Institute of Gadaa and Cultural Study

The Institute of Gadaa and Culture Studies

The Institute of Gadaa and Culture Studies was initiated in 2016 G.C. by the then researchers and management of the Bule Hora University. However, the institute was not active until call for the ceremonial conference of inception in March 9, 2019. This inception workshop laid the foundation for its establishment as formally recognized institution in the university. The main purpose for the establishment of the institute is to facilitate one of the Bule Hora University’s centers of excellence, indigenous knowledge, by identifying thematic area for research on Gadaa and culture, providing professional training for researchers, community, and others, and disseminating research findings to the communities around the university as well as to the whole world. The institute manly focuses on promoting, protecting and developing Gadaa system and cultural norms, values and practices of the Gujii, Borana, Gabra, Gedeo, Burji, Konso and Amaro through research and discussion with elders, and scholars around the world. In line to these main objectives, the institute has been and/or is striving to accomplish several activities that are believed to contribute for the achievement of the mission and vision of the university.

The first activity accomplished by the institute was making call for research proposals on Gadaa system and cultural practices of the community around the university. As a result about twelve (12) research proposals were founded and sent to field work. These all proposals have different objectives which try to investigate the values and practice of Gadaa system, cultural material and traditional medicinal use of trees and documentation of artifacts and different heritages. This is our first attempt to promote the indigenous knowledge of Oromo Gujii and other communities living around the university. We hope this will be expanded to several topics to be studied in order to promote, protect and develop Gadaa system and culture heritages.

The second activity accomplished by the institute was inserting Gadaa system in modern educational curriculum. In order to justify the feasibility of the course, we have conducted need assessment that identified the interest of the communities. The target groups for need assessment were university students, university staff and researchers, districts and zonal government officials, high school students and Gadaa fathers. The need assessment has confirmed that this course has to be launched and further attempt has to be made in order to make Gadaa system the content of education even at MA level of study. Therefore, based on the result we obtained from the need assessment we have accomplished all preparation to launch the course by next year. To achieve this, the institute has planned two major activities. The first one was developing a reading passage on Gadaa system and inserting it in communicative English course in collaboration with English department. This course is common course for all freshman students. So we believed that if we insert a passage about Gadaa system in this course we can rich all students under any college in the university with the basic concepts and values in Gadaa system. We also hope that the students benefit more from the passage that they learn English language through the culture familiar to them. This, without doubt can help them to express their idea freely and ask critical questions if there is anything that is not clear. Through this process the ability to communicate is developed. This is what communicative English course designed for.

In addition, developing Common Course on Gadaa system is another task of the institute to include Gadaa system in academic curriculum. We hope this course will be offered to all students, but in a case if there is a resistance from college of natural science, it can be offered at least to college of social sciences and humanities in the university. Our aim is through teaching this course we promote and familiarize Gadaa system and its democratic elements to the all parts of the country, Ethiopia. So, the course explores the philosophical understanding of Gadaa system and all the practices under taken in Gadaa system. We are very intentional when we prepare a course on Gadaa system. We have strong stand that the indigenous knowledge of our community must be included in the modern curriculum. This creates opportunities for our students to get bench mark information that helps them to advance their knowledge on the area. This will help us to upgrade the course into MA and PhD level programs in Gadaa studies.

The third activity accomplished in this year is organizing centers for library studies and museum. These centers are organized under the institute in order to preserve and protect cultural materials and any scripts written on Oromo culture or indigenous knowledge. In the future, the center for museum may serve like archival center in the future, but for now we use it for the purpose of preserving any artifacts and heritages produced by local people. Therefore, we have been collecting artifacts and cultural heritages in order to fill the museum with Oromo cultural heritages. In the same way, we have collected books containing the Oromoo indigenous knowledge to fill library center with books. In this year, we have purchased about six hundred books written on Oromoo culture, folktales, language, Gadaa system, and politics. We have also sponsored some authors who are financially handicapped but wrote important books which directly related to our mission. As a result, for this year we have sponsored only two books such as biography of Barisoo Dukkallee (the exemplar leader from whom today’s generation can learn), and long fiction written on Gujii culture and life style.  In fact, there are many others books on the queue requested for publication, but it must be evaluated and checked if it fits with the objective of the institute. In general, the purpose of establishing library and museum in the institute is to facilitate material for researchers to conduct a research on these material culture and use books as a reference.

