By Fayyis Oromia
This brief about Agaw-Midir is a preliminary work to be developed further and completed by those who do have more knowledge about the Agaw people and those who are interested in the issue. Most of the information is collected from different sources about the Agaw land and people.
The country is named Agawia (phonetically, Agawiya) or Agaw-Midir. The map of Agawia is as shown here: http://finfinnetribune.com/Gadaa/2015/07/fayyis-oromia-can-the-two-biggest-nations-the-oromo-and-the-agaw-cooperate-against-the-system-of-domination-in-oromia-ethiopia/. Agawia is about 150,000-SQ-KM large. It encompasses Axum, Adwa, Tembien, Abergele, Welqayit, Tsegede, Enderta, Adigrat, Semien, Quara, Metema, Lasta, Wag and Awi; that means, in general most areas of Tigrai (excluding Raya), north Gondar, part of Gojjam (Awi) and the whole Wag-Lasta.
Agawia is located in the Horn of Africa in what is today coined as Oromia (Cushitic Ethiopia). Agawia (Agaw-Midir) is the northernmost of present Oromia’s regions containing the whole homeland of the Agaw people (including the majority, who are already assimilated to Amharinya- and Tigrinya-speakers). Its capital is Gondar (the word Gondar means ‘source of God’ in Qemantiye language). Agawia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, Afar Region to the east and Oromo Region to the south. Besides Gondar and Meqele, other major towns and cities in Agawia include Injibara, Dangila, Debarq, Metema, Dabat, Lalibela, Seqota, Abiy Addi, Adigrat, Adwa, Aksum, Humera, Inda Selassie, Maychew, Wukro, Qwiha and Zalambessa, as well as the historically significant village of Yeha.
NB: Oromia = formerly Ethiopia as defined here
http://finfinnetribune.com/Gadaa/2014/12/fayyis-oromia-why-not-the-union-state-of-oromia-as-an-optimal-solution-for-the-majority-at-the-center/ – is a union in which the following five points (FADOB-score) will be implemented: F = Freedom from the system of domination; A = Afan Oromo as a working language of federal government; D = Democracy as rule of game in the union; O = ‘Oromia’ instead of ‘Ethiopia’ as name of the union; and B = Black-Red-White as Cushitic flag of the union. This Upper Nile country called ‘Oromia’ by the native owners of the land is used to be named as ‘Abyssinia’ by the Portuguese; ‘Kushland’ by the Jews; ‘Ardulhabesh’ by the Arabs; ‘Punt’ by the Egyptians; and ‘Ethiopia’ by the Greeks.
Agawia is the mother of some civilizations in the Horn of Africa. It is the source of the Geez fidel, and the first African country to accept Christainity and Islam. Agawia is the land of Atse Theodros, Fasil Palace, Qidus Yaryed, Axum, Yeha and Wuqro Negash. It is the land of dauntless emperors, such as Ezana, Kaleb, Armaha, Abraha, Elamda, Almeda, Zera Yaqob, Theodros, Yohannes, and some heroes like Ras Alula, General Hayelom and much more. Agawia is the home of the Ark of the Covenant, the land of the just, brave, free and fair. The Agaw people have a lot to be proud of. Above all, they survived the 3000 years de-Agawization (de-Cushitization) process in their country.
The following banner shall be the future flag of the Agaw people from Axum and Wag-Lasta through all northern Gondar to western Gojjam, to whom they are bound by blood and bone, but forced to disintegrate and to abandon their true identity for centuries. http://finfinnetribune.com/Gadaa/2015/07/fayyis-oromia-a-brief-national-profile-of-agawia-agaw-midir-in-oromian-union/. The blue color of the flag stands for tolerance and trustworthiness; the rows of stars signify bright future and hope ahead. The largest star in the middle symbolizes aspiration for rehabilitation and reunification in order to create a single Agaw state. On hoisting side of the flag, horizontal green, yellow and red tricolors are associated with genuine desire to have a consensus for a possible union with other Oromians in freedom and equality.
