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Ethiopia celebrates - Pictures of a field research by Konstanze Runge

Vernissage on December 14, 2011
Exhibition management: Konstanze Runge M.A.

The Religious Studies Collection of the Philipps-Universität Marburg showed images of religious life in the multi-ethnic state of Ethiopia in a photo exhibition. The religious studies scholar Konstanze Runge, M.A. took the photos during field research on religious identity and plurality in Addis Ababa and the southwest of the country in 2008. The photographs allowed her viewers a very immediate look at the people of Ethiopia: They show the deep piety of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as well as the pride of the Oromo, members of the country's largest ethnic group, for their traditional religion.

The exhibition focused on large-format photographs of two religious festivals: For the Feast of the Cross (Masqal), one of the highest festivals in the calendar of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, tens of thousands of believers make a pilgrimage to Addis Ababa to witness and participate in the colorful processions through the capital accompanied by dancing, singing, liturgy and the lighting of the Masqal fire.

Irreechaa is the name of what is probably the most important festival of the Oromo ethnic group and has preserved traits of traditional Oromo religiosity to this day: at a lake southeast of Addis Ababa, Oromo from all parts of the country come together at the end of the rainy season to perform blessing rites with the water of the sacred lake in their traditional clothing and, under the guidance of a ritual leader, to invoke the god waqaa and also to make the spirits favorable for the coming year.

These photographic insights into the vibrancy of Ethiopian Orthodox and traditional religion were complemented by the display of some precious Ethiopian artifacts from the holdings of the Religious Studies Collection. These were mainly ornate, silver and iron processional crosses, as well as some particularly fine examples of Ethiopian historical folk painting, such as those depicting the legend of the Queen of Sheba.