Monday, February 13, 2012

The Stick/dula/ or the Stone/dΪngay/?

I think philosophical questions are sometimes great to start with. As much as they bug us, they always help us rack our brains as we try to understand them. Some of the responses we give to these questions could also become humorous.
For instance, a biological science class usually raises a question as to which came first - the egg or chicken ? Here are a few hilarious answers: one student said chicken came prior to egg because ‘C’ came before ‘E’ in the dictionary. Still others argued that why bother - both are delicious. Perhaps the funniest response of all these was “I had an egg for breakfast and chicken for dinner….so I guess egg came first.” Of course, you can’t agree to the logic behind all of the above responses, although you might with their answers. Today’s article craves to answer the question, at least try, - which was introduced first in Ethiopia as a tool- the stick, dula (generic name) or the stone, dΪngay? Just as you couldn’t totally agree with one or the other responses above, none may feel at ease candidly responding to this dilemma. Some historians go for the stick and claim that it came first to Ethiopia as a tool. But then, logical thought tells us that sticks could change into dust somewhere in the mist of time as compared to stone tools. In other words, this side of the argument supports that the stone-age may have preceded the “stick-age” ( if at all there’s one by this name). On the other hand, an insightful examination to the various Ethiopian ethinic groups would help one to appositely witness vestiges of the culture of using dula in the day to day lives of people. Hence, the dula may have come first many millennia ago in Ethiopia, much earlier than our monolithic monuments, who knows? I mean, why on earth are most of our societies still using dula in one form or another? Ethiopans use dulas to defend against untamed animals and make certain that humans can travel from point A to point B without being assaulted by the clawed and fanged beasts of the fields and natural forests. The dula is still used as a device for prevention against aliens, highway robbers and enemies. Furthermore, dula is also linked to some other events. For instance, the Mursic and Surmic people have a culture of ritual stick fighting play-offs, a dueling called Donga stick fight, which is an art that allows young boys to win the honor among the community and hearts of young girls for marriage. The Hamər people use a meter-long dula with the hooked end for gathering fruits in the midst of formidable thornbush, pushing the thorns into place with the forked end and building a cattle kraal. The Hamər use the dula in religious rituals, too, such as, in ceremonies of blessing and cursing.
The Oromo, Amhara, Tigre and other ethinic groups also use one or the other type of dulas for various purposes. By the way, the lonely dula, hasn’t lingered for long as a simple ordinary stick. Like the staff of Moses, it has expanded and blossomed into various types of tools and weapons. The devices that were created from this regular dula were given different names for different uses: a guard's dula, or the ones held by an official police , is called K’omet’, usually made from hardwood and is round and knobbed and is specifically designed to knock off an adversary or incapacitate wild animals; Kezera, BətΪr, or MΪrkuz are names used interchangeably to refer to a walking stick with the number 7-shaped head; Zeng is a type of BətΪr used by those who walk long distances in the wilderness and forests of Ethiopia. It is a formidable weapon and as such held very dearly and intimately by the owner; mədənk’əriya is a strong pole about 4 feet long used to jam a door from the inside to prevent access into a house.
This is a typical gadget used in huts in the countryside or small villages where padlock keys may not be available or suitable to use; Zenezena is a very large dula, the girth of which is about 4 inches in diameter used to pound grain in a mortar called mukəch’a; Mek’wamia is a prayer stick used by the elderly and the church clergy. The Mek’wamia is used in the standing position during the long church ceremonies. The head of the staff is a T-shaped brass or iron handle that can be used as a chin rest. In church festivities, such as in “dances” at Epiphany /TΪmk’ət/ , the Mek’wamia is held and waved in rhythms of the church chants of praise. Thus, the Mek’wamia is somewhat resembling a conductor’s baton in an orchestra.
I personally don’t buy the idea that Ethiopians use dula more often than dΪngay just by a quirk of fate. Considering all the various day-to-day purposes this wooden item has to the people, including the so-many-others not mentioned here due to space and time, I believe the stick, dula, may have been used as a tool prior to the stone, dΪngay here in Ethiopia. Məlkam samΪnt! (Have a good week!)

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