Earthenware plate "Taba"
Gurage people, Ethiopia, 20th century, private collection from Finland.
The Gurage people are Afro-Asiatic ethnolinguistic group inhabiting the fertile, semi-mountainous region in central Ethiopia, about 240 kilometers south and west of Addis Ababa, bounded by the Awash River on the north, the Gilgel Gibe River (a tributary of the Omo River) on the southwest, and Lake Ziway on the east. Gurage people are divided into several sub-groups, but the three main sub-groups are the Sebat-bet (seven houses) Gurage found in the western part of Gurageland, the two other sub-groups being the Northern Kistane cluster and the Eastern Silte-speaking cluster.
The Gurage live a sedentary life based on agriculture. For centuries Gurageland's economy has centered around hoe cultivation of ensete (Ensete ventricosum), a false banana plant. This has a massive stem that grows underground and is involved in every aspect of Gurage life. It has a place in everyday interactions among community members as well as specific roles in rituals. Ensete is believed to cure all illnesses and several species of the plant are usually grown next to Gurage houses. The ritual uses of ensete include wrapping a corpse after death with the fronds and tying off the umbilical cord after birth with ensete fiber. Not surprisingly, the Gurage enjoy a reputation as Ethiopia's hardest working people. They have lived in their highland villages for over 600 years, when their Semitic ancestors intermarried with Sidamo tribes. Like said, the Ethiopian banana (Amharic ensät, Gurage äsät) is their main staple crop, but other cash crops are grown, which include coffee, tef and khat. Animal husbandry is practised, but mainly for milk supply and dung. Other foods consumed include gabbage, cheese, butter, roasted grains etc.
The Gurage have belief in supreme being and a creator god called "Waq" (Sky God). Earth shrines to Waq are common outside of villages. The Fuga people, a class of hunters and artisans, are considered to hold the key to traditional rituals. Their reputed powers of magic and sorcery are greatly feared. The Fuga are barred from working the soil because they are believed to destroy its fertility. A traditional Gurage belief holds that the Fuga turn into hyenas at night, eating dead animals and murdering children.
Ethiopia's ancient and traditional craft of pottery making dating back to the Aksumite empire (100BC to 400AD). Potters, who are predominantly women, make various cooking vessels using locally available clay and then distribute the completed products throughout the area. They rarely use tools as advanced as a potter's wheel, and instead craft their pottery using their hands, fingers, and simply tools, such as a piece of gourd. Once the molded pots are dry, the potters fire them in an open field and then sell their pots at the local markets. This beautiful eathernware plate is called "taba" and used for serving the traditional food, Kitfo. Good condition. Age-related wear and signs of use. Dirt, dust and minor abrasion. Size of the plate are approx. 14,0cm x 12,5cm x 5,0cm. Weight c. 188g.