Ethiopian southern and lowland costumes

Among the oromos, the popular garment for men is the weya, a local version of the shemma, which is smeared with butter for extra warmth and impermeability. This is often worn with cotton twill trousers, short or long, full or jodhpurs-style.

Oromo women in some areas affect tunics with sleeves; or the breasts may be left bare, a cotton scarf thrown about the shoulders, and the lower body covered with a leather skirt.

Much crude metal-and-bead jewelry, as well as incised brass bracelets and armlets, is in evidence. Cowrie shells, used for decoration, are seen everywhere; and some women carry their babies in beautifully shell-decked halters. Distinctive local coiffures are achieved with the aid of mud or butter; they are stylized and resemble the hairdos recorded in Hittite and Egyptan art.

Jewelry among outlying tribes is usually made of natural products such as bone, ivory, grass, hair, and shell. Among Christians, a cotton cord called mateb is given at baptism and worn round the neck till death, at timesbeing used to support a cross or other pendant. Leopard and lion claws, feathers, nuts, seeds, wooden beads, horn ornaments, and amber are worn.

Some in lower omo valley are the most startlingly original when it comes to personal adornment and ornate hairstyles. At dassanach, hair is shaved off except for topknot covered with mud. Colobus hair cap and ostrich feather complete the picture.  Black colobus fur and clay combine to make an unusual style. Striking bead necklaces can be worn back or front and cwery shells or sometimes plain buttons are all used for decorative purposes.

Of special note are the colorful costumes of the Hararghe people of eastern Ethiopia. In and near Dire Dawa and Harar the women dress in brilliant veils, thightly fitted velvet, silk, or cotton trousers, vivid printed or dyed over blouses and a profusion of the nomadic women of the Somali, particularly in the ogaden area, do not dress in the bright fabrics of the city women.

They follow their men on foot or camel across the deasert clothed from the waist downward in coarse cotton cloth or skins, their bare breasts covered with simple metal jewelry, and their hair styled in multiple twists or coils, or brought behind each ear in a large bun covered with a net or veil.

Camel hide sandals protect their feet from the blistering sands. These desert dwellers are a tall, proud, striking people and their start attire well complements the muscular beauty of their physiques. Men wear a shamma-like wrap called maro or tob and an elaborate mop coiffure held in place with butter; and of course they carry the very necessary dagger, spear, and rifle.

Among Somali men, one who has killed an enemy may wear an ostrich feather; an ivory bracelet marks the man who has achieved great prowess in battle. Both men and women wear silver, lead and zink jewelry.

Ethiopian religious costume
The Ethiopian orthodox church has a multiple of functionaries and the priest, deacon or nun is a familiar sight, especially in the city, where there are large churches and religious centers.  Priests of Ethiopian orthodox church wear many different types of headgear.  At church service deacons bear a heavy and ornate processional cross of brass.

Priests and deacons dress simply, in a long cotton gown that is a variation of the kemis, a cloche-style hat, sometimes draped with cloth, called a Kob and a cloak of heavy material with a stiff stand-up collar, called a kaba. A fly-whisk, hand cross, or prayer stick (used for support during the long church services) may be carried.

On special occasions the netela worn over the priest’s shoulders has a colorful stripe, and priests of the higher ranks wear richly embroidered bands and a kaba decorated with metallic thread.

Nuns, who leave home when they are old to labor in monasteries, baking bread or caring for the household needs of the priests, wear a simple, full cut kemis of the coarsest material, without ornamentation. A white head-cloth is wrapped about their cropped heads and the older nuns carry prayer sticks for support. Though it may not be visible a cross is always worn about the neck.

Spinning and weaving methods
Spinning in Ethiopia is by no means a lost art. Almost all women can sit down and make the fine cotton thread which will be used to weave the possamer shamma material and the warm heavy gabi, though the dorze people have the reputation for making the best cloth.

The process of spinning and weaving have traditionally been carried out through a division of labor between the sexes, the women cleaning the cotton fillaments and spinning the thread which was then woven by the men folk.

The finest traditional fabrics, however, are still woven by hand on looms that have not changed substantially from those from those used in the time of Christ.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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