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Sociology of Oromo Literature and Asafa Dibaba, leading Oromo Humanist Intellectual

Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis June 6, 2007

Belonging to a young generation of Oromo philologists and sociologists, Mr. Asafa Dibaba honours his nation by opening new horizons in the Sociology of Literature with focus on Oromo Literature. With more than 15 years of combined research and teaching experience, with 4 books and a pleiad of articles and other contributions, with a vast onsite philological and sociological documentation, Mr. Asafa Dibaba, 40, would honour any American or European university, if invited to lecture, as he actually does his workplace where he is one of the most admired scholars.

Mr. Dibaba’s groundbreaking M.A. thesis entitled “Towards a political sociology of Oromo Literature: Jaarsoo Waaqoo’s Poetry” consists in a critical approach and first attempt to study Oromo Literature through a sociological perspective. Key points of the study include genre theories, generic transformations, issues of nationalism, social and development issues, and resource-based conflicts.

Born at Gombo, Jarso District, Wallaga, to a farming Oromo family, Mr. Asafa Dibaba gave last February a most fascinating online interview that I strongly recommend to anyone wishing to get in-depth and genuine understanding of some of Africa’s thorniest issues; in the ensuing conversation moral values are revealed in a way that testifies to African integrity, originality and virtuosity (http://arefe.wordpress.com/2006/11/12/interview-with-poet-asafa-tefera-dibaba/). I will quote here a revelatory aphorism expressed by Mr. Dibaba during that conversation:

- When you knew injustice everywhere is justice nowhere, should you write in the Just Thinking unjust? that I doubt you knew…

Mr. Asafa Dibaba represents today some of the greatest assets and strongest hopes of the Oromo Nation. His latest book, entitled “Theorizing the present”, published 2004 in Abyssinia (Beranna Printing Enterprise), has evolved out of his aforementioned MA research in Literature with the major aim of sociologically analyzing Oromo poetry, particularly Jaarsoo Waaqoo’s poetry, Finna San Gama (Beyond Adversities).

The study is mainly concerned with the poetic content analysis of Jaarsoo’s poetry set in the social, cultural and economic immediate milieu of the Oromo and in the current sociopolitical matrix of Ethiopia put under the Tigre-led Abyssinian neo-colonial rule.

In this regard, the study attempts to consider available theoretical concepts which are thought to be helpful for a sociological analysis of poetic contents and in answering questions of literary and sociological nature.

Thus, primarily, this book makes a descriptive assessment of the ethnographic and literary backgrounds that informed the poet and his works. Data were collected using structured and unstructured queries, note-taking and tape-recordings. The task of transcription and translation of the data was accomplished under a supervision of informed Jaarsoo’s audience both inside and outside Boorana. Mr. Dibaba referred to a great number of works of indigenous and expatriate scholars.

Furthermore, Mr. Dibaba undertakes a great effort to cast light on impacts of the geerarsa genre on Oromo literature, particularly Oromo poetry. His intention was to establish some generic characteristics of Jaarsoo’s poetry Finna San Gama (FSG I-IV) set within the geerarsa genre, with particular reference to the Boorana dhaaduu recitative war poetry.

The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter treats the study background, namely the approach, its objectives and methods, including a brief account of Jaarsoo Waaqoo’s life history. Chapter 2 presents a number of theoretical considerations and related studies. The third chapter describes the sociological poetics of the geerarsa genre and impacts of the genre on the works of individual Oromo oral poets, especially on Jaarsoo Waaqoo's poetry. In Chapter 4, the author illustrates the ethnographic background of Jaarsoo's poetry and the impacts of other oral poetic genres, particularly the dhaaduu recitative poems, on Jaarsoo's poetic contents. In addition, in the same chapter are analyzed through a sociological viewpoint the multi-faceted aspects of socio-political, economic and cultural issues raised by the poet in his poems. Chapter 5 presents a short conclusion, closing the great effort.

We reproduce here integrally the book’s second chapter that not only helps average non-specialized readership become acquainted with Oromo Literature and Sociology, but also testifies to the author’s impeccable theoretical mastership of his field.

“Theorizing the present” by Asafa Dibaba

Chapter 2 - Some Theoretical Considerations and Related Studies

In this chapter literary and sociological theories related to the analyses of (oral) literature/poetry are presented. Under theoretical considerations alternative approaches for the sociological analysis of Oromo literature/poetry will be discussed. And, in the related studies section works relevant to the study of the geerarsa genre and to the content of Jaarsoo's narrative poetry will be presented.

Theoretical Considerations

In the field of social sciences, studies focus on the close investigation of people’s cultural activities, traditions and human communication, not just on building theory.1 Ruth Finnegan in her Oral Tradition and Verbal Arts (1992) rightly argues the importance of theoretical assumptions is “best recognized explicitly” since the conduct of research inevitably necessitates some theoretical framework (p25). She adds, “the role of theory is just to facilitate the study” (ibid.). There is, however, the need to be "open" to cultural specifics, Finnegan stresses, rather than sticking rigidly to a single “theory”.

Among the debates and controversies within social research some relate directly to ‘oral traditions and verbal arts’. In this regard, there is a ‘counter trend’ against the long tradition of analysis through frameworks and categories set by outsiders. Hence, there is a shift of focus towards “exploring people’s own views and artistry" (ibid. p26) while debates still center on to what extent the researcher accommodates existing cultural specifics and individual personalities and events. Some awareness of current theoretical trends and interdisciplinary approach is therefore necessary to avoid the chance of falling into naïve preconceptions and 'laboriously rediscover' what is already known.

In the present research, a socio-cultural model is believed to sketch some sequential and hierarchical order of literary critique as a more detailed methodology for the sociological analysis of Jaarsoo’s narrative poetry. In this regard, a combination of social development theories, conflict theory and some tenets of nationalism accompanied by the native Oromo finna 'theory of social development' will lead the present study towards the sociological analysis of the subject under inquiry. Each of the theories, though interconnected, is thought to be pertinent in its own way as an inclusive framework for the analysis of Jaarsoo's poetry both from literary and sociological perspectives. For the sake of convenience, I have merged the literary and sociological alternative approaches into one as socio-oral literary approach.

Conflict theory and development theory are employed in this study to describe what confronts the critic in Jaarsoo’s poetry. That is, Jaarsoo’s poetry seems to be dictated by and react to the immediate sociopolitical determinants and economic conditions of the time that demanded the poetry. The oral literary model serves to stipulate influences of the geerarsa / dhaaduu on Jaarsoo’s poetry and how the recital poetry conveys the intended message (whatever) in each of the recordings. The prescriptive aspect of the model would detail a method for other related generic considerations subjected to further critical analysis. In this study the "descriptive” model accounts for what it is that confronts the critic/researcher; the prescriptive suggests how it might be integrated within an ordered analysis. That is to say, the descriptive model “provides a description of a single given case exclusively; the other offers a more generalized analytical strategy” (Danow 1997:178, emphasis added).

