In Baskeet, expressions of written language are relatively uncommon in public places. There are very few road signs, billboards or banners and thus there are not many opportunities to practise reading when walking through the streets. The few signs that are visible in Laska, along the roads and close to governmental and religious institutions, are either written in Amharic or they are symbolic. Signs can, for instance, be found on the gates of the local administration, the court, the police, the schools and some churches.
In the compounds of institutions, one can also come across a few posters with instructional content (e.g. governmental policies, rules of behaviour); see, for instance, the anti-deforestation poster in the compound of a primary school:
Sometimes banners are put up in the market areas to announce religious or political events. A couple of shops, coffeehouses and eateries along the Laska main road have their (often quite unusual) names (e.g. Arsenal Café, Sport Restaurant) written above their entrances. But apart from that, one can hardly speak of a linguistic landscape (in the sense of Peter Backhaus) in the Basketo Special Woreda.*
Amharic is the language of instruction in primary schools in the Basketo Special Woreda. Baskeet was introduced as a subject only about three years ago. Signs written in the Baskeet language (and in the Baskeet official orthograpy**) cannot yet be found in public places. This may change in the future and I will keep an eye on the developing linguistic landscape during my next fieldtrip(s). I am only aware of one place where a couple of Baskeet words are publicly visible: on the walls and on the trees in the garden of the Baskeet Museum in Laska Baakkalla .The picture below shows a fragment of the painting on the museum walls. It displays a traditional Baskeet leader (kaati) and the caption ካቲ [kati].
All over Baskeet (and beyond), food and drinks are not advertised by written signs but by symbols. If you want to attract the attention of hungry and thirsty passers-by and sell them food, self-brewed beer or self-distilled brandy, you put up a plate, a mug, a glass or a bottle beside your front door or, if your house is not easily seen from the road, on a pole in front of your compound. On the picture below you can see a blue plastic plate and a red plastic cup on a pole by the roadside – which is to indicate that you can have a beer and a simple lunch in the house close by.
It is good to be aware of this symbolism when you are walking through Baskeet and you feel that you won’t manage a walk back to Laska with an empty stomach!