Ethiopia, have already been presented. This book deals with their traditional socio-religious system, which existed as a functioning body until the 1970s and was then replaced by Orthodox, Protestant and Roman-Catholic Christianity and by Islam. After a comprehensive description of the geographical setting, the history and the culture of the Hadiyya, the characteristics of Fandaanano as a socio-religious system are outlined. Then, the patterns of their traditional socio-political organisation and the life cycle of the individual are dealt with before the ideas and practices of the meanwhile extinct religious system are depicted. Despite the recent extinction of Fandaanano by the impact of the world religions, features of its legacy are pervasive in modern Hadiyya society. Appendices present a collection of Hadiyya folktales and of photographs representing objects and positions of former socio-political status.

This book is available from various sellers and libraries.  We thought the following book reviews left on book’s page at Amazon quoted verbatim would provide a good idea about the book:

Once I started, I could not stop reading this book! Who would enjoy this book? You will enjoy this book as I did if you are interested in the study of indigenous socio-religious systems, religions/spirituality/cultures, African indigenous religions/cultures, Horn of Africa/Ethiopian autochthonous Cushitic religions, Islamic influences in the Horn & Africa, and study of Hadiya ancestral heritage among other types of readers.

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: Translated from German by Geraldine Krause (Aethiopistische Forschungen). and 2) This book. 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 these two books on page one.

I have now finished reading both books. English version of this book has been out for about three years as of 2017 and I am surprised that I am the first reviewer considering how important the book is scholarly speaking, for documenting the vanished cultural and socio-religious system of Hadiya, and by extension, of Ethiopia. In the preface of the book Dr. Prof. Ulrich Braukämper states “After having done a study on the impact of Islam in the Adamawa region of Cameroon and Nigeria I was fascinated by the encounter with a socio-religious system which was obviously marked by syncretic Muslim elements.” I was grateful for his fascination with the former traditional way of life of the Hadiya, the autochthonous Cushitic folk religion, before it vanished as functioning system (although some elements of it is still embedded in the culture of the people.) No one else would have been able to document this as comprehensively as Braukämper has done given that the system has now ceased to exist. Comprehensiveness aside, no one else would have ever written such a book about Hadiya heritage.

Tragically, most members of Hadiya people, including aged ones would have no idea what the term Fandaanano stands for. It took a special interest from Braukämper coming in to study it in its dying days of the 70s, 90s, and 00s. By the end of 1999 when Braukämper interviewed “Mirkano Gamballo, the last dignitary and practicing believer of Fandaanano”, only about 60 people out of 1.5 million total population of Hadiya proper were adherents of the religion.

    Partial list of what you will learn:

  • That this system provided Hadiya people meaning and order for their existence.
  • That they practiced it with Anjaanchcho (pl. Anjaamaa) presiding as the highest spiritual authority (High Priest.)
  • That Fandaanano dominated their way of life until the second half of 20th century with subgroups organized under their own Anjaanchcho.
  • That Hadiya ancestors had complex socio-political system that allowed them to survive challenges that came their way including being subjugated by various forces.
  • That Fandaanano provided resilience to the people, but the system itself could not survive when Hadiya people turned their back on it due to external pressures.
  • That Fandaanano went hand in hand with the age old self-governing system where the leaders achieve their positions and statuses through merit-based election rather than inheritance (does this consent-based leadership look like Democracy to you? It does to me!)
  • That appointed/imposed positions such as Balabaat, Chika Shuum, and Atbiya Dagna never existed in Hadiya before the conquest of Ethiopian Empire at the end of 19th century.
  • That the position names achieved through heroism, deeds, eloquence, problem solving skills, wealth, and intellect include Asha’n Garaad, Kontom Garaad, Gadab Garaad, Moc’on Garaad, Wolab Garaad, Haga Garaad, Saga Garaad, and the like. (the book details each title and subgroups who used it)
  • That these traditional political positions along with gerontocratic culture (reverence to elders and council of elders) allowed Hadiya to peacefully resolve family and intra/inter-ethnic conflicts even after the society has been interfered with by the external Balaabaat system.

You can’t help but wish that this tradition survived at least to the extent similar to that of Gadaa system of Oromo. It is one thing for the religion and traditions to disappear altogether due to pressures from dominant culture, world religions that now dominate the region, and modernization; but it is another concerning matter when the Hadiya people have little memory of such rich heritage. The people can preserve their heritage while adhering to other religions. I hope that Hadiya children find this information accessible and start studying this aspect of their ancestral heritage.

I hope the scholars of Hadiya and other origins build upon Braukämper work in his two books about Hadiya people. I pray that Hadiya followers of Protestant religious persuasion start cherishing and tolerating elements of their own cultural heritage such as music, artifacts, history, traditions, and preservation efforts. Doing so should not have any conflict with your faith. If it did we wouldn’t have seen America, one of the bastions of Protestantism, be the exporter of its culture through its music, movies, media, business, technology, etc… However, United States of America is just one example where According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of the adult population identified themselves as Christians. By banishing all cultural expressions, Hadiya Protestants are committing cultural suicide for their own people. At the current rate, we will soon lose much of Hadiya music, traditions associated with celebrating and honoring the dead hero, poems, diraamchaa, maahaarimaa, teasing and praising songs, etc… I am asking this with utmost respect for you and your views on the matter and in the spirit of praying with you for wisdom & guidance from God.

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