“Sociology of Oromo Literature”, i.e., sociology of literary study–though premature it may sound–is forwarded not as a ready-made literary theory off hand or as a monolithic precept/discipline but as a dynamic social and literary theory. Set within the proliferating disciplines related to Oromo culture, philosophy, history and political economy, the endeavour to establish such a viable “poetics” as an alternative model may serve to meet the proclaimed need for a consistent and uniform method of interpretation of Jaarsoo Waaqoo’s oral poetry. Poetics, to Hrushovski, is:-

the systematic study of literature as literature. It deals with the question ‘What is literature?’ and with all possible questions developed from it, such as: What is art in language? What are the forms and kinds of literature? What is the nature of one literary genre or trend? What is the system of a particular poet’s ‘art’ or ‘language’? How is a story made? What are the specific aspects of works of literature?

How are they constituted? How do literary texts embody ‘non-literary’ phenomena? etc. (qtd in Rimmon-Kenan 1983:2, emphasis added).

In the present study issues of sociological nature beyond those literary ones (poetic style, structure and prosodic effects) are: the embodiment of ‘non-literary’ phenomena in Jaarsoo Waaqoo's poetry, the intention2 as observable in the text and determining the author's poetic device, and also the ‘nature and trend’ of the literary genre as compared to other Oromo oral poetic genre(s). In analyzing Oromo folk song, for example, geerarsa/dhaaduu, what determines the poetic content/style is not the poet's conscious intention but the intention realized in the song itself. Hence, the major concern in such a sociological analysis is not with distinctions between stylistic techniques in the formalistic sense but with the singer's/reciter's view of the world, with his attempts to reproduce this view which constitutes his intentions as the formative principle underlying the content and style of the work (cf. Udenta 1993: ix and 12).

As regards the development of theoretical perspectives in the field of social sciences, Finnegan claims the nineteenth century preconceptions are still current to some extent, i.e. “the binary ‘us’/'them’ opposition develops in both social theory and popular understanding" (Finnegan 1992:27). That is, nationalist movements were preoccupied with traditions and roots which led in both the nineteenth- and twentieth-century to search for ‘folk’ identity and to the collection and creation of texts exemplifying national culture and “providing a focus for nation-building”. To these early collections and studies, ‘Oral traditions’ and roots or ‘nationalist theme’ were central.3 Jaarsoo’s poetry best exemplifies the search for national identity, and "return to the source". The focus of his poetry is on reconstructing the past while deconstructing the current socio-political injustice, and the creation and collection of texts as it was the case in the ex-colonial nations and the 19th and early 20th c Europe (Finnegan p.27).

Interest of the Marxist tenet is in questions of power relations and conflicting interest groups and interpretations in contrast to the homogeneity pictured in functionalist or romantic analyses. That is, interpretation of multiple ‘meaning’ is not just in the text itself or in ‘free’ and independent individual authors/poets but related to current social conditions. The evolutionary influences within Marxism, Finnegan claims, have sometimes found expression in theories about ‘stages’ of society4 or related to particular genres: fairy tales, for example, are of pre-industrial origin and hence of only marginal interest to later modern industrial society. The question of literary taste of the society seems to be determined by sociocultural, economic and political development phases/finna of the society at certain stage in time.

In the Marxist perspective, the production and consumption of art is a proper object of study, not just style, meaning or earlier history, leading to such questions as: how are particular literary forms composed and circulated? in what conditions are they composed? by whom and to whom are they composed? and, in whose interest do they provide message? These and other related issues are discussed in the sociological analysis of oral poetry. Finnegan says, those points are not exclusively Marxist because, everyone is now, at least up to a point, interested in social behaviour and contexts and relatively "sensitized to the possibility of opposing interests” (p36). Many of the above questions are therefore not distinctively Marxist. They have become absorbed into the social scientific repertoire in general or woven into other approaches. Thus, these approaches are labeled as Marxist “only when they are articulated explicitly” using some terminologies particular to Marxist perspective (ibid.).

Sociological theorists 'do sociology' focusing on particular aspects of what is going on. That is, they approach their subject matter with certain assumptions, within certain framework of analysis, and they emphasize particular research methods to answer particular types of questions they want answered. Their research is based on the ways of looking at things which sociological theories advance. Thus, what sociological theories do is to lay these out in an explicit and systematic way. Even more important, the systematic way in which sociological theory works is a quality it shares with the theory of any other discipline relevant to describe ideas of a society's members and analyze the creative and unpredictable dynamics of human interaction (Wallace 1995:3). In the present study, since the sociological and literary theories start with descriptions of such general concepts as colonialism/neo-colonialism, nationalism, geerarsa, nationalist narratives, and genres the theoretical approach applied to the study is a deductive one. The theories lay out criteria/rules about how to classify those general concepts in terms of categories, and then put forward a number of general propositions about the concepts.

Conflict theory describes an arena in which groups fight for power. According to this theory the 'control' of conflict "simply means that one group is able, temporarily, to suppress its rivals" (Wallace ibid. p76). Conflict theorists see societies and social institutions not as systems in which parts depend on each other and work together in unity to create equilibrium. They focus not on the equilibrium of interdependence and cooperation, but on the shifting balance of power among competing groups. Civil law, for example, as a social institution, Ruth Wallace maintains, is not a way of increasing social integration, but to conflict theorists, it is "a way of defining and upholding a particular order that benefits some groups at the expense of others" (ibid. p76). Wallace suggests three interconnected tenets central to this general 'conflict' orientation (Wallace pp76, 77). First, people as having basic "interests" in things that are not defined by societies but common to them all. Second, power viewed not only as a scarce and unequally divided resource but also as essentially coercive. Third, values and ideas used as weapons by particular groups to advance their own ends, not as a means of defining a whole society's identity and goals, for example, Menelik's idea of "civilizing" the southern populations. The major strength of conflict theory is in its relating social and organizational structures to basic interests of the people and to the balance of resources: to shifts in resource distribution and power. It also insists that values and ideas must be related to their social environment. Conflict theorists forward tentative distinctions between conflicts stemming from: struggle for scarce resources, regional imbalances, infrastructural investments affecting local systems, state-controlled redistribution, and conflicts concerning the content of national development strategies (cf. Markakis 1998).

