Traditional Baskeet umbrella

Apart from creating a corpus of Baskeet texts, I am working on a Baskeet dictionary. During my recent fieldtrips I have tried to take photos of most items of the Baskeet material culture to be able to provide illustrations for as many dictionary entries as possible later. For some objects I have documented the words, but photos have been hard to come by. Imported industrial products are spreading in Baskeet and replacing locally produced clay, bamboo and calabash products, much in the same way as elsewhere in Ethiopia.

When I recorded the word gibaaba for a traditional umbrella some weeks ago, I was told that these umbrellas can no longer be seen in Baskeet today. But I recalled a photo that I had taken several years back and when I showed it to my assistant there was indeed a gibaaba-umbrella on the picture, much to his surprise! (Click to enlarge.)

Traditional Baskeet umbrella

Traditional Baskeet umbrella

The gibaaba-umbrella is woven from the dried leaves of a palm tree, which is called meetts’a in Baskeet (probably Hyphaene thebaica). The Baskeet also use the leaves of the meetts’a-tree for the production of baskets, mats and beer filters.

Note that the two men on the picture above also carry “modern” umbrellas, called janc’ala in Baskeet (the word is a loan from Amharic). These umbrellas are an important symbol of Baskeet elders. I took the picture four years ago (in November 2008) during a culture festival organised by the local government in Laska. I remember that it had been raining for weeks before the festival and that it was unexpectedly sunny on the day, because, as I was told, the iri kaat ‘rain king’ had been asked (paid) to pray for sun :-)

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