Department of Oromo Folklore (Oromo Cultural Studies)
The Department of Oromo Folklore and Literature emerged from a realization of the critical shortage of literature on Oromo culture, history and language. It addressed the lack of institutions that focus on studies of cultural, social, economic, political and literary traditions and indigenous knowledge of peoples. Earlier systems nullified roles of true cultures and traditions with the assumptions of replacing them with ‘High Cultures’ of the ‘Queens and Kings’ types. Change in outlooks and theories call for prioritizing the former. On 15 November 1989, the General Conference of UNESCO at its 25th Session in Paris underscored the necessities of safeguarding folklore, realizing its nature, roles, and current status; accordingly, it urged member states to give due attention and immediate action to safeguard the folklore of peoples of their respective countries.
Until very recently, Oromo was an oral society wherein culture, tradition, history, and identity had been accumulated for generations. The Department emerged with the belief that the study of such longstanding traditions and cultures of the people can help in safeguarding them, contributing to the enrichment of literature and promoting the development needs of the people. Its main areas are culture, traditions, history, identity, language and literature.
The Bachelor of Arts in Oromo Folklore and Literature was instituted as an academic programme under the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Jimma University in 2005 and started actual operation in September 2007. The programme was launched with the intention of producing professionals who will help in safeguarding the peoples’ cultures and enriching their literature.
The intention is that the literature and cultures of oral societies can be enriched through collecting and researching field data and converting them into organized written documents and documentary films. These pave ways for safeguarding, conservation, preservation, documentation, displays of culture and enriched literature. The programme marks a new area of study in Ethiopian higher education. No higher educational institutions in Ethiopia undertake the academic programme under consideration. It is more actual, practical and data-based.
The Bachelor of Arts in Oromo Folklore and Literature has been designed as a multidisciplinary academic programme. Spiritual, material, oral and performance cultures are the main areas the programme includes. The first deals with political and ideological issues, philosophical outlooks and attitudes; the second is about instruments and products which help in displaying the spiritual aspects of society; the third is about how society expresses and communicates these among its members and with others; the last one is about the acts, behaviour and performances which reveal the underlying spiritual aspects supplementing the oral elements. All of these make the totality of the life of the people; in general, it is the study of the people and their ways or the culture of the people. Culture accumulates the people, their ways and experiences and becomes a resource for development and innovation; so it is for unity and strength. It is having this in mind that the Department developed the curriculum.
The Ministry of Education of the FDRE called for national curriculum development in 2008. Accordingly, a needs assessment of stakeholders was conducted and a new curriculum was developed. This was following the admission of the first cohort. On the workshop or in the process of development, the members of the team convinced each other that the word ‘folklore’ covers the concepts attached to literature and would be sufficient. It was then decided that the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Oromo Folklore (or Cultural Studies) be given to the graduates after completion of their studies. While very slight changes have been made to the programme objectives, profiles, rationale and course contents, many of these remain the same.
In terms of manpower, the Department began with an individual who was in the English Department at the time. Gradual recruitment and employment from different disciplines has helped the promotion of the programme into a strong self-sufficient department. Presently, the Department has twenty-two academic staffs, one administrative staff and one technical staff. Out of these, eight are on the study leave and fourteen are on duty.
Collecting, cataloguing, documenting, digitizing and Preserving folklore data are already well underway. Both students and staff collect data from fields. These are processed and categorized into genres and subgenres. They are converted into soft and hard copies. The elements of folklore in these forms are preserved and made ready for use in teaching and research. Social ceremonies and ritual events are recorded right from the field and put into documentary films. This is with the perception that rites and ceremonies expose the outlooks and beliefs of societies. These are resources portraying the actual realities of the social beliefs, customs, perceptions, traditions and philosophy of life. They bring to the fore personalities and experts on a single stage and incidence. Likewise, they enrich information and data to conduct in-depth research into indigenous traditions. These resources can serve other institutions which are interested in them.
The Department mainly focuses on the study of Oromo Folklore and Culture. Consequently, Oromo Folklore and Culture are the major areas of training. In this connection, the collecting, documenting, and digitizing of folklore genres help to make data accessible for the study. The study, in turn, helps the development of the culture of the people in general. It is also believed that the availability of these data promotes the National Literature of the Oromo. Specifically, the department has the following objectives:
- To document and promote-cultural elements of the Oromo through print and electronic media so that they could be revitalized and the society would be beneficiary.
- To establish Oromo cultural documentation and resource center for further studies.
- To collect, organize and disseminate artifacts, oral traditions, cultural practices and rituals of the society.
- To enable graduates of Oromo Folklore and Cultural studies to become independent income generators for themselves and the community at large.
- To give training to the youth and the community to improve their indigenous knowledge and skill of cultural products.
- To create a forum to link local producers with suppliers and consumers of cultural products.
- To work closely with Oromia Culture and Tourism Bureau and other stake holders in the areas of Oromo culture and tourism development.
- To work in collaboration with various stakeholders in facilitating the registration of Oromo Cultural heritages as world heritages.
- To explore mutual cultural practices between the Oromo and other ethnic entities.
- To create linkages with similar departments in the country and abroad to exchange experiences in the field.
The department of Oromo Folklore and Literature desires to be the top in the University and one of the superlative department in Ethiopia by education quality, academic ground and toward minimize the critical shortage of literature on Oromo identity; social, economic and political traditions.