Added to conflict theory, social development theory and the finna theory of Oromo development phases are other alternative approaches relevant to the sociological study of Jaarsoo's poetry. Alternative trend in development theory deals with development in terms of normative approach, not in terms of positive approach, which is concerned with how development takes place. Normative approach is concerned with how development ought to take place. The distinction between the two is 'what is' and 'what ought to be'. In its normative aspect, a process of growth that does not lead to the fulfillment of basic human needs, and more than that to freedom of expression, self-realization in work is said to be a travesty of development, i.e., not real development. Thus, there is no way of escaping value judgments in development theory. Jaarsoo's poetic social criticism in the four tapes presented in this study is more concerned with what ought to be than what is. Thus, the poet's social analysis of finna Oromo follows a normative approach.

In discussing alternative development theory the basic needs approach (bna) is relatively widely acceptable. Human needs in general involve a universal/objective interpretation of 'needs' on one hand, and, on the other hand, an interpretation that is subjective and historically relative (Lederer 1980, Worsley 1984). Since it is difficult to find criteria for deciding on the relative importance of needs, the practical value of such an approach (bna) is tied to the possibilities of making priorities.

The objective or universal school of bna defines human needs as something that applies to all human beings and is quantified, measured. It therefore belongs to the positive approach in development theory. Whereas, the subjective and historically relative human needs are seen in the context of specific social systems and cultural milieu. Basic needs in this view are qualitative. Hence, unlike the universal, objective and quantifiable basic human needs the subjective one covers transcendental values. Therefore, it is relative with respect to different cultures, for which a universal definition is impossible. As it makes life worth living in different cultures, so the subjective and historically relative interpretation of bn is normative. In this respect, according to Lederer, to answer that one must eat is not enough, but what this person will eat, how he will eat it and with whom he will eat are equally important (Lederer ibid., p237). It should be noted that in the context of alternative development theory the normative/subjective and historically relative approach to basic human needs is more relevant to the social analyses of Jaarsoo's poetry for reasons already mentioned in the distinctions made above.

Development may also be seen in terms of cultural pluralism. Culture related to development is defined as the unconscious universal frame of reference, which becomes specific only in confrontation with other cultures. Ethnic groups, however, are most commonly locally based. Their cultural identity is closely related to the ecological particularities of the region and to a certain mode of exploiting the natural resource (Worsley 1984:194). For example: the Boorana pastoralist community, and the Arsi or Bale Oromo in the highland and their lifestyle exemplifying mixed farming. A process of development that threatens ecological system of the region may also be a cultural threat against the ethnic group for which the ethnic group is the habitat, even if it is development in the macro-/functional system. Regardless of how unrealistic a particular 'nation state project' would be, there is an in-built bias against ethnic identification and in favour of national identification. So as a basic component in another/alternative development, Rodolfo Stavenhagen suggests that a development process appropriate for a particular ethnic group can be called ethnodevelopment (1986), together with egalitarian development, self-reliant development, and eco-development or sustainable development, which are all mutually supportive.

Egalitarian development implies development consistent with basic needs and self-respect, i.e., it involves equal distribution of resources. Whereas, self-reliant development strategy is based on the principle of autonomy, but eco-development and ethnodevelopment are two aspects of the same thing in situations where ethnic identity is territorially based. The 'national' culture is often rather artificial, compared to regional and ethnic cultures--unless one particular sub-national culture is elevated as a national culture, like the Amhara-Tigre culture in the Ethiopian empire.

In any case ethnodevelopment is a challenge to the nation-state. On the basis of the premise that different communities in the same society have distinctive codes of behaviour and different value systems (Worsley 1984), ethnodevelopment is development within a framework of cultural pluralism. A hegemonic concept of culture as diffused downwards and assumed to result in a shared national culture implies an ethnocide in the name of building a nation state. This must be described as an agent of anti-development unless it resolves such a fundamental contradiction in the 'nation state project', the problem which cannot be resolved unless the project is redefined. Pastoralist way of life, for instance, has been ignored as backward and resistant to change in the Ethiopian context of economic and land policies (Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia, 2000).

Thus, the content of a development strategy enforcing cultural variety and ethnodevelopment can be spelled out as: decentralization, participation, rural rather than urban bias, territoriality, self-reliance, ecological balance, etc. Jaarsoo Waaqoo's poetic social analysis shows that the ways the Ethiopian regimes have been formed and ruled so far are generally an underlying cause of ethnic violence. The ethnic conflicts and liberation movements may have some historical functions and indicators of modifying the nation-state project and the pattern of development inherited in it.

The finna theory of Oromo development phases is another theoretical consideration relevant to the present study worth discussing. Finna, its meaning varies from place to place among the Oromo and in other Cushitic linguistic groups, e.g. the Afar. Among the Boorana it can mean ‘bad’, ‘adverse condition or situation’, “a bad time”, for example, (Leus 1995:297). To Gufu Oba, a Boorana himself, “the Boorana describe events that influence their lives as finna" (Gufu 1998:13). Hence, it includes suitability factors such as climate, ecology and sociopolitical events that have direct bearing on the lives of the people and the livestock. Gemechu Megersa describes it in his dissertation (1993) as Oromo developmental phases. The concept finna is much wider as it crosses linguistic boarder into other Cushitic group, namely the Afar. ‘Finna’ to the Afar is what Gadaa is to the (Boorana) Oromo and Heera is to the Somali all being “great pastoral institutions on which the social economic and political organization of the respective communities survived for centuries” (Yacob in Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia, 2000:30).

For the purpose of this study, in this context, the meaning of the term and its implications are limited to the “suitability factors” referred to, i.e., to the socio-political factors that affect the life situations of the Oromo. The situations are: the social development stages Gemechu Megersa and A. Kassam describe as guddina, gabbina, bal’ina, badhaadha, hormaata, dagaaga, dagaa-horaa (Gemechu, ibid., cf. also A. Kassam in Asafa 1998:30-31). These cumulative interdependent development phases, finna, according to Gemechu and Kassam, embody the entire historical and contemporary social changes that have in turn resulted in new social order. Those changes in finna Oromo: sociopolitical, economic and cultural development phases must have influenced Jaarsoo's poetry thus transcribed as finna san gama, 'beyond adversities'.