We have also worked on filling the institute with capable staff. There are so many tasks which will be accomplished under the supervision of the institute. For example, the institute mainly works on arts, indigenous knowledge, local language development, heritage preservation, and researching. These all tasks need skilled man power. So it is our mandate to search for professionals who have rich experience in research skill and interest to conduct research on the thematic area identified. As a result, we have offered a call for affiliation for all interested staff both within and out of the university. As the response to our call, about ten (10) interested scholars have submitted their CV to be affiliated to the institute from which six (6) interested staff filled the agreement form with the institute. The affiliates are responsible to any task offered by the institute. So, we think most of the staff in the institute has to be from academic staff.

The institute has offered different training for communities in order to create awareness on the endangering knowledge of local elders. For example, there are many older people who have knowledge on how to treat people sick as a result of different causes. They treat these people by giving either leaf of a plant or a massage in case of swell up of body or bone broken. Some of these people are now in a state of confusion because of their age which results the losing knowledge of the medicinal trees. So that was why we offered the training focusing on preserving this knowledge. The purpose of the trainings was to preserve elders’ knowledge and transfer it to the next generation. According to the traditional beliefs in the community, the trees/plant that use for medication purpose are not told to other person because it loses its power to heal when it is known by many people. Our institute believes this assumption is dangerous and allows knowledge gap between the generations unless it is handled in a systematic way.

Although the institute strongly believes that this knowledge should be preserved and protected, it should be done through caution and based on the willingness of the elders who give this medical treatment. So we offered this training in order to convince these people to transfer this knowledge at least to someone who they trust and/or bring the tree to our university compound just without telling anyone the utility of the tree, so that, we can plant the tree in the university and at least work on preservation and use for research purpose.

Moreover, we have worked to link the institute with other organization which has similar mission. As a result, we have signed MOU with one NGO and some government office like zonal culture and tourism offices. We signed MOU with DUBAF to work together in the areas of our common interest. For example, both parties agreed that they work together in advocating and taking action for development of education curriculum on Gadaa system, conducting research, public lecturing, and holding workshops on Gadaa system. We have signed agreement with culture and tourism offices to work together on collecting local material culture, involving in different ritual ceremonies, and facilitate different discussion on the issues of peace-building.  Our main purpose to link with these organizations is to develop researching skills of our staff and expand our understanding about the nature of indigenous knowledge of our society. Therefore, we will continue to do this with other selected organization to work together on our common interest.

Finally, the institute has worked on identifying different Ardaa jilaa sites in collaboration with elders, Abbaa Gadaa, and West Gujii zone Culture and Tourism office. Ardaa jilaa is the place where Gadaa fathers made preparation for power transfer (Baallii) and conduct different ritual activities. In Ardaa jilaa they teach the community and their children on the ways of living and they accomplish the rituals that lead them for the preparation of power transfer. Most surprisingly, these ritual sites are on the way to be destroyed by different factors such as in the name of rural development, religious purpose, agricultural activities, grazing, and settlement. This strikes our institute to work hard on the preservation of these ardaa jilaa or ritual sites in collaboration with the community living around the sites, and other concerned organizations. Therefore, we believed we must provide training on awareness creation for the community about the value of ardaa jilaa for the continuity of Gadaa system. For this year we offered only one training. However, for the future based on the information we identified about the endangering site, we have planned to organize several training for the community. In the training our main target is to advice the community to protect the site and involve them in the process of protection.  

In general, the institute of Gadaa and culture studies has accomplished several tasks in this year. We have funded about 12 research proposals, designed curriculum on Gadaa system, organized center for museum and library, offered different training, called for affiliation, and identified Gadaa ritual sites. These are not the only activities accomplished by the institute but it is a few among many. In the coming year the institute has planned to expand on these activities and add many more new tasks. So, our institute strives to empower, equip, and engage researchers who want to conduct research on Gadaa system and cultural practice of the society. Through this we can be a center of excellence in indigenous knowledge of our community.                                             

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