Egg transport in Baskeet

The enset plant is not only an important source of food in Baskeet but also the leaves, cords, fibres etc. of the plant are made use of. An important use of the leaves is for egg baskets. A fresh leaf is folded along the midrib, rolled up and tied together with a thin cord, which is also gotten from the enset plant, more precisely from a dried midrib. If one wants to sell eggs at the market, one quickly cuts off an enset leaf in one’s garden, makes a basket without any tools but with a few quick hand movements only, puts the eggs carefully inside and carries them in one’s hand to the market. The Baskeet name for such a basket is kiira (HL).

Egg transport in an enset basket (kiira)

Egg transport in an enset basket (kiira)

Kiira is, however, not only the name for an enset basket for eggs. Kiira is also the name for a ring made from an enset leaf, which is put on the head as a support and/or protector when carrying a load. If you have a closer look at the picture below you can see that the boy, who is carrying sweet potato leaves to the market, has put such a protective enset ring on his head.

Baskeet boy carrying potato leaves

Baskeet boy carrying potato leaves. He protects his egg with a kiira.

Enset leaves do not only protect one’s head, but they can also be put elsewhere as a protective device. The men on the picture below carry the roof of a house to a new compound, where it is to be put on top of a newly made bamboo house wall. Some of the men have put folded enset leaves on their shoulders (click to enlarge). I am, however, not sure that these would also be called kiira.

Men carrying the roof of a house

Men carrying the roof of a house

Also note the enset leaves (on the plants) in the foreground and background of the picture.

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More Baskeet on YouTube

The “Jesus Film” I talked about in my last post is not the only Baskeet material found on YouTube. The sound file of the Baskeet version of “Words of Life”, i.e. another media file with Biblical content, is also available:

Just like the “Jesus Film”, the “Words of Life” recordings are a global series supported by evangelical organisations and produced to assist missionary efforts. The World Language Movies organisation has uploaded the film to YouTube. For their movies (actually, often it is just one fixed picture associated with a sound file), recordings from the Global Recordings Network (GRN) are harvested. GRN is a another global missionary organisation and producer of  audio recordings with biblical content.

The GRN database contains the following eight parts of the “Words of Life” series translated into Baskeet, which makes up to 50min of recordings. The texts are, I quote, “[s]hort audio Bible stories, evangelistic messages and [they] may include songs and music. They explain salvation and give basic Christian teaching.” Check here for details.

  1. Are you going to heaven?
  2. How to find true peace.
  3. Death and resurrection.
  4. Everyone must stand before God.
  5. Be careful.
  6. Sin, what is it?
  7. In whose hands are you?
  8. Fear God.

For each part a Baskeet recording and a script with the English translation is provided for free download. It would, of course, have been great to have a Baskeet transcription, too.

The YouTube video referred to above corresponds to part 1 (“Are you going to heaven”) in the GRN database. The English transcript is here. I am not sure who the Baskeet speaker of the “Words of Life” series is. I have listened to the voice several times, it sounds a bit like C’aano Bandi from the community of Ganshir-K’aysha. C’aano is a good Baskeet story-teller, of whom I know that he has been working with missionaries in the past. But this is just a guess. GRN gives no credits to the speakers, translators or collectors. No metadata is provided for the recordings.

In contrast to the “Jesus Film”, in which the Baskeet intonation sounds fairly natural to me, the intonation of the “Worlds of Life” strikes me as rather unnatural; it seems that the speaker is reading from a manuscript.

Unfortunately, Baskeet language material without missionary aims is not available online.[1] Not yet.

Update 2014-08-02: Some typos in the text have been corrected.


[1] Apart, of course, the material that I myself collected. See here, for instance.
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Baskeet language found on YouTube

I still remember that I stumbled across two white (American?) families in the streets of Laska (the capital of the Baskeet area) in 2009 when I spent several months in the field. Their presence came as a surprise to me, because I could walk the streets of Laska for many weeks without ever meeting a white person. They were Evangelical Christians with a missionary aim. They had come on bumpy roads and with all their technical equipment to Baskeet in order to dub the Jesus film, as people explained to me later. At that time I had no idea that there was something like “the” Jesus film  …

Some weeks ago, i.e. five years on, I came across a video on YouTube called “The Story of Jesus”. Dubbed in Baskeet! [1]

The film tells the life of Jesus, as Wikipedia says, primarily according to the Gospel of Luke. The original film was produced on the initiative of Bill Bright, an American evangelist. The English version was released in 1979. After Bill Bright had founded the Jesus Film Project Organization, the production of translations started in 1981: “The organization works with thousands of missionaries around the world to show the film, sometimes to audiences who have never seen a motion picture.” [2] The film was modified in the years after 2000. The Baskeet version that we find on YouTube is, however, based on the original first version.

The aim of the film is to proselytize, to save souls and to support missionary efforts of Evangelical Churches across the world (see Franklin Foer’s article Baptism by Celluloid in the New York Times). For someone used to Western films, the film may seem very monotonous and slow-going. But because it is often (one of) the first films people in rural areas watch, it attracts attention.

The translation efforts have been very successful, to say the least. Up until today 1240 translations have been made (acc. to the Jesus Film webpages). So the number of translations of this film may even exceed the number of translations of the New Testament (i.e. ~ 1220), if the figures in this Wikipedia article are correct.

As a documentary linguist, one wishes that similar efforts were ever made to document and film local cultural (religious, literary) traditions …

Unfortunately, the Baskeet version of the film on YouTube has no end titles. No credits are given to the Baskeet speakers who gave their voices to the actors. By chance, however, I recognised the voice of the narrator. It is Wondu Defersha from the kebele (community/village) of Ganshir.  He is a very animated story-teller and I have recorded seven animal stories from him during my first field trip to Baskeet in 2008, among them the story of the man and snake, the story of the lion and the 9 hyena cubs, and the story of the monkey who is supposed to sew shoes for the lion.

P.S. If somebody knows the names of the other speakers in the film, please let me know.


[1] Or, as the titel of the YouTube film says, in “Basketo/Basketto/Baskatta/Mesketo”. See my discussions of these naming variants here and here, and why “Baskeet” is correct see here.
[2] Source of the quote: Wikipedia “Jesus (1979 film”, section: Foreign language versions.
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