A Young Ethiopian Reconnecting with Her Roots in the Motherland

By Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D.
Sept 07 2010

Samrawit Bereket KirosHer name is Samrawit Bereket Kiros and she just came back from her summer vacation in Ethiopia to Seattle, Washington, where she was born. Samrawit went to Ethiopia along with her Mom and her younger brother Romha and her stay coincided with the Ashenda festival. Ashenda (literally, ‘tall grass’ in Tigrigna) is young girls and young women’s annual celebration during August that falls after Filseta, an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian holiday following a fortnight long lent.

Ashenda is celebrated in Tigray, the Tigrigna speaking part of Eritrea, and the Amhara Region of Ethiopia; in the latter case, there is a slight variation in the use of the term and it is pronounced as Shenda. Ashenda is very popular in Tigray and it is observed every year throughout the Region, but its practice has considerably diminished in Eritrea and in fact it is lost in the cities.

During Ashenda, the young girls and women go to great lengths, including long distance commute, to collect the tall grass mostly from banks of rivers, swamps, and wetlands, where the Ashenda grows in plenty. In some instances, merchants could bring the grasses over to the open market for sale, but that is not the traditional way. The collected grasses are then distributed evenly among the young girls and women and they wear it on top of their cloth, in such a way to colorfully blend with their attire but also to intentionally cover their waist and buttocks. The women also wear uniform traditional cloth known as Tilfi and a Tigrayan hairstyle, generally known as Quno but it can come in different modes known as Difin, Gilbich, and Ga’me. They also wear jewelry including Kutisha (earrings) and Gobagub (necklace) and Kuhli (organic makeup for their eye lashes). This is one major event to enhance their beauty, and to be sure the women look incredibly gorgeous during Ashenda and they become center of attraction to say the least.