Stars were valuable objects in the tradition of the Agaw flocks. Prior to invention of counting clocks, the Agaw people used stars for night time estimation. Especially, the appearance of five bright stars late at night are called ‘dawn stars’ and were considered as the indicators of the impending daybreak. Those who wanted to go to a religious worship place, or planned to travel before dawn had to observe the five stars to make sure dawn was approaching. Moreover, unusual star behaviors, color changes and violent animations used to be signs of probable instability in the society related to coming events, such as a state change. The long astrological belief that individual personalities have association with types and characteristics of stars at their birth day existed also in the Agaw flocks.
The Agaw is an ethnic group inhabiting Oromia and neighboring Eritrea; its size is about 20 Million – being the 5th largest nationality in Africa; second largest nationality in East Africa. They speak the Agaw language, which belong to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family as well as Amharinya and Tigrinya, which are the Semetic branch of the same family. The unassimilated Agaw people’s clusters make up the Northern Agaw in Eritrea, known as the Bilen, the Western Agaw known as the Qemant, the Eastern Agaw known as the Xamta, and the Southern Agaw known as the Awi. The Agaw are the original inhabitants of much of the northern Oromian highlands – who were largely assimilated and converted to the Semitic speaking Tigray-Tigrinya and Amhara peoples. They resisted this assimilation process for millennia; there is still a group that is trying to advocate for a nonviolent resistance against Amharization of the Qemant people, for their dignity, and for self-rule. The Agaw people ruled explicitly as Agaw (not as assimilated Habesh) during the Zagwe dynasty of Oromia from about 900 to 1270. The Zagwe kings built churches carved into rock. Many Agaw are now bilingual, speaking their own language and either Amharic or Tigrinya; they are predominately farmers; their culture is similar to Amhara’s – actually, what is now known as the Amhara culture and the Tigrai culture are originally those of Agaw, except few elements overtaken from the Middle East.
Living largly in the Gondar and Tigrai areas – i.e. the historical ‘Agawland’ – they have been progressively, then massively Christianized and Habeshanized in the last two millennia. At present, for instance, less than one percent of the 170,000 Qemant-Agaw people (1998 census) have preserved their ancestral language and beliefs. The traditional Qemant-Agaw are found in small villages in the Chilga area, about 60-80km west of Gondar. In this area, one can find high priests (kamazana) and priests (abayegarya), led by the Wambar (litt. ‘seat’), their religious and political figure. Monthly and annual festivals as well as other more private circumstances require their competence. On these very occasions, they perform through prayers, chant and dance a ritual called Qedassie (one of the Agaw culture – now adopted by the Orthodox Church of Oromia).
An Example for the Habeshanization Process of the Agaw
During the Oromo liberation movement against the Habeshanization of the Oromo by the Christian Kingdom in southern Oromia in the 16th century, the entire Amharinya-speaking Christian population had to flee and cram in a small corner constituted of Tigrai and the territory north of Blue Nile. Consequently, the Emperor – whose dynasty originated in Amhara-Angot-Shoa, having lost his base population and his power base, had to move the seat of his throne to the newly conquered and Christianized Agaw and Falasha regions north of Lake Tana between Dembiya and Welqait. This region then was known as the new Amhara, signifying not “Amhara tribe” (as the region remained predominantly Agaw), but the centrality of the region from where the Emperor ruled his empire, and consequently the adoption of Amharic – the “lesane Negus” or “the language of the Negus” – which would then spread fast and establish its supremacy together with Orthodox Christianity. That was also where the Emperor founded his new capital at Gondar. And thus, the new “Amhara” between Dembiya and Welqait has been thoroughly conquered, Christianized and Amharized permanently cutting out any Tigrai influence west of Tekezie at that time.
