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  • The Ashenda Holiday

    Three days of women!  Ashenda is a holiday celebrating women here in Northern Ethiopia mostly in the Tigray region.  It corresponds to the end of a two week fasting period for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians commemorating the Virgin Mary, but the holiday has grown way beyond that now.  I’ve been hearing good and bad things about Ashenda since arriving in Ethiopia.  Most of my local friends think this holiday is the best thing to happen all year.  Some disagree and say that it objectifies women and encourages begging and is just another holiday in a region with too many holidays disrupting things.  Some of my Peace Corps friends told me to hide away in my house because the harassment will be too much as women bombard you  asking for mandatory “donations.”  Other Peace Corps Volunteers told me to embrace it, stockpile a bunch of small bills and enjoy it.  I chose the latter and had a great time over the past 3 days participating in Ashenda.

     

    Ashenda Day 1

    Prepare yourself for Ashenda!  I was told by everyone to get ready for the best (or worst) holiday celebrated here.  Depending on your perspective I guess.  As usual, I really had no idea what to expect.  I expected to spend money so I’d been saving my small bills for a week or two in anticipation.  I got ready to go into my office as usual on Thursday and went in to find most of my colleagues there.  A few hours into the day and all of a sudden the whole office just got up and declared that they were done working for the day since it was Ashenda.  We all walked to the older part of town where there was supposed to be some sort of celebration for the holiday.  Upon arrival to the market, which was transformed into a sort of amphitheater, I was greeted by a few of the local leaders of Abi Adi and told to sit in the “VIP Area” next to the stage.   There was a band playing Ethiopian music and a few different singers taking turns singing traditional Ashenda songs.

    The audience kept growing and growing until it seemed like the whole town was there watching the ceremony.  I had a great seat in the little VIP area so I was happy to stay as long as necessary to see what developed.  There were all sorts of interesting acts including dancers, skits, speeches, poems, and music.  Ethiopian TV was there to cover the event, for national news I think, although I haven’t seen the report on the news yet.  One of the producers told me to sit in the front and drink a glass of Mes (the local honey wine).  I said what the hell and did as told.  Maybe I’ll be on TV…

    The whole ceremony had a bit of a competitive theme.  It was Abi Adi versus Kola Tembien; think of it as town versus county.  Every time there was an Abi Adi act, there was a rebuttal from Kola Tembien.  I lost track of who was winning but enjoyed it all.  The most bizarre thing I saw was an act performed by an older woman.  She walked up to the stage and put her arm into her dress.  I had no idea what she was doing and then she started flapping her arm to make armpit fart noises.  She started simultaneously humming along to the beat set by the armpit farts to make a kind of one person rhythm section.  People were giggling, but I thought it was hilarious.  I’ve never seen anything like that here.  Apparently this is a type of “traditional music” from our region called hanbetit.  When I asked my friend about it later he told me that it is classical music comparable to that from a guitar or piano.  Now that’s a stretch for me.  Anyway the ceremony was great with lots of beautiful culture, dance, and music.

    Ashenda Day 2

    I prepared myself for the day by putting small bills in my easily accessible pockets and started wandering around town.  It took about 2 minutes for the first group of girls to spot me.  They rushed up to me and formed a circle around me.  One of them had a drum and they all clapped along to the beat while singing one of the traditional Ashenda songs.  I clapped along with them for a while and realized there was no way to get away from them.  They literally surround you!  I gave them some money, as is the custom, then they started singing their praises for me and let me move on, only to be faced by yet another group doing the same thing.

    The women and girls of Abi Adi form special groups to go solicit money from men around town.  They all get new outfits, headbands, hairstyles, and jewelry to “beautify” themselves.  They set out with a hand drum to collect some “donations.”  It’s pretty similar to trick or treating for Halloween in America.  Once they target you, there is really not much you can do to escape politely.  You must give them a donation.  If it’s enough, they’ll praise your name.  If it’s too little, they’ll make fun of you and call you cheap.  The amount you give depends on the size of the group, their age, and in my opinion, the quality of the performance.  Little girls get less than esteemed older women, of course.  The money used to be given to the Church but now most of the girls keep it for themselves, dividing the profits among the group.

    Along with the donations and singing, the local dance of Awers plays an important part in the Ashenda tradition.  Awers is a traditional dance that originated in Abi Adi and Tembien.  It involves a man and a woman.  The guy jumps around the girl and basically shows off while the girl responds to his lead and moves around him.  It’s a very stylized dance with a lot of variability, depending on the guy performing it, but there are certain moves and rhythms that everyone follows.  I’m getting better at it and learned a lot by watching so many different guys perform it over the last few days.

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  • 16 Most Beautiful Cities in Africa

    Considered the poorest continent on the planet, Africa is the home to 54 sovereign nations with some progressing nations who are quite wealthy like Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa. Nigeria in particular is an international oil industry player; is by far Africa’s biggest producer of oil with over 2.5 million barrels produced every day. Not only Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria is the fifth highest exporter of oil in the world and Africa’s largest economy. For the past decade Nigeria, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea and Angola has seen some admirable developments.

    Let’s see the some of the most beautiful cities in Africa. The Africa you don’t see on TV!

    Luanda, Angola

    Capital of Africa’s second largest oil producer, Luanda is home to the nation’s main seaport and administrative center. In the past decade, this city has achieved the most developments among any city in Africa. With the help of China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), Luanda is looking more like a western country

    Agadir, Morocco

    Capital of Agadir-Ida Ou Tanane province, Agadir is one of the major urban centres of Morocco. The city has been rebuilt after the 1960 earthquake. It is now Morocco’s largest seaside resort; attracting tourists from all over the world.

     

     

    read more : http://africanleadership.co.uk/blog/?p=10880

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  • 6 Incredible Stats From the Fastest Women’s 10,000-Meter Race in History

    The Olympic track proved historically speedy on the first day of running events.

    The first medal event on Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic track went off in historic fashion, headlined by Ethiopian Almaz Ayana’s world record performance in 29:17.45. Though Ayana completed the second half of the 25-lap race alone in the lead, her astonishing pace helped push the rest of the field toward record-setting performances of their own. 

    To better understand just how unprecedented the run was, here are six stats from the fastest women’s 10,000-meter race of all time.

    1. Ayana completed the second half of the race in 14:30.64. This 5,000-meter split is more than 10 seconds faster than the Olympic record for the distance. The current 5,000-meter Olympic record is 14:40.79, set by Romanian Gabriela Szabo in 2000 at the Sydney Olympic Games.

    2. Before this race, only five women had run under 30:00 in the 10,000.The top four athletes accomplished the mark in Rio: Ayana, Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya in 29:32.53, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in 29:42.56 (the only athlete in the field to previously run sub-30), and Alice Aprot of Kenya in 29:53.51.

    3. This was only Ayana’s second race at 10,000 meters. She debuted at the distance on June 29 of this year, running 30:07.00.

    4. Counting Ayana’s performance, eight women broke their country’s national records in the race, including American Molly Huddle, whose 30:13.17 bettered Shalane Flanagan’s mark by 9 seconds. The countries with records that fell: Ethiopia, Kenya, United States, Sweden, Burundi, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

    5. Eighteen women set personal bests, including American Emily Infeld, who took 11th in 31:26.94. That constitutes just under half of the field putting in lifetime performances.

    6. The difference between Ayana and last-place finisher Marisol Romero of Mexico was more than six minutes, or, at Ayana’s pace, more than five laps of the track.

    Source:-www.runnersworld.com

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