Our vision is to produce professionals in Oromo Folklore and Culture who can independently collect, document, transcribe, categorize, analyze, digitize and preserve cultural elements and to create potential and competent candidates that can rigorously study and bring Oromo indigenous knowledge to the world of scholarship. The department also devoted to help the present and future generations learn from the knowledge of their forefathers and to encourage other ethnic and linguistic groups to establish similar sister programs in the universities in order to contribute together to Ethiopian folklore and cultural development.
Future plan (strategic direction)
The department has been working meticulously to clean ground for Oromo cultural studies and with its incessant efforts up to now; it had lounched MA program in Oromo Folklore and Culture Studies in 2012 and dedicated to lounch PhD program in Studies of Oromo Culture by 2019. Furthermore, the department has the prospect plan to establish Archival and Documentation Center as well as Institute of Oromo Studies in collaboration with Afan Oromo and other sister departments as well as concerned bodies who have the interest and devotion for the development of Oromo Culture, History and Language. The department is also dedicated to launch PhD program in Oromo Cultural Studies/indigenous knowledge by 2019. Furthermore, the department has the prospect plan to establish Archival and Documentation Center.
All academic staff members are immediate members of the Department Council (DC), having an equal vote on any matter that calls for a decision. Chaired by a head (HOD), the Department runs various activities. The head chairs the DC, distributes activities among staff members, and facilitates interaction with various organs of the College, the University and the community. Supported by the community-based philosophy of the University, the Department strives to actualize maximum community interactions, which the activities of the staff and students exhibit.
Research and fieldwork of the staff are among the major components. The fieldwork entails the observing, recording, preserving and analysis of the actions and activities of the community. Students are also checked for their ability to adequately interact with local people and help solve societal problems through the activities and assignments devised which they are required to implement. The Department Head checks and manages this; s/he also facilitates such activities, coordinates the staff and the students to deal with different organs of the community.
As folklore is multidisciplinary, teams manage divided and varied courses of their respective disciplines. These include folklore, ethnography, anthropology, linguistics, history, literature, research, and filming, cinematography and other documentation courses. Committees run varied activities. The Exam Committee coordinates all activities related to preparations and administration of exams given in the Department and tries to maintain their quality and impartiality.
The Disciplinary Committee listens to complaints and any indecency raised by students and staff. The objectives and activities of the Department urge for the establishment of a special archiving and documentation team run by a coordinator to manage the activities of the Archival and Documentation Centre. Here data collected from fieldwork is processed, organized, documented, displayed and preserved for future use in teaching, research, material development, and community service. The coordinator facilitates work, activities and practices of students, technical assistants, and staff. S/he plans requests for, follows up and acquires necessary resources for the centre to effectively implement the activities required and expected. Besides this, s/he secures the proper management and documentation and archiving of the data collected from fieldwork. All staff members are responsible for contributing to and carrying out activities at the centre.
Potential candidates who join the Department should fulfil some or all of the following criteria:
- Scoring pass mark in preparatory examination as per FDRE Education Ministry regulations;
- Those who have earned diploma from teachers training institutions in languages and have the inclination and the potential to analyze cultural materials and appreciate cultures and traditions are accepted on the basis of Advanced Standing Level.
- Any degree or diploma holder in the fields of social sciences and humanities like history, geography, sociology, language, anthropology, philosophy and other social sciences and business qualifications or certifications at post high school level are also eligible.
- Reading, speaking and writing in Afaan Oromoo is compulsory for all the candidates.
The Department has been designed as a multidisciplinary academic program. Spiritual, material, oral and performance cultures are the main areas of study the program includes. The first deals with political and ideological issues i.e. philosophical outlooks and attitudes. The second is about instruments and products which help in displaying the spiritual aspects of the society. The third is about how the society expresses and communicates these among its members and with all others. The last one is about the acts, behaviors and performances which reveal the underlying spiritual aspects supplementing the oral elements. All of these make the totality of the life of the people; in general it is the study of the people and their culture. Culture accumulates people’s ways and experiences and becomes resource for development and innovation; so it is for unity and strength. To put simply, the following are the major thematic areas of the department:
- Indigenous knowledge systems (e.g. Gadaa system, Oromo world view and philosophy, Oromo Folk medicine, material cultures, Childlores and Games, Oromo child rearing practices...)
- Oromo natural resources management, conservation and environmental protection system
- Gender issues and women based Institutions in Oromo
- Oromo peace conceptualization and conflict resolution mechanisms
- Oromo indigenous eco-theology and environmental biodiversity
- Cultural heritages management (tangible and intangible cultural heritages) and Community-based cultural ecotourism
- Oromo Folk-literature
- Indigenous Oromo folklore and development
Supported by Community-Based Philosophy of the university, the department strives to actualize maximum community-interactions, which the activities of the staff and students exhibit. Collecting, cataloguing, documenting, digitizing and preserving folklore data have been already well underway by both students and staff. These have been processed, and categorized into genres and subgenres. They have been converted into soft and hardcopies. The elements of folklore in these forms have been made ready for use in teaching and research. Social ceremonies and ritual events have been recorded right from the field and put into documentary films. This is with the perception that rites and ceremonies expose the outlooks and beliefs of societies. These are resources portraying the actual realities of the social beliefs, norms and philosophy of life. They bring into fore personalities and experts on a single stage and incidence. Likewise, they epistemologically enrich information and data to research in-depth into indigenous traditions. These resources can serve other institutions which are interested in them.
b) Governmental Organizations
The department is working closely with Oromia Culture and Tourism Bureau and other stake holders in the areas of Oromo culture and tourism development and also working in collaboration with various stakeholders in facilitating the registration of Oromo Cultural heritages as world heritages