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ArtEchoes of tradition, guardians of heritage at Addis Ababa’s Oromo Cultural Center

Echoes of tradition, guardians of heritage at Addis Ababa’s Oromo Cultural Center

Seated in the heart of the capital, the Oromo Cultural Center stands as a beacon of the nation’s rich heritage and serves as a vital institution for the preservation and exhibition of a lasting cultural legacy. The Center embodies the values of tradition, identity, and unity, and was conceived with the aim of fostering a deep sense of pride among Ethiopians through a range of programs and activities.

Located near Addis Ababa Stadium, the Center was established with the primary goal of conducting research and development in the areas of Oromo culture, history, language, and art. Additionally, the center is dedicated to the preservation of Oromo heritage.

Its multifaceted approach caters to students of all levels, professionals, researchers, and not only Ethiopians but also foreigners eager to immerse themselves in the Oromo people’s vibrant culture. By offering educational resources, immersive experiences, and opportunities for dialogue and exchange, the center plays a pivotal role in bridging the past with the present and ensuring the enduring vitality of Oromo’s cultural heritage for years to come. 

The Center is composed of four divisions, each encompassing a broad department. These departments focus on the research and study of Oromo history, language, culture, and art.

The museum, in particular, is structured across three floors and eight showrooms, each representing a distinct section. Each floor offers visitors a diverse array of historical artifacts, heritage items, centuries-old furniture, traditional clothing, jewelry, as well as weapons like spears and swords belonging to Oromo war heroes.

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In addition to offering valuable insights into the rich history and culture of the Oromo people, the museum also showcases a remarkable collection of archaeological artifacts featuring various species of wildlife.

Established in 2015, the regional museum has been serving both local and foreign tourists and visitors. The collection exhibited within the museum consists of artifacts donated from ten cultural zones, along with gifts received from the public. These items are thoughtfully arranged and displayed across its halls and rooms.

Upon entering the premises, visitors are greeted by a serene atmosphere and an impressive sight of two monumental statues. These statues, representing a woman (Hoda Gola) and a man (Abba Gada), proudly hold long sticks and traditional Oromo cultural items.

Visitors must ascend 35 staircases to reach this captivating scene.

The first of the museum’s three floors houses a mobile museum exhibiting a collection of Oromo cultural artifacts. The mobile museum is connected to the lobby via a passageway guarded by two colossal statues of men wielding spears and shields on either side of the entrance.

Kidest Legesse took The Reporter on a journey through the treasure trove of genuine Oromo cultural heritage and artifacts at the museum.

The first floor boasts a spacious hall adorned with a multitude of canvas paintings featuring traditional Oromo girls dressed in customary attire. Adding to the grandeur of the hall is a magnificent larger-than-life statue of Abebe Bikila, the legendary marathon runner, among two other distinctive figures representing the Oromo people.

A room on the first floor is dedicated to a fascinating assortment of household tools and items that were once utilized for the preparation and consumption of various beverages, including Bunna — ceremonial Ethiopian coffee.

This room also exhibits a ceremonial space where the coffee, traditionally served with butter, is enjoyed.

The side room also offers a captivating display of ancient wooden bowls that have withstood the test of time, preserving a centuries-old tradition among rural Oromo communities. These bowls were specifically designed for the purpose of washing one’s feet, serving as a practical and essential tool in their daily lives.

Each weathered bowl tells a story of its own, reflecting the enduring customs and practices of the Oromo people throughout history. It is a moving reminder of the rich cultural heritage placed within these rural communities.

Echoes of tradition, guardians of heritage at Addis Ababa’s Oromo Cultural Center | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today

The marvels extend to the second floor, where canvas paintings depict various tribes, including portraits of Abba Gada and Guil Gada’s Security Guardians, alongside a series portraying Oromo warriors who laid down their lives for Ethiopia’s national unity.

On this floor, two side rooms house diverse cultural and ritual artifacts.

In the first side room, Oromo Traditional Clothing, woven textiles, and jewelry worn by Oromo women during weddings and ceremonies like “Irrechaa” are showcased. Here there are well-preserved straw mats and animal skin shoes, preserved for over a century.

The adjacent side room, designated as the ‘Ethnographic Sector,’ exhibits furniture crafted from sturdy Dega trees without the use of nails. This includes chairs, beds, and stools, many of which are over a century old.

According to Kidest, despite their age, the materials convey vitality, serving as a “testament to the enduring spirit of the Oromo people”.

Kidest highlighted the collection of well-preserved horse-riding equipment such as saddles, whips, and breast collars, which were integral for transportation during trade periods and celebratory occasions like weddings.

Additionally, the room is adorned with traditional musical instruments and cultural games, all crafted from bamboo trees, leather, and the horns of livestock and wildlife.

Beyond the captivating canvas paintings of former African leaders, including the founding fathers of the OAU (now AU) like Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, the enthralling journey continues to the Archeological Center, scientifically referred to the as Taxidermy and Social History sector, nestled behind one of the third-floor’s side doors.

Entering this area evokes a sense of awe akin to stepping into a jungle teeming with wildlife. Within the room, various animals are displayed, their heads preserved with such lifelike detail that they appear alive. Kidest explains that these animals were sourced from different regions of the country and meticulously preserved to ensure visitors can marvel at their lifelike appearance and enjoy the experience.

Apart from the marvels housed within the museum, the Oromo Cultural Center boasts a well-stocked library brimming with historical texts on Oromo culture, rituals, and heritage, catering to children, the general public and researchers from diverse academic disciplines.

“The library boasts an extensive collection of predominantly vintage literature spanning back over 25 years, offering an invaluable repository for global scholars exploring themes related to Oromo culture, Ethiopia’s historical trajectory, and a wide spectrum of reference materials,” she said.

Moreover, she said that the Oromo Cultural Center serves as a pivotal institution in showcasing and preserving the rich cultural heritage and rituals of the Oromo people. By offering a dedicated space for exhibitions, workshops, and performances, it provides a dynamic platform for the transmission of traditional knowledge, art, and practices.

As thousands of visitors’ flock to the museum annually, the fluctuations in attendance are tied closely to specific occasions and seasons.

According to Kidest, summer and the end of the academic year witness a notable surge in visits, particularly from teachers and students. Additionally, the Irrechaa ceremony and the months following the Ethiopian New Year attract increased footfall, including a significant number of foreign visitors.

“The Oromo Cultural Center ensures that all Oromo people traditions, rituals, and heritages are preserved for future generations, making it an indispensable resource in the ongoing endeavor to celebrate and honor the cultural richness of the people,” said Kidest.

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