The traditional elders of the Baskeet clans carry different insignia, which make them stand out from the crowd during religious and cultural ceremonies. Among these insignia are the tail feathers of the African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis), which some elders wear in their hair. The following picture shows Kaat Kantso Kammo, the traditional religious leader of the Kalmina’-clan in the Awra-Soosta neighbourhood (Basketo Special Woreda). In Kaat Kantso’s hair, the two white tail feathers are visible (click to enlarge). In his right hand, he carries a shield made from buffalo skin and decorated with the tail of a gureza-monkey; in his left hand, he carries a spear. His son in the background carries Kaat Kantso’s walking pole and his umbrella.
The next picture shows Yeddo Araro, the traditional leader of the Shiimina’-clan in the K’aysha-Ganshir neighbourhood (Basketo Special Woreda). I met him when he was preparing for a religious ceremony in his sacred orchard and he showed me the Paradise Flycatcher feathers that he would later wear during the ritual.
A picture of the bird can be found here:
The indigenous Baskeet name of the African Paradise Flycatcher is kap kaat, a compound consisting of kapi ‘bird’ and kaati ‘traditional leader, elder’. So, literally, the Paradise Flycatcher is a “bird elder”. The decorative tail feathers are called kosmaanna in Baskeet.
Whenever I come across this bird, I remember an incident during my first visit to the home of Kaat Kantso Kammo. When I came to his compound in 2008 he agreed to show me all his tools, calabashes, pots, clothes and ritual objects so that I would be able to learn their Baskeet terms. He spread all his property in his front yard, where he had made me sit on a small stool. When he opened a thin bamboo tube and took out the tail feathers of the “bird elder” to show them to me, tiny bird droppings fell down from the sky above and hit the ground just in front of my feet. Kaat Kantso was convinced that they had come from a “bird elder” and interpreted that as a positive sign.
After that lucky incident, I have visited Kaat Kantso’s family many times. Kaat Kantso became one of my consultants on Baskeet cultural traditions, oral literature, songs and ceremonial language.