To Aneesa Kassam, in her “The Oromo Theory of Social Development” finna “represents the legacy of the past which each generation inherits from its forefathers” (cf. in Asafa ibid.p30). According to Kassam, the generation transforms, enriches it further and will bequeath finna to future generation (emphasis added). Finna describes the inner potential of society as developing on the basis of cultural roots which it has lain down. It describes the consistent inner movement of the development phase and keeps it on track in light of the socio-cultural needs and life situations of the society throughout the historic periods. When that movement is disrupted culture as a social practice starts to regenerate itself in the process of reacting to the impeding external force. Kassam's study shows that the Oromo have had such a complex theory of social and cultural development that well dictates Oromo literature and now Jaarsoo's poetry. While he is reconstructing the past and foreseeing the future perhaps this is Jaarsoo's mission to direct the vision of this generation towards building free and independent Oromia State beyond all adversities. It is within such an ideological framework that Jaarsoo recites his poetry.

From a nationalist viewpoint the colonial/neo-colonial theses comprise the multi-faceted nature of sociological theories used in the study of Jaarsoo's narrative poetry. In defining colonialism in the Ethiopian context Asafa Jalata's Oromo Nationalism (1998) and Masay Kebede's Survival and Modernization (1999) are most relevant to the purpose of the present sociological analysis of Jaarsoo's poetry. Asafa declares that there were two major historical waves from the 17th to the mid-20th centuries: the first wave, according to Asafa was colonization, genocide and the continued subjugation from the 17th to the mid-20 century. The second wave was the liberation movements and revolutions not yet completed to avert the first historical wave and to reconstruct the past. Such liberation movements of the Palestinians, Kurds, Chechnyans, West Saharas, and the Sidamas, and Afars are best examples of the second wave. Asafa adds, "Amharas and Tigrayans colonised Oromos" without the superior technological and administrative skills of their own, but with the help of those European powers. Hence, Jaarsoo's allusion to nam'-adii, 'white-man' speaking of Western support to fulfill the Ethiopian colonialism of the southern populations. The Oromo liberation movement, as an integral part of the second historical wave, has evolved as a cultural and political force to challenge Ethiopian colonialism to the present (Asafa ibid. p. xi).

Defining colonialism in the Ethiopian context those defenders of the colonial thesis agree that all the characteristics of European colonialism are also true to the southern conquest of the Oromo. By this colonial thesis colonialism occurs when carriers of different system penetrate into boundaries and territories of others to forcefully impose a different pattern of production and new set of socio-political and cultural rules (Mesay 1999:11). Ethiopian colonialism, like the European colonialism is a "violent process of conquest, annexation, incorporation and subjugation of peoples and territories involving massive use of manpower, technology and strategy whatever to overcome every resistant force of the victims" (ibid.). From the viewpoint of the colonial thesis it is agreed that the expansion triggered by Ethiopian economic necessity, though not on the same level with that of the European domestic economic needs, is equally colonial as that of its European counterpart. Thus, while Menelik's army had great quantity of firearms purchased from the European colonial powers by the resources such as slaves, gold, irony and coffee from the south the latter had nothing except traditional weapons (Asafa 1998:2).

In distinguishing between Ethiopian expansionist colonialism and western imperialistic colonialism Messay points out that expansionist colonialism is an extension of the prevailing system, whereas imperialist colonialism is a subordination of the existing system to the superior one (Messay, ibid. p18). In Jaarsoo's poetry, however, one may infer the extension of expansionist colonial system is made possible only when the subordination of the victim's socio-political and cultural system as inferior is successful. One characteristic feature inherent to the neo-colonial order is that it endures that one ethnic group has dominance over the other(s). It is also characterized by interests of the "national" sabotaged by interests of the ruling outsiders. One method of survival that wayyane uses in Ethiopia today is granted by assembling different ethnic groups along their linguistic and socio-cultural boundaries and then hatching many such PDO's as the OPDO, i.e., the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (Leenco 1999).

In spite of other facts to the contrary, opponents of colonial theory declare that the real colonizer of the southern population was the West; Ethiopia was only the agent. Thus, Messay Kebede maintains this view of opponents of colonial theory: colonized peoples cannot be accused of being themselves colonizers, any more than the Indian troops used by the British colonial power for its imperial expansion (p19). However, be it enforced by loss of sovereignty itself, or for some 'civilizing' mission, to 'pacify' the south, as it were, to provide peace, law and order (cf. Wallace 1995), or for the purpose of extracting raw materials, Ethiopia's colonial expansion conquered the Oromo and responded to its own domestic economic needs through comparable ideological justifications with the West. If Ethiopian colonialism is lowered to an agent position in the south but following the withdrawal of the European born representatives, Oromo speaking Habashas were put in charge to keep intact the colonial legacy: socio-political and economic institutions in Oromoland. It is such a neo-colonial doctrine characterized by wayyane's political system of ethnic favouritism and foreign alliance that Jaarsoo strongly condemns in his poetry analyzed in the present study from a sociological perspective.

Below attempt is made to shed some light on the issue ‘why a sociology of Oromo literature’.

Why a Sociology of Oromo Literature?

Each of those theories discussed in the present chapter illustrate different aspects of the respective human society. They are all "nets cast to catch what we call 'the world'--to rationalize, to explain and to master it" (K. Popper quoted in Ruth Wallace's Contemporary Sociological Theory (1995:12). The sociology of Oromo literature accompanied by a combination of various social development theories must remain open to modification and revision, and proceed beyond a single entry into the always-to-remain-open catalogue as dynamic as literary process. The problems Jaarsoo addresses in his social analysis are also dynamic: uneven development and ethnic favoritism, cultural oppression, regional and ethnic movements, resource competition, unclear policies and government interventions. There are also consequent ethnic conflicts and call for 'peace by peaceful means', as Prof. John Galtung (1996) puts it, in the poetry leading towards the ultimate goal of the Oromo struggle, i.e. self-determination.

The move towards a 'sociology of Oromo literature’, may thus be viewed in terms of the literary (the oral) and sociological (conflict theory, development theory) conceptual frameworks discussed in this section as an interdisciplinary approach. But, why a sociology of Oromo literature? Logically speaking, the move ‘towards’ also implies the move ‘away from’. First, it is a move away from the traditional tenet that oral literature or oral poetry is a definitive and unitary body of art that can be clearly differentiated from literature ‘proper’ or, as it were, ‘normal’ poetry. Whereas, it may well be argued that the nature of oral poetry can cast light on literature ‘proper’ as having some common elements to share (Finnegan 1977:2).

