Irreechaa for what it reallt is

MekelleŠć° 24 September 2023(Tigray Herald)

Irreechaa for what it reallt is

Irreechaa festive celebration, which had been originally the culture of the Shewa Oromo and nowadays considered as the symbol of the Oromo unity, has three aspects-religius, cultural and political. In its an unadulterated form, Irreechaa used to be a religious festive in which the Shewa Oromos pay tribute to their Waaqaa for the past blessings, especially for peacefully overcoming the dark summer and enjoying the glamorous autumn flowers and also pray for more blessing for the years to come. This is a fact that has never denied  neither by the community engaged in the celebration nor by the researchers from every discipline.

However, with the passage of time, and the massive introduction of Christianity, to some extent Islamic, religions to Shewa provinces, its cultural value has overshadowed its religious essence. Hence, both religious and cultural aspects have been practiced in tandem. Indeed, invariably all religious celebrations in Ethiopia has embedded cultural values into their rituals. That it  is so because it is daunting to draw a line between religious prescriptions and cultural symbols. And there is no harm in having both values and even celebrating them. For instance, if we consider ‘Timket’ or St. George’s annual celebration, most people do it for religious reason but some consider it as part of their culture. It is not uncommon to see Selale people to celebrate Irreechaa, Meskel, Timket, St.Gebreal or other festives without a need to think about the motives for doing so.

Nonetheless, we have to celebrate these festives for what they truly are, by keeping the cultural aspect apart from the religious dogma, as much as practicable. The same goes for Irreechaa festive. It is and has never been simply a Thanksgiving cultural day, only God knows if we have Thanksgiving day in Ethiopia. Irreechaa has had and still maintains a religious symbol for some part of the community, if not for the entire Shewa people but at least for those who believes in Waaqaa( the Waaqeeffataa Oromos). Even a close scrutiny of the Thanksgiving meaning of the Irreechaa would reveal the religious implications; Thanksgiving to the Waaqaa, which still makes it religious. At the very minimum, no intelligible person would argue Waaqaa is an Oromo ancestor or some other symbol to which we pay homage, but a God. Thus, Thanksgiving itself is a religious festive- no more, no less.

As if these are not already complex enough, over the past few years, a political dimension has added to the basket. Bingo! In the age of social media and populist movement, facts and truth has no or limited significance in shaping public thinking. Before a massive campaign to politicise Irreechaa in search for a unifying symbol, it was used to be practiced by only the Shewa Oromo; not by Hararghe, Jimma, Wellega, Arsi, etc. So, to some extent it is a cultural appropriation. Yet again, as the so-called Oromia region, like any other region, has brought about newly imposed identities, Irreechaa has been elevated to the status of the Oromo symbol. So far so good. The problem lies in deeply politicising it to the extent of dictating people as to when, how, where and why to celebrate it. This is what I mean by politicisation of Irreechaa, which otherwise should have remained religious and/ or cultural festivity.

Some examples which signifies the politicisation of Irreechaa are the new rhetoric of “Irreechi irree keenya”, which means Irreechaa is our [Oromo] symbol of unity and strength. The other example is the use of Irreechaa as milieu of solidarity, in which social media campaigns of photolics(photo politics) have proliferated from every corner of the country. And of course, the forums for Irreechaa celebration, heralded by the Oromia Regional Government in collaboration with the Think thank groups and gallant support of the Federal Government. If you wish, add the the search for the holly grail-Hora Finfinnee, to these list.

From the above discussions, we can conclude one thing: Irreechaa festive, as it stands today, symbolises religion, culture and politics. In effect, this doesn’t imply it is a bad move to be condoned or a great virtue to be cherished. Rather, my intention is to shed some light on the multifaceted manifestations of the Irreechaa festive and hence, celebrate it for what it is. With this, happy #Irrechaa_2023!

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