Salale Oromo Women’s Songs of Resistance: Feminist Critical Listening of a Folkloric Oicotype in Oromia, Ethiopia

By Assefa Tefera Dibaba.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Women are the principal informants in the present Salale Oromo women’s songs of resistance, which focus on the Ethiopian Millennium. Through the songs, the point of view, ideologies, and perceptions are expressed; government policies and false promises are critiqued; and local officials are sarcastically demeaned. The songs reveal the need for social and economic empowerment for women as one determinant factor in development. There can be such gender-bound feminine voices in Oromo folklore, but the nature and characteristics of women’s voices in the region have not been studied in any detail. It is argued that socially engaged folkloric scholarship and insightful close study of text and context help to uncover the cultural work of folklore and make conscious the ethnic, gendered and unequal power relations. This study shows that song/narrative of resistance is a pervasive, integral and significant aspect of social transformation among the Salale Oromo of Northeast Africa, and by analyzing it, one can discover general patterns of culture and folklore as a form of “ethnographic autobiography,” as a kind of popular pulse of life. Texts presented in this study show that among other identified functions of folklore include: its service as a vehicle for social protest (another folkloric deviation from the set unshakable political order and social structure) a deviation from the norm, and refusing to succumb to unjust practices. Using folkloristic and critical approaches and ethnographic methods of resistance poetics, the present study attempts to reveal these ideas and beliefs that Salale Oromo women express in their rendition of one such gender-bound ‘genre’ and show how their renditions/voices differ.

Keywords: Salale Oromo, Ethiopia, Resistance Research, Folklore, Sexuality, “Local Politics”, Gender, Humor

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.47-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 635.903KB).

Dr Assefa Tefera Dibaba

PhD Student, College of Arts and Sciences , Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Over the years, I have been teaching, writing and conducting research on Oromo folklore and resistance literature. One such work just published is my resistance poetry, The Hug (2011); and another, Beyond Adversities (2010) is a critical approach to studying Oromo Literature (oral and written) from a sociological perspective. My other books, locally published, include Decorous Decorum (2006); Eela (2009); Anaan'yaa (1998 / 2006); Edas-Edanas (1997); Danaa (2000); and Themes and Patterns of Traditional Oromo Marriage Counseling / Salale, as editor (2010). Currently, I am working towards my PhD on Salale Oromo folklore and resistance culture (Oromia, Ethiopia) at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.