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Eritrea Festival: Getting a glimpse of Eritrea’s culture

Drumbeats, blowing of horns, jingling sound of corks, the swinging of swords, the timing of dance steps, and the ululations invite one to become part of the eagerly awaited festivity. Capturing each moment of the performances, one tires to learn the depth of the multifaceted shows of the nine ethnic groups that never let one’s attention deviate. The national festival held every year in the summer time continues to be an ample gesture of reflecting the all-round makeup of the Eritrean society—its diversity as well as the unison of its altruistic values.

Needless to mention the varieties of the displays staged in different pavilions, the invention and innovation activities of the youths and much more.

Eritrea’s festival has become an event of a gathering to remember in which Eritreans from all walks of life as well as foreigners stay in a moment of utmost merriment. The Expo grounds continue to display a number of attention grabbing shows most notably the ethno-cultural diversity and the similarity of the choreography among the nine ethnic groups, dancing in circles. Anyone who wants to learn the tradition has to travel to the expo grounds. The cultural performances staged are a narrative demonstrating themes of notable significance as portrayals of the livelihood of the Eritrean diverse society.

In most of the cultural shows, still playing their respective parts, males and females often dance together and sing in chorus with great passion. The music performances are accompanied with traditional instruments that are rich in beats and uniquely famous for their originality. Listening to the music one could tell the beats of the ethnic group it represents. In some cases, however, music styles are commonly shared among two or more ethnic groups.

Wosomya is played among the Hidareb and Tigre ethnic groups. The Hidareb, play this sort of music to express appreciation of heroism while the Tigre perform this show in marriage ceremonies.  Males and females of Tigre ethnic group perform this sort of music in groups, while the females sing the males dance. Among the Hidareb, however, women take the lead in playing Wosomya in which they beat drums and sing to express admirations to the heroism, loyalty and victories won against any sort of invasion. These two ethnic groups also share the same traditional musical instrument, the Rebaba. Known as Kirar, this instrument is also common among the Tigrinya ethnic Group.

Bibob is also another sort of traditional play practiced in marriage ceremonies among the youth of the Hidareb. The youth engage in camel racing competition which is accompanied by the ululation of the women. The songs represent a number of themes such as love affairs and activities of the herdsmen. The herdsmen sing and dance to express deep appreciation for the significant role camels play in their daily activities.
The depth and intensity of the cultural performances staged at the expo grounds, although vast, only give a glimpse of the cultural practices. The more one explores the more one observes.

Similarly, the Bilen and Tigre share Keskes and Guayla—Guayla is nevertheless, common among the Tigrinya. The festival, therefore, simultaneously reflects the beauty in diversity and likeliness. Shelil is also a renowned sort of play in which the women among the Tigre ethnic group convey messages of appreciation to men. Delarifoye and Erier traditional performances of the Bilen are played in the Easter time and summer time respectively. Erier highlights the fertility of lands and the harvest following a benevolent rainy season.

A number of people flock to the expo grounds to take whatever cultural wealth they could get from there. Representative dancers, singers and musicians from the nine ethnic groups also play with utmost passion to satisfy the eager visitors. Listening to the horn blown around the area of the regional villages, attracts a visitor to have a closer look of the cultural dances and varied beats that continue to fill the exciting atmosphere of the expo grounds. Gila (horn) is a traditionally made musical instrument of the Kunama and blown at the time of the passing of a senior person from that ethnic group. Besides, they use the Gila to call a gathering. Ekunda, Uleda, Andie-Kubula and Kawena are among the traditional musical performances of the Kuama.  Uleda and Andie-Kubula describe the heroism and Ekunda is presented at times of mourning for a passing person and Kawena is danced with the accompaniment of claps at times of happiness.

During the coming days, all the nine ethnic groups will unfold rich cultural heritage that has been sustained for centuries. The Rashayda play jumping and crossing swords, the Afar play in a way that reflects fishing activities holding curved dagger like blades and jump waving their hands, the Nara also play and sing swaying swords, the Saho hold spears and shields which is also common among the other ethnic groups and making beat guided jumps. All of them portraying unity, steadfastness, and significant socio-cultural values of the Eritrean societies.

Apart from the cultural shows, a number of displays that represent a wide range of the activities of the six regions and branch offices of ministries and artistic works of individuals and associations, invention and innovation activities of the youth will be exhibited in the different pavilions at the Expo grounds. The National museum displays relics and recent findings of fossils, tools and utensils that were used centuries ago. Many industries have also been showing processed and semi-processed products.

The pavilions at the Expo present varied displays. Learning through educational games and learning through interactive smart board has been recently introduced as a method of teaching. Familiarizing students with smart boards, touch screen personal computers, digital libraries, and play stations that educate and entertain through educational games will be the main objective in this pavilion.

Festival Eritrea is therefore, a perfect occasion for everyone who desires to enjoy the enthralling cultural shows. It also becomes a platform for nationals from different parts of the country and from the abroad to get together, in addition to being a good occasion to enhance foreigners’ knowledge about Eritrea.


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