I fell in love with the brightly coloured scarves as soon as I saw them. My initial attraction was based on how vibrant they were, but also the style in which it was worn. Wearing a scarf by wrapping it over your head is considered, for the most part, a rather feminine style. Yet, seeing it worn that way by men made me feel a type of way. It created a type of beauty I would not have seen in the Western world. Another thing I liked about it was the type of people who wore it. From afar, it is easy to assume that those who wore these scarves were poor village men, elders, farmers, geberes even. But what I loved about it was its ability to transgress all social levels. It is common to walk past a group of young men wearing such scarves, only what you don’t see, is that underneath the thick colourful cloth is a trendy outfit – a fresh shirt and new jeans.
I soon learned that this particular type of scarf had a name – Gojjam Azene. The name itself has an interesting meaning. The ‘Gojjam’ part speaks for itself, as it is the name of the region. The word ‘Azene’ means ‘he is sad’ or in other words, grieving. One version of the story goes that a married couple went to a marketplace one day, the husband wearing the Gojjam Azene. When the woman turned around to call for her husband, she became sad, or, ‘azenech’. Due to the fact that all the men in the marketplace wore similar scarves, they all looked the same, meaning she had lost her husband amongst the crowd. Another popular version suggests that after being imprisoned by Derg, many men learned skills such as weaving, in which they used to create their own scarves/gabis. It is said that having been released, they were filled with shame, heads hanging low, covered by the cloths they had made during their time in prison. The people of Gojjam saw them and said ‘Gojjam Azene” – “Gojjam is in mourning”.
The first 2 photos below are a couple of my favourites from the entire trip. It was taken whilst driving from Debre Markos to Bahir Dar. I simply could not pass him without taking a photo. The first photo was his reaction to me asking if I could take a photo (I did regardless lol), and the second is after he realised he was actually being photographed. The first photo radiates so much life. His eyes are wide open, as if to mirror the wide smile across his face. AND LOOK AT HIS TEETH! Who needs Colgate when you’ve got _______. The fourth photo is an example of the Azene being a fashion piece for everyone. He is clearly wearing an stylish outfit underneath that scarf – the patterned shirt and ring say it all.
TIS ABBAY, GOJJAM
On our way back from Tis Abay (Blue Nile Falls), these beautiful young ladies convinced us to sit down and have some traditional buna (coffee).
The beautiful faces of Aman’uel.
YE CHEREKA, GOJJAM
These photos were taken outside the gates of my grandfather’s statue (can be seen in the background of the last photo). I’ll be writing a blogpost on the significance of his statue in soon.
THE SUBURBS OF ADDIS
Young models in the making.
ADDIS ABABA MUSEUM
I found these particular photographs stunning! Beauty in all its forms.