Clothes and ethnic identity: (re)constructing identity through cultural clothes as ethnic markers. The case of Siltie nationality of Southern Ethiopia
AuthorAhmed, Kederala Mohammed
Clothes and Ethnic Identity: (Re)Constructing Identity through Cultural Clothes as Ethnic Markers. The Case of Siltie Nationality of Southern Ethiopia is a project which investigates the new trends of “creating” costumes among ethnic groups in Ethiopia, with a focus on the interface between cultural costumes and ethnic identity. The project uses the Siltie people as its case. I am attracted to this issue because of my personal observation of this trend among the ethnic groups in my locality. Following the 1995 ethnic federalism arrangement, many nations and nationalities of Ethiopia started to develop and promote their language for education, administration, legal purposes and so on. Moreover, they began to (re)write their histories, and promote their “traditional” costumes. Along the lines of promoting their costumes, the nationalities have started to identify the color, symbols and signs associated with their ‘distinctive’ cultures. The attempt to find symbolic representations, in some case, resulted in producing cultural costumes with “new” signs, symbols and colors which have never been used on their costume. The Siltie people are one of the ethnic groups who got a new ‘cultural’ costume following this trend. Hence, the main objective of the research is, to trace the changes and continuity in the ‘cultural’ dressing of the community and examine the incentives for creating “new” costumes. The research examines the links between the newly designed costume and the Siltie people’s culture, history and religion. Knowing people’s reflection and reaction regarding the ‘newly invented’ costume was a main objective of this project. I gathered extensive qualitative data through interviews, focus group discussions and observation and used available secondary resources and other readings. The intensification in the (re)production of cultural markers in general and clothes in particular in contemporary Ethiopia is strongly linked to the post-1991 constitutional developments in the country. The current politics in Siltie regarding clothing cannot be separated from its long-term quest for ethnic recognition, which in turn is seen as a way to get back to self-administration, enjoying, protecting and promoting one's own cultural values and heritages. Though the costume is elitists’ drive project, it is getting acceptance. If the promotion of the costume continues and keeps its momentum, it is expected that it would be a part and parcel the people’s culture and serve as an identity marker of the group underlining an “Us” and “Them” distinction.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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