The capital city of Agawia is Gondar – the ancient capital of Abyssinia. Gondar is now a city and separate woreda. It is located north of Tana Lake on the Lesser Angereb River and southwest of the Simien Mountains. It has a latitude and longitude of 12°36′N 37°28′E with an elevation of 2133 meters above sea level. Gondar previously served as the capital of both the Abyssinian Empire and the subsequent Begemder province. The city holds the remains of several royal castles, including those in Fasil Gibbi (the royal enclosure), for which Gondar has been called the “Camelot of Africa.”
The Land and Its Topography
Most of the western, southern and central Agawia is green fertile land. Centuries of erosion, deforestation and overgrazing have left some parts of the land, specially the eastern part with dry and treeless plains, hills and plateaus. Nevertheless, an amazing landscape of chains of mountains ranging from 3,250-4,300 meters, cliffs, ledges and precipice are natural attractions of the region. Two altitude extremes: the elevation of the region rises from 600-4,300 meters above sea level, the Tekeze Gorge, 550 meters above sea level, the “Kisad Gudo” peak at 3,935 meters above sea level and Rasdashin mountain more than 4,300 meters are among Agawia’s natural scenery which is classified into the central highland, the western lowland and eastern escarpments. The climate of the state is characterized as “Qolla” (semi arid), “Woyina Dega” (warm temperate), and “Dega” (temperate). The average annual rainfall is between 450-980 mm. Blue Nile, Angereb, Tekeze and Mereb are international rivers that pass through Agawia with their sources in the Agawia and Eritrean Mountains. Blue Nile and Tekeze are promising sources of hydroelectric power. Agawia is one of the richest areas in the Horn in mineral resources. Some of the explored metallic minerals of the state include gold, copper, iron ore, zinc, lead, nickel, Asbestos, Silica sand, Kaolin, graphite, gypsum gemstone, marble, granite slate, limestone and dolomite are among the non-metallic minerals.
The Agaw speak Agaw language of different dialects in the four enclaves of Agawia as listed below. Agaw-Awngi (spoken by the Awi), Xamtanga (spoken by the Xamta), Qemnaty (spoken by the Qemant), and, of course, Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre, which are also Afro-Asiatic languages, but of the Semitic branch, are spoken by most assimilated ones. The Agaw dialects are part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. The survived subgroups: the Northern Agaw are known as Bilen, capital Keren; the Western Agaw are known as Qemant, capital Gondar; the Eastern Agaw are known as Xamta, capital Soqota; and the Southern Agaw are known as Awi, capital Injibara. All who became the victims of the Assimilation process do speak Amharinya in Gondar and Lasta as well as Tigrinya in Tigrai and Eritrea.
Mostly Orthodox, syncretistic form of Christianity; Christo-pagan Religion; and traditional Cushitic Religion (belief in one Adera = God). From all Agaw, the Qemant have close historical ties with the Beta Israel and had a Hebraic religion, with elements of Judaism. Now only 1% adhere to the Qemant religion, and 99% of them are Orthodox.
In their traditional religion, the Qemant believe in one God, assisted by angels, heroes and holy figures. Spirits and genii loci also play important roles in spiritual life. The Qemant pantheon also adopted (and adapted) biblical figures like Adam and Eva, Cain and Abel, Noah and his wife, Abraham and Moses. However, they do not possess any written literature. They believe in souls, in good and evil, in judgment day and in everlasting life in heaven. God is good, but can be violent, too. Prayers sanctify and keep Saytan away. Hermits (maheyen) were highly venerated in the past. Ritual places (shuwen sebra) are always located on hilltops, in sacred groves (degna). Each one is dedicated to cultural heroes.
According to the tradition, the sacred groves are innumerable, from Canaan to Oromia. Traditional Qemant pray when getting up (shuwen faynu), before drinking and eating (gawten), before and after work (qidus) and at bedtime. They fast from the eve until the end of each ceremony. They observe a strict law of purity, limiting contacts with their non-Qemant neighbourhood. The same can be said for their diet: they do not eat pork, fish or wounded animals, and do not mix flesh with milk. With their Jewish neighbours, who also observed strict dietary laws, they could share the injera (traditional crepe), fruits and vegetables. As for whether religion is given by birth, proselytism was not practiced, but conversion was permitted. The religion of the Qemant people is comprised of traditional, many Hebraic and some Christian elements that cannot be summarized by one definition; religious practice and beliefs form a whole which is proper to them.
