Old gourd, Dorze, Ethiopia


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Old gourd, Dorze, Ethiopia
Dimensions :
Ø  17 cm
H 24 cm

African calabashes

The calabash is probably the first domesticated plant in Africa, predating cereals such as sorghum and millet. But the traditions that have maintained the cultivation of the calabash over the centuries (for consumption but above all for making containers) are falling into disuse, victims of changes in lifestyle and cheap plastic containers.


The gourds of Dorze Country in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia

The gourds are made by a tannery craftsman, Degala, from the Dorze country in the province of Gamo Gofa. His casted status makes him a figure on the fringes of society, whose contact should be avoided although his work is indispensable to the whole community. His knowledge, passed on by his father and mother, has earned him a reputation as an artist that goes beyond the limits of his own competence. He collects the fresh gourds, dries them by hanging them inside a small house, where they take on their more or less dark colour, usually red-brown, over time. He engraves the patterns with a punch according to traditional patterns for ordinary objects. He can also show a creative sense.

The calabash is used to drink dana beer, mas milk, to preserve also the toasted beans that are occasionally offered; with coffee in particular. It is a personal object that deserves careful care. Unlike other ordinary utensils, it is displayed on the interior walls of the house. Broken, it is not thrown away, but repaired, not by gluing, but by sewing.

In Éthiopie d’aujourd’hui, La terre et les hommes, Musée de l’homme, 1975

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