Irreecha, a gateway to Oromumma revival: Toronto 2017 in focus
By Tullu Liban
This piece is motivated by the vibrancy I have experienced having attended Irreecha celebration that took place on 2nd-3rd September 2017 in the Greater Toronto area of Whitby town. Before getting into the details of the Irreecha ceremony in Toronto, I would like to emphasis the fact that Irreecha is not about a belief for me. Irreecha is a symbol of my identity. It is one of the corridors of Oromo value restoration. No doubt, there are many followers of Waaqeffannaa. When it comes to Irreecha of today, believe it or not, not all who attend the event are Waaqeffatas. No one can argue millions of Oromos that flocked to Bishoftu in 2016 were Waaqeffatas. They were Christians, Muslims, non-believers, and Waqeffatas altogether. Those who believe in Oromuma should never miss out Irrecha. All those who take pride in self-worthiness as children of a great community of Oromo must think and rethink to endorse Irrecha as a national identity. Irrecha is one of the Gada elements and should be treasured as part and parcel of the unsung democracy. Irreecha is a manifestation of an ancient African consciousness about the universe, back in millenniums.
Yes, many believe Waaqeffannaa existed before the coming to being of any great religions of the world in the ancient Cushitic civilization of black Egyptians.
At this point in time Irrecha is a transreligion subject for the Oromo people. The revival of Oromumma spirit is grounded in it, the renaissance of Oromo self-consciousness is in the making through it. Irrecha is the beginning a back to the root project for us as a society. Yes, it shouldn’t be taken as something we attach to our acquired religions of whatsoever. To treasure Irreecha is to treasure oneself as a member of the Oromo society. It needs, to believe in Oromumma and convince oneself to search for the neglected and reduced identity. If one tries to believe the great religions of the world are detached from the culture and history of the people from which they originated, I firmly debate otherwise and I can’t buy it. It is from this stand point that we should defend Irreecha.
At this point in time, Irreecha has become one chapter of our history that can never be overlooked. Irreecha 2016 stands out for ever in Oromo history. When Oromos gather for Irreecha they always renew their unity toward a common goal. They remember the massacre and they remember their martyrs. In sum, self-conscious Oromos from all walks of life should promote Irreecha.
Having said so, let me come back to the description of Irreecha 2017 in Toronto.
Toronto is the earliest celebrator of Irreecha overseas because of the North American weather. As fall is approaching to take a turn from summer and the weather is expected to become tougher, early September is annually a moment of Irreecha celebration in Toronto. Participants of Toronto festival gather from major cities in Ontario province-Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, and Kitchener-Waterloo. Organizers of the even are mainly from Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Irreecha is not a one day event in Toronto. It is an event of 24 hours or more. The Toronto Irreecha is a showcase of multiple ceremonies. Due to in conveniences to conduct various events on different days, celebrations that take place back home separately are displayed on the Irreecha day as follows altogether.
Ulma: on September 2nd in the morning it was an Ulma occasion. The Ulma ceremony is a merry making session to honor women who have given birth to babies recently and to welcome their newborns. The ceremony was led by Dr. Kuwe Kumsa, a pioneer of Siiqqee promotion. Chants by women in cultural costumes and praises to mothers and babies were said, ululations were made thanks were offered to God for blessing the mothers with babies.
Ebba Jaarsole and jaartolee (Elders blessings): Elders of both sexes gave blessings in order of angafumma (genealogical seniority). They thanked Almighty God, whom the Waaqeffatas believe to have many names but is only one, who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. They thanked Him for the change of season, life sustenance and generosity for the world. Next to the blessings, the Abba Malka of Toronto Obb. Raya Calaa made a speech with a particular focus on the significance of Irreecha and the future of Oromo society in upholding its cultural values.
Irreecha martyrs memorial: During the Toronto celebration a moment of silence was held to remember Irreecha martyrs of 2016 massacre. They also paid a special tribute to the martyrs with different activities. The attendees of the event wore a white riven on their heads as a sign of grief and a red riven on their right hands as a symbol of martyrdom.
Inspiring poems were cited in English and Afan Oromo by youth and adults focusing on the 2016 barbaric massacre committed by the TPLF regime. A young man who participated in Irreecha 2016 in Bishoftu, who lost many friends shared his nightmarish experience at the massacre. The story moved the gathering in tears. A memorial T-Shirt that carries prints and graphics that speak volumes about the 2016 Bishoftu crimes was distributed and put on by the event participants.
Dhibayyou: Before a thanks giving (Irreffana) took place at the river bank, Dhibbayyu (libation) was made at the Guba spot (bonfire) to be lit later after Irreffana. Mothers led by the Hadha Malkas (woman in charge of the water place)
Irreffanna: Having enjoyed lunch prepared by the event organizers, the gathering marched to a Malkaa (a natural pond) to give thanks to Almighty God chanting different hymns. The hymns were led by chief women and repeated by men, youth and children. At the bank of Malka, elders once again delivered blessings focusing on the need to forgive each other while celebrating Irreecha.
Vigil candle lighting: After the thanksgiving was over all Irreecha ceremony attendees lit candles to remember martyrs of Irreecha 2016 before the Guba (bonfire) was burnt. The 2017 Toronto ceremony paid a lot to the memory of 2016 martyrs.
Guba (Bonfire): Traditionally Oromo Ifa’a (the torch lighting) which symbolizes the change of foggy and dark rainy season to a brighter and sunny season, which comes with the ripening of crops and fruits and abundant harvest is following by the Malka thanksgiving. However, Oromos in the diaspora, the Ontarians of Canadian, Oromos merge many ceremonies on one single day in the interest of time and space.
Hence, as the dusk began to fall, bonfire ceremony took place with fun, chants and songs by girls and boys. The next 12 hours were all fun time, with music and a lot of dance talents by girls, youth and adults as well. The whole night was a party night. The field was illuminated by joy and electrified with powerful bulbs. Foods, drinks and songs were all over the field abundantly. Music varieties from all over Oromia were arranged by DJs and it was a night of Oromo culture. What a celebration!