Ethiopian Traditional Dresses Biography
The culture of Ethiopia is diverse and generally structured along ethnolinguistic lines. The country's Afro-Asiatic-speaking majority adhere to an amalgamation of traditions that were developed independently and through interaction with neighbouring and far away civilizations, including other parts of Northeast Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and Italy. By contrast, the nation's Nilotic communities and other ethnolinguistic minorities tend to practice customs more closely linked with South Sudan and/or the African Great Lakes region.
Women's traditional clothes in Ethiopia are made from cloth called shemma and used to make habesha qemis: it is basically cotton cloth, about 90 cm wide, woven in long strips which are then sewn together. Sometimes shiny threads are woven into the fabric for an elegant effect. It takes about two to three weeks to make enough cloth for one dress. The bottom of the garment or shirt may be ornamented with patterns.
Omotic Hamer women wearing their traditional attire.
Men wear pants and a knee-length shirt with a white collar, and perhaps a sweater. Men often wear knee-high socks, while women might not wear socks at all. Men as well as women wear shawls, the netela. The shawls are worn in a different style for different occasions. When going to church, women cover their hair with them and pull the upper ends of the shawl about their shoulders reproducing a cross (meskelya), with the shiny threads appearing at the edge. During funerals, the shawl is worn so the shiny threads appear at the bottom (madegdeg). Women's dresses are called habesha qemis. The dresses are usually white with some color above the lower hem. Bracelets and necklaces of silver or gold are worn on arms and feet to complete the look. A variety of designer dinner dresses combining traditional fabric with modern style are now worn by some ladies in the cities.
These traditional clothes are still worn on a day-to-day-basis in the countryside. In cities and towns, western clothes are popular, though on special occasions, such as New Year (Enkutatash), Christmas (Genna) or weddings, some wear traditional clothes.
Often, a woman will cover her head with a shash, a cloth that is tied at the neck. Shama and kuta, gauze-like white fabrics, are often used. This is common among both Muslim and Christian women. Elderly women will wear a sash on a day-to-day basis, while other women only wear a sash also called a netela while attending church.
Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It is a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups each with its own language, culture, custom and tradition. One of the most significant areas of Ethiopian culture is its literature, which is represented predominantly by translations from ancient Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge'ez, modern Amharic and Tigrigna languages.
Ge'ez is one of the most ancient languages in the world and is still used today by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has its own unique customs and traditions, which have been influenced by Judaism.
The Tigrayans' history and culture is derived from the Aksumite Kingdom tradition and culture whereas the history and culture of the Amhara people is derived from the post Aksumite imperial reign of Menelik II and Haile Selassie.
In Ethiopia, men and women have clearly defined roles. Traditionally men are responsible for providing for the family and for dealing with family contact outside the home whereas women are responsible for domestic work and looking after the children.
Parents are stricter with their daughters than their sons; often parents give more freedom to males than females. The traditional view was men neither cook nor do shopping because housework tends to be women's job. This view continues to be held in many areas of the country.
Although many people continue to follow these traditional roles, life is constantly evolving including the role of men and women. This can be seen particularly true in urban areas where women are beginning to take a major role in all areas of employment and men are beginning to take a greater role in domestic life.
The Ethiopian traditional costume is made of woven cotton. Ethiopian men and women wear this traditional costume called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear dresses (Kemis) and netella with borders of coloured embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used.
Other ethnic groups and tribes in the south and west of the country wear different costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, merely decorating their faces and bodies with distinctive images.