Updated: Mar 23, 2022
It is, of course, impossible to fully encapsulate all the aspects of a nation or culture in a single podcast, especially in regards to a large society like Ethiopia with a complex history and made up of many different peoples. This is not really the focus of my podcast, I am more interested in personal experiences and perspectives, which by their nature are subjective.
That being said, understanding a bit about the context and background of where a person comes from can help to better understand their experiences and perspectives, particularly in relation to their experience as a migrant in Tasmania. One of my aims with the podcast is to at least get people a bit interested in maybe finding out more about some of the cultures my interviewees come from. I thought I would use this blog to perhaps offer a bit more detail and context for those who want to know and understand more.
I thought this was particularly true for Ethiopia, which, like many countries in Africa, the average Australian knows relatively little about. As a result, we tend to regard the Ethiopian migrant community as a monolith ( this is not unique to Ethiopia I should hasten to add ), when in fact it's a diverse community of people who, as Nizam mentions in the podcast, are demarcated by ethnicity, religion and political affiliation.
Nizam belongs to the Oromo people, not the dominant ethnicity in Ethiopia, but nevertheless a major group who are also well represented in Tasmania. The Oromos have their own language and traditions and are predominantly Muslim. Ethiopia has very long connections with all the Abrahamic religions with Orthodox Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities established since ancient times, though the dominant culture tends to be that of the Amharic-speaking people, who are predominantly Orthodox Christians.
For an overview, and bear in mind that some of the exact figures are disputed - Religion in Ethiopia - Wikipedia Ethiopian Religions - Christianity, Islam, Judaism & Paganism (ethiopiantreasures.co.uk)
I guess my take away is - don't assume an Ethiopian's religious affiliation !
One thing that does seem to be pretty common across the different groups is the rural lifestyle - the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians live off the land, and Nizam paints a really nice picture of the typical daily routine as a child growing up in a rural area - tending animals, ploughing the fields etc. The type of experience that would be common in hand-to-mouth agricultural communities across the world. In fact, Nizam's description reminded me a bit of a similar account I heard in another episode of peasant life in a Transylvanian village in the 1950s.
It also brought home the importance of education in Nizam's life that broke the cycle of every family member working on the farm generation after generation, and, ultimately ended up doing a Ph.d in Tasmania. Again, I connected this a bit with Teodor's story from Romania of his father's recognition of the impact a good education would have on his son's future. Similarly, Nizam describes nicely how his father noticed the effect of education from important visitors who came to their area.
It sometimes feels like you we forget the value of education here in Tasmania or just don't value it as much and I feel like these kind of stories reveal how many migrants from less fortunate countries than Australia have built themselves up.