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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Ciinna': the Borana Oromo narration of the 1890s Great Rinderpest epizootic in North Eastern Africa
Authors:Tiki, WaktoleISNI
Oba, GufuISNI
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies
Geographic term:Ethiopia
Subjects:animal diseases
social structure
oral history
Abstract:During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, consecutive natural calamities occurred in North Eastern Africa that collapsed pastoral economies and forced human adaptations. A rinderpest epizootic and devastating famine characterized the period. Using oral narrations of the Borana Oromo of Southern Ethiopia, this paper discusses the impact of the Great Rinderpest of the 1890s on cattle, as well as the subsequent famine, and the beginning of predation by carnivores on humans. Societal memory is utilized to reconstruct that particular historical period, referred to by the Borana as 'ciinna tiittee guracha' - the 'extermination of cattle whose corpses were covered by swarms of black flies'. The pastoral economy and human population collapse that occurred left imprints on historical traditions. The impact of the pandemic is explored in this study by discussing family traditions of the unusual danger of man-eating carnivores, the practice of pawning children, the dispersal of populations, the wiping-out of entire families and, most critically, the crisis of social identity. The authors examine societal responses and the revival of those social institutions that coordinated recovery and the redistribution of resources. They attempt to understand the process of recovery: the importance of head counting the survivors, the social and ritual reorganization of the 'gada' (age grade system), and the revival of social institutions that recreated social harmony and promoted pastoral economic recovery. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]