It is also a move away from the wrong impression so often gained from sociological writings or impressionistic suggestions such as Ullendorff’s, of the artistic and intellectual barrenness of non-literate cultures. Third, it is a move away from the romantic and mystical notion that a work of art is a magic creation of ‘genius’, mysterious product of an individual feat rather than “the complex construction of a number of real historical factors” (Wolff 1993:1). Finally, it is the move away from the idea of fixed, normative or ‘pure’ genres and lead towards “taking the accounts of emergence, transformation, obsolescence… as positive realities of genres… not merely as forms of defect or breakdown in generic order” (Dorst qtd. in Finnegan 1992: 137).

The sociology of literature poses questions that relate to the social functions of literature: what does literature do in society? does it reflect, more or less directly, the existing sociocultural and political order of the society? is that reflection selective or covers ‘the whole society’? does literature go beyond a passive mere reflection of the status quo and play more active role in the ‘working’ of the society? The idea of considering literature as a social practice is perhaps unquestionable. This is so because in such a time of rapid and radical changes literature, as it seems, is not the intellectual and imaginative product of an isolated individual sitting by himself/herself and passively reflecting on the daily activities of man in relation to his surrounding. It is rather a cultural creation of a social group with whom the artist identifies himself, and for whom he is a spokesperson, as argued by several literary/social theoreticians (M. Corse 1997; Ojaide 1996; Ngara 1990; Irele 1990; Natharet 1977; Mutiso 1974; Fanon 1963, and others).

The changes that occur to man are social, economic, political, cultural and religious in their nature. And so being, they involve man in the very social practice of cultural creation, i.e., oral poetry for example, as a "practical agency" in reaction to that common and universal/cultural human experience: birth, life, love and hate, success and failure, pain, joy, suffering and death etc. (Mutiso 1974:4). Hence, this necessitates the need for sociology of literature.

Social cohesion is another cardinal point that makes our literature so socioculturally oriented and so distinct from literature of the Western culture in which "self-reliant individualism" is the core attribute of the national character (Corse 1997: 2). In this respect, social cohesion among the Oromo is, like in any other African societies perhaps, rather centered on the Oromo holistic image of mankind: "we are, therefore I am" (Imbity qtd. in Ojaide 1996:3; Sumner 1996:19; cf. also Sekou Toure's idea of 'communocracy' qtd. in C. Wauthier 1978:173). Similarly, social cohesiveness and communal spirit is so important and is the center of material and non-material Oromo culture (Asafa 1998; Baxter 1996; Gemechu 1993; Bartels 1983). Jaarsoo Waaqoo, in reciting his poetry addresses his people collectively as "we" while referring to that collective experience of his people as determined by the existing political, sociocultural and historical factors. Those factors in turn define and express themselves in his oral poetry marking off for it a "broad area of reference" in which the poet addresses the enormous problems he thinks common to his people. So, it seems logical to conclude that the poet and his works, set in this context, are socially committed to the immediate society which gave birth to both the poet and his poems.

Such a criticism of sociopolitical real life situations as a major concern of literature in Africa today is what Harold Bloom calls "extratextuality" (qtd. in Ojaide1996). That is, the focus is on the sociopolitical issues that affect the poet and his people. And thus, grounded in the ideas and problems inherent in the poet's own particular society, the study of poetry in Africa opens a way for the "construction of social and political theory" (Muutiso 1974). That is why conflict theory and development theory as social theories are thought to be pertinent in the analysis of Jaarsoo Waaqoo's poetry and in the construction of Oromo literary/critical practices.

The new paradigm emergent as a theory must therefore value and equally recognize the work of art “as exemplary expression of a people’s collective struggle for cultural and political identity” (A. Williams in RAL Summer 1991:12).5 To solve the problem of critical practice some scholars replace the individual “intersubjectivity” with the more collective 'sociolectic' critical term “interdiscursivity”/“intercollectivity” (Schipper in RAL, Winter 1993). To Peter Zima, for example, ‘interdiscursivity’ and historical/cultural relativity are indispensable. Interdiscursivity emphasises awareness of the collective 'sociolectic' nature of all theoretical discourses. And it is this assumption, to Zima, that structures the background knowledge of the critic and forces him to acknowledge and examine the content of the counter discourse (Schipper p45).

In a world where humanity is besieged by hunger, want, disease and absolute misery, in a world driven by exploitation of the black by his kind, and in a world of inequality, no criticism can be innocent. Thus, Jaarsoo's poetry is political since Jaarsoo recites about power relation in the present Ethiopia (see Gunther Schlee in Hayward 1996: 229-42 and A. Shongolo in Baxter 1996: 265-90). Schlee and Shongolo label Jaarsoo's poetry as the ‘poetics of nationalism' and nationalism "...is above and beyond all else, about politics, and that politics is about power" (Brieully 1982 cited by M. Hassen in Baxter 1996:70). To be free from poverty and exploitation experienced throughout successive historic periods, the poet strongly believes, the Oromo should actively participate in the struggle for self-determination led by the OLF: "power, in the modern world", M. Hassen stresses, "is primarily about control of the state".

In such a society engaged in redefining itself, reconstructing the past and directing the sociopolitical order in some way the role of the critic seems to be predetermined. A. Williams contends “the task of critical disclosure is by its very nature political” (RAL ibid. p19), and therefore, literary study in Africa today, Williams rightly argues, “must be informed by an interpretation of diverse texts by political reality and by the interpretation of political reality by diverse texts” (ibid). Text is a living body within a large whole. It is not just literary text per se. Text is rather the sociocultural events: social relations, complexities, nuances and intricacies of cultural ensemble that informed the poet and his works. It is the institutions, events, personalities and artifacts prevailing in the cultural processes that are all the living parts of the literary text. In his book titled Socio-Political Thought in African Literature (1974:7) Mutiso's hypothesis is stated as “all literature in the African context tends to function as a kind of social commentary." Ojaide also adds, there is a shift of attention from the white/black conflict to the black/black conflict in modern African poetry (Ojaide 1996:23). John Ekwere also declares “the palefaced strangers” and “foreign hawks” no more prey on us “But we on us!” (Mutiso p.12).

Now, which literary theory? And, to ask as Homi K. Bhabha in his The Location of Culture (1994) asks, is it merely another power ploy of the culturally privileged Western critic to produce a discourse of the Other that reinforces its own power-knowledge equation? Or still, is the ‘Western’ theory collusive with the hegemonic role of the West as a powerful block, as still Bhabha interrogates? A possible answer to these questions is perhaps what follows: to describe a given oral poetry within a totality rather than segments and analyze it such concrete issues as specific historical and cultural formations and the socio-economic and political configurations determine it. That is, the literary paradigm relevant to the studies, i.e. sociological studies of social, cultural and historical life of the people must include a theory of, among other things, how the processing of power in specific historical and sociocultural circumstances affects the production of a literary work itself. Hence, the need for social development theory, theory of conflict resolution, and the native 'finna' theory for the sociological study of Jaarsoo's poetry.