The Agaw are perhaps first mentioned in the 3rd-century AD Aksumite inscription and recorded by Cosmas Indicopleustes in the 6th century. The inscription refers to a people called “Athagaus” (or Athagaous), perhaps from Ad Agaw, meaning sons of Agaw. The Athagaous first turn up as one of the peoples conquered by the unknown king who inscribed the Monumentum Adulitanum. The Agaw are later mentioned in an inscription of the 4th-century Agaw-Aksumite King Ezana and 6th-century Agaw King Kaleb. Based on this evidence, a number of experts embrace a theory first stated by Edward Ullendorff and Carlo Conti Rossini that they are the original inhabitants of much of the northern Oromian highlands, and were mostly assimilated and converted to the Semitic-speaking Tigray-Tigrinya and Amhara peoples. Cosmas Indicopleustes also noted in his Christian Topography that a major gold trade route passed through the region of Agaw.
The area referred to seems to be an area west of the Tekezé River and just south of the Semien Mountains, perhaps around Lake Tana. The survived Agaw currently speak Agaw language in a number of scattered enclaves, which include the Bilen in and around Keren in Eritrea; the Qemant and the Qwara, who live around Gondar in the north Gondar Zone, west of the Tekezé River and north of Lake Tana; a number of Agaw live south of Lake Tana, around Dangila in the Agaw Awi Zone; and another group speak Agaw language around Soqota in the former province of Wollo. The Cushitic speaking Agaw people ruled as non-Solomonic dynasty during the Zagwe dynasty of Oromia from about 900 to 1270. The name of the dynasty itself comes from the Ge’ez phrase Ze-Agaw (meaning ‘of Agaw’), and refers to the Agaw people.
Most of cultural elements – now known as that of Amhara and Tigrai peoples – originally belong to the Agaw. The iskista of Gondar is that of Qemant-Agaw; the drum beat of Tigrai is that of Axumite Agaw; the Qedassie in Orthodox church is overtaken from Agaw’s traditional religion; the Ashenda, now celebrated in Tigrai, is a typical Agaw-Cushitic culture … etc. Qedassie, i.e. ‘make Holy’ – is the central ritual of Agaw religious tradition. It is performed weekly (Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays), for monthly and annual festivals, as well as for funerals. Its general structure is simply modified to fit each occasion. For tazkar, the ritual is the most complete. The performance of Qedassie is strictly devoted to the priests of the Agaw traditional religion: the congregation has no other function than to attend to the ceremony. Ashenda or Shadey (a tradition similar to Ingiccaa of the Oromo) is a festival celebrated in August in the whole Agawia. Ashenda now marks the end of a two-week-long fast known as Filseta, when adherents of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church gather to honour the Virgin Mary.
Ashenda is an Agawinya word, meaning tall green grass, estimated at around 80–90 cm minimum height. In the tradition of this religious festival, blades of grass are strewn on the floors of homes and shops as a kind of welcome mat. The festivity of Ashenda has no common name throughout the country. For instance, in Enderta, historically, it is known as Ashenda, and is colorfully celebrated on August 16-21. In Wag Hemra zone, it is called Shaday, and in Raya Qobo (Agaw influenced Oromo Region), it’s known as Solel – and it is celebrated on August 16. In Adigrat town, it is called Mariya – and it is celebrated August 15–17. In Aksum town, it is called Ayniwari, and it is celebrated August 23–25. The festival of Ashenda has cultural, religious and economic importance, and encourages industriousness. Once traditionally a young girls’ festival, it has since gained widespread recognition and popularity in Agawia.
