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‘Locating Politics in Ethiopia’s Irreecha Ritual’: a book aimed at reshaping a conversation launched

Serawit Bekele Debele (PhD), left, says she “wanted to start a conversation and present narratives of ordinary Ethiopians when it comes to understanding Irreecha and its nature.”

Bileh Jelan

Addis Abeba, February 28/2020 – “The role of the state has not been always negative, overall its role was transformative when it comes to the promotion and protection of Irreecha,” says Lelise Dhuga, one of the panelists at a book launch event held at the National Archives & Library (Weme Zekir) on 25 February.

Lelise’s remark was just one out of several engaging remarks made at an event organized to discuss the launch and review of a new book titled “Locating Politics in Ethiopia’s Irreecha Ritual” which is authored by Serawit Bekele Debele (PhD), post doctoral researcher at the department of Socio-Cultural Diverity at Max Plank Institute. It was moderated by Dr. Elizabeth W. Giorgos with panelists Gezahegn Tsigaw (Phd), Gamachu Merera, Gamachu Lemmu and Lelise Dhuga.

The discussion provided its participants with an opportunity to reflect on the nature of Irreecha, the bi-annual thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, and to exchange various views on whether or not the festival was religious, political or a symbol of a cultural identity marker.

Participants who support the classification of Irreecha as a cultural identity marker argued that Irreecha as a festival has become a symbol of national identity among the Oromo from all walks of life including religious backgrounds and all political affiliations. Others favored the association of the festival as more of a political classification and argued that Irreecha, especially in its current form, is a political statement of unity by Oromos.

The event was also an opportunity for those who argued that although the origin of Irreecha is recognized as being rooted in Oromo indigenous religion (Waqqfenna), a practice of giving thanks to God (Waqqa), after each rainy season, the narrative that it is purely religious in its embodiment was challenged at the discussion.

The book, a PhD thesis in itself, discusses in detail a range of issues that, according to the author, will provide its readers with an opportunity to locate the role of politics in Irreecha. Topics discussed in the book include Irreecha at Hora Arsadi, Oromumma:Re/shaping Discourses, Contestations and the Forming/Making of the State, as well as Displacing the State in light of the political discourse in Irreecha celebrations.

“In this book I wanted to start a conversation and present narratives of ordinary Ethiopians when it comes to understanding Irreecha and its nature,”  the author, Dr Serawit told, Addis Standard, at the event.

Talking about the impact she hoped for and the purpose behind touching on such an important issue Dr Serawit added, “what I hope to achieve, beside starting a conversation and presenting ordinary Ethiopians’ outlooks [about] Irreecha, is for this book to be a starting point in re-shaping conversations surrounding the political discourse in the country.” AS

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