A literary theory relevant to the study of Oromo literature/poetry should interrogate the extent to which the work of art is a symbolic resolution of severe conflicts. How to account for differences in relations among peoples belonging to different cultural formation must be given enough room in cultural and literary studies. The place of women and children in the sociocultural life situations, institutions, organizational structures, and community and resource management systems, property rights should also be given enough room. Perhaps only this time is it possible to theorize the role of cultural productions and producers, or poets, alike within the global context of industrialization of culture and literature and resist the "recolonization" of the Oromo culture or at least echo the lament of those who voice its arrested "decolonization". Hence, the study of Oromo literature and of Jaarsoo’s poetry as a social critique should take its place within other Oromo studies based on the finna 'social development theory of the society' so that it leads eventually towards the development of Oromo literary and critical practice side by side.

Related Studies

So far theoretical considerations and alternative sociological and literary approaches to the study of Oromo poetry (e.g. the geerarsa/dhaaduu genre) within a sociopolitical context have been discussed. Next, works relevant to the study of the content of Jaarsoo's poetry are reviewed.

Regarding Oromo literature at present there are few studies conducted from the perspective of the life situation of the Oromo that informed the text and the artist. Desalegn Seyum, in his MA thesis "E. Cerulli's Folk Literature of the [Oromo] of Southern Ethiopia: a Critical Evaluation" "(1985), attempts “to show how Cerulli’s collection can reflect Oromo culture” (p26) centering on the major objective of the study: “to critically analyze Cerulli’s Folk Literature... and examine” the cultural and historical significance of the collection of Oromo poetry in 1922 to the life situation of the Oromo in 1980s, i.e. twenty three years ago. Desalegn’s study is innovative in many aspects. One is linguistic. For example, the Oromo vowel length had hitherto been denied to have phonetic value, an assumption strongly opposed by Desalegn, and foreign scholars such as Tutscheck, for instance. Desalegn argues that doubling the vowel represents vowel length in Oromo. Second, Desalegn also declares that the pejorative word ‘galla’ does not represent ‘Oromo’, both the people and the language (cf. T. Zitelmann's "Re-Examining the Galla/Oromo Relationship" in Baxter 1996:103 passim).

The objective of Desalegn's study is to evaluate the cultural and historical significance of Cerulli's collections. However, though Desalegn attempts to set his study within its sociocultural context, the attempt made does not seem a success. The reason is that the corpus of oral texts in Cerulli’s Folk Literature (1922) were those composed in the nineteenth and towards the beginning of the twentieth century (cf. the historical songs) and that 'so much water had passed under the bridge' since then, one may argue, i.e., up to the time of the analysis in 1985, it had been a long time. Moreover, Desalegn’s study is ‘textual’ “evaluation,” as the title of the thesis reads and not a contextual analysis as it appears to be. And, if contextual study requires one to go to the source that informed the text and the poet then to “put the text back into history and history back into textuality” (in Research in African Literature, RAL, 1997:17), then, Desalegn’s thesis, unlike the present study, does not seem to be set within the Oromo socio-political and cultural context.

The second innovative research work relevant to Oromo literary studies is Addisu’s Ph dissertation: "The Historical Transformation of a Folk Genre: the Geerarsa as a National Literature of the Oromo…." (1990, see also his article 1994). To Addisu, the primary purpose of his study is to analyze the relationship between the geerarsa folk song and Oromo cultural identity both before and after the sociopolitical changes in the Oromo life situation. What makes Addisu’s study more relevant to Oromo cultural studies than Desalegn’s is that the former provides ethnographic and performance contexts for the geerarsa while the latter does not.

Addisu writes that the performance goals of the geerarsa singer exhibit the Oromo as a nation aspiring for freedom while resisting external pressure and sociopolitical and cultural domination. He adds that the Oromo political system, gada (cf. Asmarom’s Oromo Democracy 2000; Gada 1973) and other traditional values are also depicted in geerarsa on such occasion as the ritual and festival gada celebration known as buttaa or jila.6 The people’s national identity is “survived and maintained”, as Addisu argues, “through geerarsa’s adaptation” in response to those sociopolitical changes (p. viii). Unfortunately, what was once verbal expression of heroic deeds, songs of triumph over victories, songs of praises is later on transformed into a manifestation of public resentments, into a lament of defeat and solitude, into mute hymns of challenge, which Jaarsoo picks up for the subject of his recital poetry. Thus, Addisu's study lays a fertile ground for the sociological analysis of Oromo literature as in the present study.

Among other local historical, anthropological, linguistic and literary materials related to Oromo studies, Fugich Wako's article "Tradition, Memory, Creativity and the Self in the Personal Narratives among the Borana…" (2002) is another contribution to the study of Oromo literature. It describes the Boorana personal narratives like dhaaduu, which must have influenced Jaarsoo's narratives. Wako's article is also relevant to this study since it is sociologically oriented.

Sahlu Kidane’s MA thesis (1996, published 2002) is perhaps also worth reviewing. The study is a contextual analysis of Borana prose narratives. Sahlu maintains that the Borana “cultural life has to be studied separately” (emphasis added) though he knows the Borana to be one “half” or “moiety” of the Oromo. One reason, Sahlu argues, is that “[t]hrough their history the Borana’s close contact with alien culture is very minimal” (emphasis added, p1).

Doubtless the gada sociopolitical system is still operational among the Borana Oromo. Also that the Borana mode of subsistence is based on rearing cattle as the predominant life sustaining activity seems to be a conjuncture, not an evident reason that Boorana oral tradition should be studied 'separately'. Cattle rearing is also one economic base in other parts of Oromia which is accompanied by an oral tradition of its own kind, particularly praising cattle as among the Macca.7 That gada as an institution is still operational among the Borana and pastoralism is the economic base of the society (the Boran), but Sahlu should not have overlooked one equally important fact related to the life situation of the present-day Oromo in general and of the Borana in particular. The Oromo as the "community of memory and nationalism" (cf. Fugich Wako 2002: 18-34) share finna8 in common that embodies the Oromo concept of 'social development' described as having "seven interconnected cumulative development phases" (Asafa 1998:30).9

The sociopolitical and cultural changes that have occurred to the Oromo life situation have transformed the finna of the Oromo nation as a whole. The degree to maintain the cultural heritage may vary, however, from one community to another. The transformation in geerarsa, for instance, is inevitable since there is the dynamics of the cultural, economic and political changes affecting the lives of the Oromo society. Sahlu should not have ignored this reality common to the Oromo oral culture as dynamic. Addisu argues that such changes that occur to geerarsa “seems to be the product of the sociopolitical condition which has created social conflicts” (1990:7, cf. also 1994). These forceful conditions are the cultural domination and political repression which has created deep resentments in the people to be expressed in verbal art.

