Baskeet calabashes

During my last fieldtrip I distributed two types of posters to some offices of the Basketo Special Woreda administration and to some schools. One of the posters was on musical instruments, the other one on calabashes. Here you can have a look at the calabash poster:

Baskeet calabashes

Baskeet calabashes

In the text column on the right side of the poster, I present a list of all Baskeet lexemes from the semantic field of calabashes, both in the Ethiopian script-based Baskeet (official) orthography and in my Latin-based Baskeet orthography. The monolingual poster is an attempt to make the written Baskeet language visible in the public sphere.

In the upper left corner of the poster, you can see a picture of the calabash plant (Baskeet: kocci) from which the fruits are harvested for the production of vessels and other utensils. Depending on the race of the plant, the fruits come in various shapes.

Round-shaped fruits are often divided into two halves and used as a k’anda ‘half calabash’ e.g. to drink beer:

Calabash plant (Baskeet: kocci)

Calabash plant with round-shaped fruits

Long pear-shaped calabashes as the following can be used for water-pipes (lit. dampi goyss ‘tobacco calabashes’):

Calabash plant (Baskeet: kocci)

Calabash plant with pear-shaped fruits

Another very common calabash shape is an 8-shaped calabash with a constricted middle part (called d’ooba in Baskeet):

Calabash plant in the shape of an 8

Calabash plant with 8-shaped fruits

The plants are hollowed out and left to dry. The Baskeet make a major terminological distinction between full non-split calabash types (called goyss) and half split calabash types (called k’anda). Depending on the type of vessel and its function, the calabash can be decorated, e.g. with strings of pearls or buttons (see the small butter calabash, k’oti goyss, on the poster above) or with patterns that are drawn with a hot needle:

Decorated butter calabash

Decorated butter calabash

To some calabash types (e.g. the wide-mouthed boocci-calabash used to store eggs), leather straps (gota) are attached so that they can be hung up on the wall or carried in the hand. Large storage calabashes may be clad in a protector of bamboo to prevent them from cracking:

8-shaped beer calabash with a bamboo protector

8-shaped beer calabash with a bamboo protector

The calabashes have many different uses in Baskeet.* Depending on their size and shape, they are used to store, carry and drink beer, milk, butter, honey, to drink leaf coffee, to ladle water, to store spices and to produce water-pipes. The picture below shows a calabash for churning milk (see the small opening through which the gas produced during churning can escape):

Calabash to churn milk

Calabash to churn milk

Calabashes are carried on the head, on the shoulder, in the hand (if they have a handle or a bent handle-like neck) or on the back (if they have a carrying frame). Some calabashes are so big that they have to be carried by two men:

Two men carrying a large beer calabash

Two men carrying a large beer calabash

Although plastic containers are already found in every Baskeet household today, calabash vessels continue to be widely used, thanks to their durability and their easy manufacturability.

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*Notes: Calabashes are also used for shepherd flutes.
© 2011-2012 Baskettoethiopia All Rights Reserved
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4 Responses to Baskeet calabashes

  1. Dirk Kievit says:

    What a great article – informative and fascinating. Well, plastic doesn’t solve everything. I’m curious about your blog title. Why “Basket to Ethiopia”? There must be a story behind that…

  2. Pingback: Goat skin | Basket to Ethiopia

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