Museum Security Network

Ethiopia: illegal sales threaten sacred relics

Ethiopia: illegal sales threaten sacred relics

Geplaatst op vrijdag 19 oktober 2007 – 12:00
Redactie AfrikaNieuws
Tedla Desta, AfricaNews reporter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Waka, wooden memorial statues to the dead are under threat due to illegal sales of this relic. The statues are pecial to the Ethiopian Konso people. Some community members of the Konso say that due to the very systematic and illegal theft and sale of Waka, it is becoming difficult to find a single Waka in the yards.

“Many years ago Waka was abundantly found in the area but now due to the implicit theft and trade, most places have become bare. The attempts of the officials and elders to educate and advise the community were not fruitful,” a young community member said.

Waka is placed in and around the fields, where the dead person used to live. The usual ranges of the male Waka are between 40 -50 cm and 35 to 45 cm for females. These stylized wooden carvings are found in groups, representing the man, his wives and his languished adversaries. It was also erected to a dead man who has killed an enemy or a fierce animal such as a lion or leopard.

“The Waka is produced by order when an individual dies. Otherwise, it is not produced for commercial purposes, which is forbidden. The Craftsmen form a distinct social class in our community”, he added.

In most cases, the dead are usually represented in the centre of the waka group flanked by their wives. On the surroundings stand any enemies he might have killed, covered in an abstract and phallic fashion. “The first people who began buying the waka were tourists coming to visit the area, directly from the communities. But currently the sale is conducted through unknown agents and brokers”, another member added.

Currently, a single Waka is being sold for 100 to 300 dollars. According to the residents, the illegal trade requires quick intervention.

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