Resources and Economy
About 85% of the population are farmers. Teff, wheat, corn, sorghum, barely niger seed, flaxseed and sesame are the main crops. Other agricultural products include pulses, beans, lentils, onions, vegetables and fruits and potatoes. Irrigation and terrace farming are used on the steep slopes. The region is also known for its export items of cotton, incense, sesame and minerals. Millions of hectares of land in the Agawia is cultivable, of which about two million hectares is being cultivated, while 850,000 hectares of land is terraced. Handicraft (gold smith, painting and wood sculptures) is another area of activity observed in the historic cities of the state. Industry is still minimal, but growing, some of the industry include equipment manufacturing and industrial engineering companies. There are also a pharmaceutical factory, a textile factory, a cement factory, a laser tanning factory, a marble cutting factory, a flour mill factory, a nail factory, a
water purification factory, and a small shoe factory are some of them. Most new enterprises are small and medium scale. The industrial including mining and quarry manufacturing has grown, which incorporates water, electric and construction activities. Power supply, until recently, was dependent on generators, however, by the 1998 summer, the scheme to connect the region to the national grid was completed. The Tekeze project, which is expected to generate about 310 megawatt, has improved power supply of the region. Telecommunications have also improved over the past few years.
The fundamental political objective of the Agaw people is to exercise their inalienable right to national self-determination, to liberate themselves from a century of oppression and exploitation, and to form, where possible, a political union with other nations on the basis of equality, respect for mutual interests and the principle of voluntary associations. The union they want to foster can be named as Ethiopia, Cushland, Oromia, Agawia or otherwise. Agaw-Midir and its people are victims of the last three millennia anti-Cushitism. Agaw nationalists struggle to stop this Ethio-phobic Ethiopiawinet. We all know that true Ethiopia = Cush. Since thousands of years ago, systematic anti-Cushitism is going on. The Western elites and their Abyssinian friends did build Ethio-phobic Ethiopia (i.e. anti-Cushitic Ethiopia) with 3000 years pseudo “glorious history.” The main features of this Ethio-phobic Ethiopian movement are:
– denying Cushitic civilization and/or giving it to the other non-Cushitic nations; e.g. both Egypt civilization and Axum civilization are attributed to the Semites.
– Cushitic leaders are given fake ancestry, so that they claimed to be from Solomon dynasty; thus all Agaw kings, who ruled Axum empire are taken as non-Agaw Semites from Solomon origin.
– Cushitic culture and languages are undermined in a Cushitic country like today’s Oromia; so what has happened is a cultural and linguistic genocide on Agaw people.
– Cushitic religion, i.e believing in one Adera (similar to Waaqefeanna) is systematically weakened.
– the main Cushitic languages, Afan Oromo and Agawinya, are yet purposely denied the status of federal working language, just to undermine the Cushitic cultural heritage of Oromia.
– Cushitic peoples are purposely classified into other categories; e.g. all the so called Omotic and Ethiosemetic are actually Cushites.
– the Habeshanized elites, being masked with Ethiopiawinet, are still fighting against the liberation forces of the Cushites; their version of Ethiopiawinet is actually Ethio-phobic.
– true Ethiopiawinet (Kushawinet) loves, for example, Agaw and Agawinet, but the Habeshanized elites preach Ethiopiawinet, which is in practice Agaw-phobic.
Because of this confusion regarding pseudo-Ethiopiawinet vs. true Ethiopiawinet, the Oromo nationals have already prefered calling the current Ethiopia as Oromia, just like their re-naming of Addis Ababa to Finfinne. The Agaw nationals also don’t have to accept the de-Cushiticized pseudo-Ethiopia, but struggle for the renaissance of the true Ethiopiawinet with all its Cushitic elements; of course, on the grave of the now flourishing Habeshawinet as the main component of their daily preached Ethio-phobic Ethiopiawinet. Two of the Cushitic elements to be revived are the Agaw culture and Agaw language in the whole Agaw-Midir, not only in the small enclaves now speaking Agawinya.