The binding force of the Oromo cultural life and its fabric is the Oromo knowledge system universal both to the Borana and the Barentu as well (Gemechu 1993). To Gemechu Megersa (1993), the division of the Oromo into Borana and Barentu is “conceptual”. That is, the Borana and Barentu are not two distinct personalities or founding fathers. The division is just a “mental one, designating the division of the social body into east and west, laterally” (p32). And according to Gemechu, the vertical category shows the family and social relations between the first-born sons (angafa) and the younger sons (quxisu). By this vertical relationship the Oromo are put into Boorana and Gabbaro, which are traditionally arranged into two moieties of five groups: the Sabbo and the Goona, the Macca and the Tulama, the Raayya and the Asebo, the Sikko and the Mando, and the Itu and the Humbanna (ibid.). It is the Oromo knowledge system universal to the Borana and the Barentu shared among the two exogamous moieties (“halves”) of the five Oromo groups (ibid). According to Gemechu, the three major elements of the Oromo worldview that constitute the Oromo knowledge system are the concepts of uumaa, ayyaana and safuu (cf. also Bartels 1983). It is these three elements of the Oromo knowledge system that are the binding force of the nation from East to West and North to South, since to the Oromo, in this respect, the concept of society is not just the sum of individuals but those systems.

If not to delineate the matrices of the study of Oromo prose narratives to certain specific area, more for practical reasons than for attempting to study the culture of one group as a pure entity, Sahlu cannot categorically deny the major common elements that Oromo as a nation share in favour of few peculiarities. Sahlu’s conjecture that the Boorana prose narratives should be studied 'separately' is, therefore, no more than technical/methodological to limit his study to Borana (to the Sabbo and the Goona) since it is impracticable for him to reach the whole nation.

I share Sahlu’s opposition, however, to the Western (literary) theories imposed on the critical studies of African art, except those universal paradigms such as orality, social development theory and conflict resolution theory in literary and social studies congruent to the native views such as the finna 'development phases' of the Oromo. The need to root literary study from its inception within the context of the indigenous people seems to be very crucial. Hence, in spite of the wider context, studies in Oromo oral literature are few. Perhaps, the root cause of the problem is two-fold: firstly, there is a general tendency that the term ‘literature’ seems to subject all oral literature that is not in print to the domain of non-literature based on the etymological root of the Latin word littera 'letter' when the term “literature” can, surely, “be used in a sense which departs from its etymon” (Andrzejewski 1985:31).10

Secondly, there has been an established academic norm among the “Ethiopians” and “Ethiopianists” referring to the sixteenth-century myth recorded by Bahrey, the Abyssinian monk, who wrote The History of the Galla (1593), that the Oromo are nomadic pagan herd which swept like a “flood” over the north and north-east Ethiopia. According to Bahrey the Oromo nation was then a single unitary nation, Borana being an integral part of the nation and ritually the most senior segment. He considered Gadaa as a system through which generations of savage warriors terrorized and invaded ‘Civilized Christian Abyssinia’ (Gemechu 1993, 1996).11

Abyssinian historiographers and chroniclers and expatriates such as Edward Ullendorff wrote erroneous notions about the Oromo and Oromo culture even reporting that “ the Galla had done nothing to contribute to the civilization of Ethiopia” (1965:76).12 Such prejudiced views towards the Oromo are not uncommon in Ethiopian studies (Abbay 1992; Tareke 1990).13 Ethiopian historiographers, chroniclers and other scholars have “put their prejudiced views down in black and white for future generations to contemplate” (Asmarom 2000:5). The problem of a profound lack of critical debate and analysis of Oromo Literature (oral or written) based in the native sociopolitical and cultural context is partly political. Addisu Tolesa states “[r]esearch in geerarsa has been forbidden in Ethiopia" (1990: 2). Others also confirm that except some sketchy reports on folksongs and other Oromo folklore genres, full-scale research and detailed contextual descriptions and analysis of texts related to historical subjects and political matters on Oromo were hardly possible (Negaso 1983; Cerulli 1922).

A few native Oromo literates during the last decade of the nineteenth century,14 such as Onesimus Nesib and Aster Ganon, devoted their folkloristic collection "Jalqaba Barsiisaa" 'Oromo Readers' to the 'warra biyya Oromo', to 'the family of the land of the Oromo'. Thomas Zitelman says, that early attempt to Oromo studies in Europe "marks a further stage" or a good beginning (Bulcha 2002; Baxter 1996:108; see also Pankhurst 1976).

Sheik Bakri Saphalo of Harar, the "great scholar-poet" was another Oromo who committed his life to promoting Oromo language, history and culture. S. B. Saphalo, Mohammed Hassen writes, "produced eight works on Oromo history and culture, and invented the Oromo alphabet in 1956" (in Baxter 1996:73). He also composed poems in Afaan Oromoo (Oromo Language) in praise of the beauty of Oromia, its peoples, rivers, lakes, valleys, mountains and animals. Some of his secular poems deal with the Oromo suffering under Abyssinian colonial administration and he continued with the same venture until he was forced to flee his country to Somalia, and ended his life there in prison.15 Those challenges in the history of Oromo literature however, are indicators of the existence of early interests and attempts in promoting Oromo language, culture and history among the Oromo despite all the pressures of Ethiopian authorities. Baxter argues the Oromo are “one of the most numerous and productive nations of Africa,” but unlike the Zulu, the Somali, Akan, Limba, and Yoruba their contributions to world literature and they themselves as a nation “are hardly known at all” to the outside world (Baxter in T.A. Abdi 1981: v). Such ignorance has in some part been because of “the policies of successive Ethiopian governments which have actively sought to assimilate” the culture/language of the people (ibid).

Summarily, there is no doubt those sociopolitical factors and, in opposition, the ongoing Oromo cultural movement16 will have a direct bearing on the methodological and theoretical aspects of Oromo literature. Such factors (political, social, cultural and economic) that constitute the Oromo collective experience today will also affect every attempt made to reach a proper contextualisation of Oromo literary development and to direct its finna 'main decisive development stages' in the right track. That is, the dynamics of sociopolitical/cultural contexts in which Oromo poetry is set will also posit an argument in favour of methodological shifts, stylistic changes and generic structures as can be exemplified in the discussion of the geerarsa genre (and the dhaaduu sub-genre) in the chapter to follow, influencing the critic of Oromo poetry, eager to justify his university training and ever willing to regurgitate canons of the western literary and critical scholarship.


