Dr. Peri Klemm, an African art historian at California State University, Northridge, original work on the Oromo women of Eastern Oromia reveals that Oromo women and girls are creating new looks that draw from and resonate with historically relevant body art practices and which link them to a wider global world.
According to the research, the contemporary dress is a symbolic means through which Oromo “women come to understand and make sense of their socio-political and economic experiences and their identity as Oromo within the Ethiopian state today.”
“Women’s bodies and their personal arts are instrumental in the production, albeit subtle and symbolic, of Oromo identity and Oromo consciousness,” says the research conducted by Dr. Peri Klemm, an African art historian at California State University, Northridge.
According to the research conducted by Dr Peri Oromo society views women as the dominant creators and assimilators of cultural symbols.
“At this time, women were independently creating their own material expressions based on the emerging nationalist consciousness sweeping the Oromo countryside, and these practices continue today through the manipulation of new materials in the production of upper torso body art.”
Oromo women’s dress is probably associated with the wolrd view of the Oromo nation association with procreation.
“For the Oromo, the lower body is connected to the past through its link to the ground, to birthing, and to containment. This is a space where loose, layered skirts and a tight, cloth belt become metaphors for the opening and closing of the body.”
It added that the upper body is where the future rests and a whole host of objects, including amulets, beadwork, and face paint, are brought together here to assert a national identity in anticipation of future encounters.
According to the Oromo Women’s Internatinal Conference, in the Oromo society, women played distinct roles through an institution called the Siiqqee (a symbolic decorated stick given to all women by their mothers upon marriage) in which the rights of the women respected by society. “It is a sort of sorority that provides women with channels to participate in village councils, and a cultural vehicle to mobilize en masse against violence and abuse.”