(Sebetu Fejo : ENA)
Over 1,000 foreign visitors including scholars and specialized experts in the field of intangible cultural heritage are scheduled to take part on the annual conference of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which will take place from 28 November to 2 December 2016 in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia, one of the two African countries which have never been colonized, owns a proud history of African heritage and considered as the origin of mankind.
As Ethiopia is a country endowed with both tangible and intangible heritages including tantalizing landscapes with immense potentials for investment, this is a good opportunity since t will give the participants to visit cultural, historic and natural heritages of Ethiopia.
Two of Ethiopia’s intangible heritages, the commemoration of the finding of the True Cross, Meskel festival, and Fiche Chamballala, New Year of the Sidama people, have so far inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In addition, Ethiopia has already submitted the study findings of three intangible cultural heritages to UNESCO for registration, including the Gada system, Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany) and Shadey/Ashenda, a traditional celebration.
The country is a home to 284 species of mammals out of which 31 are endemic. This includes seven larger endemic animals including Gelada Baboon, Starck's Hair, Giant Mole Rat, Abyssinian Wolf, Menilik's Bush Buck, Mountain Nyala, Swayne Hartebeest, Walia Ibex, and Wild Ass, among others. Nonetheless, Ethiopia is also home to 861 species of Birds of which 17 are endemic.
Ethiopia has vast and untapped potential for tourism industry that can attract tourists, adventurers and researchers as well as investors in the tourist sector that everybody is interested and looking for its boundless tourism, trade and investment enormous potential.
Ethiopia is honored in hosting this conference of global significance on which thousands of participants converge to deliberate on the 11th Annual conference of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The visits that are to be organized on the sidelines of the conference is expected to add value to the growing tourist industry of the country.
The country has immense natural, cultural and historical resources that could be registered as world heritage. The captivating landscapes, ancient religions, unique alphabet and calendar as well as the existence of more than 80 ethnic groups with a variety of culture and language make the country an excellent tourist destination that one dares not to miss.
The varieties of costumes, traditional dances as well as multiple natural resources would certainly attract tourists, investors and peoples of all walks of life to enjoy the natural beauty of the country and also ponder on investing in the country with attractive investment incentives.
The subject of the upcoming conference refers to traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is a UNESCO treaty adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on 17 October 2003.
The 2003 Convention provides the possibility for States Parties to request International Assistance for programs and projects aimed at safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
The representatives of 24 states which are parties to UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage that form the Committee will examine five nominations for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 37 requests for inscriptions on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo is among the 37 requests by States Parties for inscriptions on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Ethiopia’s Intangible Heritages
Inscribed in 2013, the festival of Meskel, celebrated across Ethiopia on 26 September to commemorate the unearthing of the True Holy Cross of Christ, is one of the heritages inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Celebrations begin with the building of the Damera bonfire in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa - a conical pyre of poles surrounded by bundles of branches and torches, decorated with green grass and Abyssinian daisies symbolizing the New Year.
Hundreds of thousands of people from diverse communities flock to the square as colorfully dressed priests chant hymns and prayers and perform their unique rhythmic dance in front of the pyre. Meskel is celebrated nationwide regardless of age, gender, language or ethnicity. Participants are believed to receive spiritual rewards from the celebration and blessings from the Holy Cross.
The festival is also a time when families get together and migrant workers return home – reunions that result in the inflow of money, information and new ideas from urban centers to rural areas.
Prior to the celebration, personal quarrels and social disagreements must be resolved. In this way, Meskel is an occasion for Ethiopians to promote their spiritual life through reconciliation, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Fichee-Chambalaalla, the New Year festival celebrated by the Sidama people is the second intangible heritage of Ethiopia inscribed in the list in 2015.
It is named after a woman who every year would bring her relatives a dish to share with the neighbors. Nowadays, children visit their neighbors who serve them the dish buurisame, made with false banana.
The festival includes other communal events, concluding with clan leaders reminding the community about virtues like working hard. Transmitted from generation to generation by families, the practice encourages peaceful co-existence.