1. See Bell 1993:34. A model is however characterized by a graphic or visual representation of facts. According to Bell the formulation of a theory helps the investigator to summarize the previous discussion and guide his future course of action. Thus, a theory is an essential tool of research in that it helps “in achieving clarity and focusing on key issues in the nature of phenomena” (ibid).

2. See George Lukacs's analysis of the role of intention in literature cited in Udenta O Udenta, Revolutionary Aesthetics and the African Literary Process (1993), esp." Introduction" and Chapter 1.

3. Amilcar Cabral in Return to the Source (1973) asserts, when

repressed, persecuted, humiliated, betrayed by certain social groups who have compromised with the foreign power, culture took refuge in the villages, in the forests and in the spirit of the victims of domination. Culture survives all these challenges and through the struggle for liberation blossoms forth again. Thus the question of a "return to the source" or of a "cultural renaissance" does not arise and could not arise for the mass of these people, for it is they who are the repository of the culture and at the same time the only social sector who can preserve and build it up and make history (p. 61).

4. Cf. the concept of finna and Oromo cultural movement in Asafa (ibid), Gemechu 1993

5. See also Asafa (1998) "The Oromo Cultural Movement" pp39-42, and "The Struggle for Knowledge: The Case of Emergent Oromo Studies" pp253-77.

6. See Mohammed Hassen's PhD dissertation, The Oromo of Ethiopia: a History 1570-1860 (1994: 13).

7. Tesema T'a'a writes that pastoralism is a "complex organization of labour" demanding cooperation among the Oromo. There is a general sociological trend Tesema argues in his article "Traditional and Modern Cooperatives Among the Oromo" (in Baxter 1996): "[s]ociologically...all traditional forms of Oromo cooperation are characterized by an underlying mutuality..." (p.203). Despite ecological differences, but such a mutuality characterizes the Oromo 'pastoral cooperation' based on divisions of labour, "according, in part, to gada grades and responsibilities" (ibid.). See also Assefa Tolera (1999:87).

8. Aneesa Kassam, in her "The Oromo Theory of Social Development" says, finna

"represents the legacy of the past which each generation inherits from its forefathers and which it transforms; it is the fertile patrimony held in trust by the present generation which it will enrich and bequeath to future generations...it describes a movement emanating from the inside, a developing of the inner potential of society bases on the cultural roots it has already laid down" (qtd. in Asafa ibid. p30).

9. See what Richard A Couto has to say of the "community of memory and nationalism" (in Asafa ibid. p32):

the community of memory nurtures individuals by carrying a moral tradition that reinforces the aspirations of their group...The test of this community is its sense of a common past...there are stories of suffering 'that sometimes create deeper identities...' These stories approximate a moral tradition and turn community of memory members 'toward the future as communities of hope.' Such communities of hope sponsor transforming social movements.... Whether Sahlu's study of Boorana narratives include such "suffering stories" as what Couto writes about is beyond the scope of the present study.

10. The Russian Slovesnost and the German Wolfkunst are such case examples. But the Oromo version Ogbarruu “literature” is rather less controversial since there is afoola to mean “folklore”, though the two distinct lexemes of “folklore”, i.e. ‘folk and ‘lore’ are different from afoola which derives from afoolee “singer”, as in Arsi Oromo, or afoola ‘person who talks a lot’, hence, a ‘narrator’ as in Boorana Oromo (Leus 1995: 20).

11. See Gemechu Megersa in Baxter 1996:97. Gemechu claims: "The ideological and social basis for this persecution of the Oromo was laid in the sixteenth century" when the 'civilized Christian Community' feigned what they claimed to be, in opposition, the 'history' of the 'barbaric pagan Galla' (Oromo).

12. See Asafa (1998:21). Ullendorf even does not recognize or does not want to recognize that "a society cannot survive without producing significant material and non-material culture..." Ethiopian scholars also kept on denigrating the Oromo as having no "cultural substance on which to construct their nationalism" (Tareke 1990:151 in Asafa ibid) or having nothing like an Axumite history to glorify (Abbay 1992:35 in Asafa ibid). Such a dehumanizing attitude towards the Oromo has remained the belief of Amhara-Tigre rulers and elites that "to be an Ethiopian, one has to cease to be an Oromo," two things seen as incompatible (M. Hassen in Asafa 1998:188). But as Gemechu rightly puts it, "The Oromo will never become good Ethiopians before they become good Oromo" (in Baxter 1996:101).

13. The Oromo see culture and history differently from the way the Habasha (Amaharas and Tigreans) see it. "The Oromo do not warship individual despots because their democratic traditions have been against despots and hierarchical social organizations" (Asafa ibid). Asafa's comment is a response to Aleme Abbay's an irresponsible comment that "the Oromo do not have 'heroes' like Yohannes and Allula to look up to; nor do they have a major insurrectionary history like the wayane in their memory pool" (Abay 1992:35).

14. See Mekuria Bulcha's The Making of the Oromo's Diaspora (2002, Chapter V). See also R. Punkhurst "The Beginning of Oromo Studies in Europe" (1976).

15. See Mohammed Hassen in Baxter (1996:73). Shaikh Bakri Sapalo, Mohammed writes, is a 'great scholar-poet' who "stirred the imagination and captured the love of the Oromo by means of his poems....His poems deals with secular and religious subjects; some of his secular poems deal with the beauty of the Oromo country, its people, rivers, lakes valleys, mountains and animals while others deal with Oromo suffering under Amhara colonial administration".

16. See Asafa Jalata's "The Oromo Cultural Movement" in his Oromo Nationalism (1998:39). Asafa argues, "Oromo literature, music, songs, poetry, theatre drama and forms of cultural revival and actions manifest...concepts of the Oromo cultural movement." The Oromo cultural movement embodies concepts that "express Oromo nationalism": Oromummaa (Oromoness), gootummaa (patriotism), bilisummaa (liberation), gadaa haaraa (renewed Oromo Democracy), mootummaa (state), nagaa Oromoo (peace for all Oromoo), and finna (development). These lay a fertile ground for the Oromo literary and critical practice to date, I believe, in such a nation engaged in national struggle for independence.

Note: In the picture we see an old woman prays for peace in the Oromo Camp for internally displaced people in Uganda. For 19 years the Lord’s Resistance Army has terrorized the people living in the Northern provinces. http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2005/presskit/index_spa.htm

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