Accepted paper:

Interaction between landscapes and historical memories of the Boorana, southern Ethiopia


Chikage Ôba-Smidt (Mekelle University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I would like to present a local view on how landscapes covey historical memories, using the example of the Boorana in southern Ethiopia.

Paper long abstract:

The Boorana have preserved "oral chronicles" based on their own time concept and a system of ordering the course of local history ("gadaa calendar"). In their oral chronicle, the Boorana systematically mention places whose names are referring to a specific characteristic of the landscape. Those names of places tend to be linked to histories of conflicts between the Boorana and neighboring ethnic groups, and also with migration history and with their customs of religious ceremonies and of political meetings. In this paper, I will focus especially on the relation between landscapes and historical memories of conflict, the landscapes not being only bearers of the historical memory but - according to oral accounts - influencing both the historical event itself and influencing the way it is memorized. I would like to show several oral histories as example and suggest that landscapes convey 1) memories related to battles, specifically to battle fields, their location, situation and landscape context, 2) memories on routes, especially those related to battle fields, 3) memories on the boundaries, separating the Boorana from "other" groups, defined as "other" also through a definition of a landscape which is "ours", and "theirs", 4) memories on territories "owned" by the Boorana.

panel WMW10
Listening landscapes, speaking memories