By: Kinkino Kia, August, 2013
As known, a Sidama nation is among the few nations in the world who have its own calendar. Its new year and calendar, which is based on the lunar calendar, is also different from the Gregorian, Muslim and Ethiopian calendar. Moreover, the Sidama’s new year calendar is not based on pre-determined and fixed date. Its date is fixe and determined only through the ablest observations of the Sidama traditional astrologists who follow the location of the stars in relation to the moon and fix the date of Fichee accordingly. This is the very unique element inherent in the Sidama’s calendar and which also distinguishes the Sidama’s from other counterparts.
However, this unique historical and cultural heritage has been not able to get wider media coverage for long. This short piece criticizes the national television and its regional allies to give due and aappropriate, comprehensive transmission and coverage of this year’s Fichee-chambalala celebration festivity.
As a matter of fact, Sidama’s fichee has been celebrated among the Sidamas since the time immemorial. It has also passed through different historical passages which is beyond the scope of this piece. Even if it has long history traceable to the history of the nation itself, lack of publicity and media coverage has critically hampered its notability outside the Sidama world. This also partly derives from the prevalent larger political pattern in which the cultures, norms and values of the conquered peoples are not given appropriate state recognition, let alone publicity. To the contrary, the state machinery worked day and night to demolish and diminish multi-culturalism and cultural foundations of the politically peripheral peoples. It forced them to succumb to the norms of the dominant groups who preached mono-ethnic, mono-lingual, mono-cultural and mono-religious Ethiopian state.
Despite previous state-perpetrated horrific injustices, the Sidama nation preserved its core cultural values and norms. It safeguarded its Fichee-chambalala and its inherent elements. The question now became “how has the existing political and media atmosphere accommodated/accommodating the cultural elements of different nations/nationalities such as Sidamas?”
In today’s world, media has became the single most important and powerful instrument in transforming and shaping the world. And even single, piecemeal event matters in the global arena. Sidama’s culture can be a global event and element only if it gains its proper place in different public and private media outlets.
The Ethiopian media atmospheres propagate and at a time reinforce the creations of the old political system. Until today, the media are not accommodative of the cultures and identities of the marginalized communities- marginalized not because of failure on the part of concerned communities, but marginalized due to the failure of political system a t work. The national media has no apatite to integrate, transform and publicize the unique cultures of the other nationalities. So, the media reinforces the conservative, partial and old political system.
Coming back to the theme at hand, this year’s Fichee-chambalala has been/and is being colourfully celebrated throughout all Sidama region. But, as is the case always, the available national and regional state-owned media outlets such as South Fm 100.9, ETV and other newspapers are taken away by deep sleep so that they can’t notice anything in the surrounding. They can’t hear and see what is going on in the greater Sidamaland. Or they are told not to act so. The can’t report or bring to the attention of the public what is done by entire Sidama nation despite the professional calling of media and journalism.
In today’s world, the quality of modern media is partly measured by the production and dissemination of indiscriminate, fair, impartial and reasonable information/news reports about the events of regional and national importance. They are there to serve the world’s quest for ‘what is going on/ new on the globe?’. But the Ethiopian media as we witnessed in particular Fichee celebration, is uni-dimensional, only tends to focus on the political face of the country. If not so, it focuses on the issue of selected cultures and values of old systems.
This year, as is the case always, our Fichee-chambalala is celebrated throughout Sidama region by beautiful Qeexala chants, faro and many other distinct games, very essential for the global media consumption, the ETV is found to be doin quite contrary. To the great detriment of the culture, it even failed to produce enough one-time news stories on the festival. The Fichee celebration in Sidama capital, Hawassa and its outskirts is very outshining, immensely worthy for global media consumption and international community. It also has invaluable importance in identifying the people, tourist attraction and works of scholarship.
However, the Ethiopian television, which works day and night to derogate every single political item in the Sidama region, it is not there to produce a single news story concerning the Sidama new year celebration which concerns over 5 million Sidama public and other peace loving sisterly nations. It reports about Tigray’s Ashenda and Oromo’s Erecha for over a week, but nothing for Sidama. But why? As one commentator observed, Fichee is one of the few events in the country in which respective ethnic groups are nationally mobilized. It is the super norm and representative Sidama culture respected and observed by entire Sidama public. However, its nature and significance is less noticed outside of Sidama region and its children outside Sidama.
Observers state different reasons for the failure of national media to report news story concerning Fichee-chambalala celebration. They claim that even though the country and its supreme law-constitution vows to succumb to the concepts of democracy, equality and non-discrimination, its institutions including the media do not reflect such covenants in real terms. The national television is still dominated by the people surrounded by the same northern ethos and conceptions. Center-periphery dichotomy is still prevalent. This critically hinders the room for equal recognition and appraisal of the cultural values and identities of the marginalized and maltreated. The media are there to serve ‘correct groups of theirs’. As the popular saying runs, ETV prefers to show ordinary dances of Amhara or Tigray than to working to integrate and cover big cultural events of other nations/nationalities. This shows us that the media is not democratically serving the people, not accommodative and above all, not institutionalized in such a way that it can accommodate and equally serve the interests of Ethiopian people.
Other commentators also observe that the current TPLF core who dominated both politics and media, has a hidden political hatred against the Sidama people. This emanated from the political and historical discourse in which Sidama liberation fighters punished and devastated TPLF’s soldiers in the highland Sidama regions in the early days of EPRDF intrusion in to the Sidama territory. This is a public tale repeatedly told by TPLF leaders whenever they appear. Moreover, the contemporary Sidama is one of the potential regions to democratically challenge the administrative arrangements sponsored by the TPLF leadership. Sidamas are the first to oppose the unreasonably forced political surgery and merger of the 5 autonomous southern regions and who democratically and peacefully mobilized to regain their lost regional status in the country. This is truly a real danger for the victorious TPLF leadership. So, it forces the political core to be cautious enough while dealing with cultural and natonal issues of Sidama nation.
Ultimately, it can be argued that lack of access to media and media coverage –both electronic and print- to report distinctive cultural events has been hampering the publicity of the Sidama’s uniqueness in respect of cultural endowments. Lack of recognition and publicity in the media world also has a big political and cultural bearings on the identity of Sidama nation at large.
A Sidama nation has an enormous potential to donate to the global community. Its true cultures, norms, values, if properly documented and reported has a lot to aid to the knowledge creation for the peace-loving international community. Everything what a Sidama nation has is a world heritage-both tangible and intangible. Its unique new year Fichee-chambalala celebration is one of the invaluable heritage the Sidamaland can lend to variety and beauty of world. However, its uniqueness is not duly and properly served by the national media. The Ethiopian television is not able to serve the void created by the lack of freely circulating media atmosphere to report comprehensively on the cultural life of a society.
Overall, this partly justifies the Sidama public’s quest for its own TV channel. The Sidama people since the olden days have been claiming to have their programs transmitted on the television. The participants of 19th symposium on Sidama language and culture and Fichee in Sidama cultural hall this year in one voice urged “let Sidama nation have its own TV channel!”. The question then is: if the existing media atmosphere is not responsive to the calls of Cultures of Sidama nation, how long the marginalization should continue?