Monday, January 9, 2012

Wāyba (Tis) Revitalizing Massage: The Traditional Ethiopian Style

Have you lately been sensitive to the gimmick by the road and virtually in all the newly –constructed buildings of Addis Ababa? You must have, unless, of course, you intentionally…..., forget it. It seems to me as though the City Administration Council “proclaimed” not to grant permission for proprietors to build their towers unless they are willing to rent several forms for, at least, a couple of massage or spa service providers. Obviously, the spiraling of massage-houses in the metropolis appears to be tantamount to the shooting up of these fresh buildings, or so it seems. Of course, it’s not a bad idea to relieve one’s muscle stiffness, spasms or cramps, and become stress-free once in while (though it may seem bizarre to find lots of the masseurs crammed in one location, Bole Area….they are situated at nearly every 100 or so meters walk, and in some instances, even 4 or 5 spa houses are found in one stair of a building). After all, the therapeutic worth of massage has been acknowledged since time immemorial. From the Far East to the West Indies, from North Pole to the South end of the globe, people have been benefitting from its physical, physiological and psychological cure. It’s believed to be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. However, most of the mushrooming massages in the spa-rooms of the newly built towers (not mentioning some who are out of whack) are filled with young skilled masseurs who practice just the contemporary massage. Referring back to an etymological dictionary, one can see that the actual term ‘massage’ is derived from the Arabic word, ‘mash’- meaning to knead and to press softly. Some countries give it different names, for instance, India calls it Ayurveda, with its aromatic oil and spices; ‘Shiatsu’ is its Japanese name and for their abdominal massage, they call it ampuku ; Ethiopian traditional massage is called Wāyba (Tis) . This time-honored highly curative massage, Wāyba (Tis), is entirely different from the contemporary ones, which is what this piece focuses. Originated in the heart of Wollo, north-eastern part of the country, Wāyba (Tis) has now broadened in various parts of the country. But the peculiarity of Wāyba (Tis) massage is very striking. First of all, it is only intended for ladies but not for gentlemen (I’m sorry, guys). This is because the worth of the practice is more than relieving stress or muscle cramps. It’s rather proven to bring out ladies’ beauty and splendor. Moreover, it’s believed even to heal feminine sterility and difficulties during baby-delivery. Secondly, the oil applied on the body is not that of aromatic sorts common to most other type of massages, but pure Ethiopian butter. This makes it possible to open clogged pores of the skin and doll up the individual. Thirdly, once the entire body is greased with the butter she’ll sit and bask in gentle smokes of different multipurpose indigenous tree barks and herbs, letting the smell permeate the body, which is central to the curative process. It’s only then that she would be rubbed down. She then could bathe and complete the entire ‘theater’. It’s still customary for all brides and other females to take Wāyba (Tis) massage. Alas, Wāyba (Tis) as a medicinal practice has not widened as the contemporary ones especially, in the hub of Addis.The main reason, so the practitioners claim, is that its great worth has been camouflaged by the modern ones, and people seem to lose the age-old restorative exercise.

Well, it’s not generally bad of becoming habitué of these emerging masseurs or at least go for the gusto once in a while. Nevertheless, many practitioners have great concern that some of the value and prestige of this ancient profession, Wāyba (Tis), may be lost with unsavory image created by some of the so-called contemporary “massage parlors”. Whether the modern trend of expansion of massage services in the new towers positively contribute to the timeless medicinal worth of the art remains to be seen. And at the moment, Wāyba (Tis) seems to have left with two options: make its vigorous reappearance by revealing all the medicinal worth as cultural la mode, as it is seen in some parts of the metropolis, or else give in to the modern practices altogether.

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