culture and customs
family life
social institutions
social relationships
spiritual beliefs

food security
justice and crime
traditional skills

introducing the area


 quotes about identity
 key testimonies featuring identity

Ethiopian man with gunA clear impression emerges from the testimonies of Meket people having a strong sense of their own identity, especially in relation to lowlanders. Several narrators refer to distinctive clothing (sheepskins in the highlands, loincloths in the lowlands) as well as decorative tattoos. Many place emphasis on the importance of Orthodox Christianity to the community and claim that Meket people are particularly devout. However, there is not complete uniformity; as one narrator (Ethiopia 13) puts it, "Just because people live in Meket it doesn't mean that they have the same dialect, the same type of food, the same style of costume, or even the same manner of walking. There are differences."

Some narrators say that what marks out Meket people is the poverty and hardship of their lives, evident in their worn-out clothes and shoes; one mentions that they have a darker complexion than townspeople and lowlanders because of labouring in the scorching sun. Nevertheless, despite the worsening conditions the majority clearly take pride in their distinctive identity and customs, and this strand provides a positive contrast to the rather anxious feel of other elements of the testimonies.

quotes about identity

"[Meket people] can be differentiated by their custom, their costume, their tattoos, their religion and churches. I have been to other places and I have not seen any other people who hold the church in such reverence as the people of Meket. We have a lot of heritage... Even if I get more comfort elsewhere, I can't forget my birthplace. It is like your mother."
Ayichesh, F/28, head of household, Ethiopia 1

"The young men in the highlands wear trousers, gabi (white cotton cloak), shoes and turban while the women wear embroidered cotton skirts or long dresses especially on holidays. In the lowlands, the young men wear mainly shorts. Unlike in the highlands, the women wear their hair long and often dab it with butter. Because of the heat the people tend to wear light clothes. The old men in the highlands are often seen wearing gabi and carrying fly-whisks as well as long wooden staffs while the Muslims carry staffs tipped with metal at the top. The temperament of the lowlanders and highlanders is also different. The lowlanders tend to be quick tempered and easily pick a quarrel. They are also better armed than the highlanders and even the sticks they carry with them are sturdier."
Mario, M/40, farmer, Ethiopia 21

"The people of Meket are active. They have prestige symbols such as guns and mules, which the owners show off on holidays. At home, though they are now getting poorer, their hospitality, songs, musical instruments and minstrels have a distinct quality of their own. Now the burden of poverty is weighing down on the people. Songs and dances are not reviving the spirit of families at home. Mothers have very little to feed their children and familial ties are loosening."
Yaregal, M/41, farmer trained in beekeeping, Ethiopia 19

key testimonies featuring identity

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   1   Ayichesh   female/28   head of household   Gala Dejen (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   11   Azenu   female/45   farmer/ female head of household   Meqerqeriat (lowlands)  
Summary Transcript   13   Mesay   male/28   farmer   Meqerretcha/Denkenna (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   14   Itiye   female/58   traditional midwife   Gebeya Meda (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   15   Muliye   male/37   farmer   (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   19   Yaregal   male/41   farmer trained in beekeeping   Warkaye  
Summary Transcript   2   Negussie   female/45   market trader   Filaqit, Woina Dega (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   21   Mario   male/40   farmer   Filaqit town (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   3   Lemlem   female/67   farmer/ nun   Woina Dega (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   4   Zewde   female/38   housewife   Highlands  
Summary Transcript   8   Yekaba   female/25   farmer/female head of household   Gala Dejen (highlands)