A group of Oromo Ethiopian people, the third largest ethnic group in Africa, celebrated their Thanksgiving, Irreechaa on Sunday at the Botanical Garden in Emmarentia, Johannesburg.
The ceremony celebrates the blessings granted to them by Waaqa (God). “Irreechaa is one of the intangible heritages of the Oromo people,” said Mengistead Teshome in an article published by AllAfrica.
Irreechaa plays a crucial role in unifying the Oromo people. “The Oromos celebrate the Irreechaa irrespective of their religious backgrounds. Whether they are Waaqeffataa, Christian or Muslims, they participate in the festival,” said Teshome.
The event was held on one of the side banks of the Botanical Garden’s lake consisting trees providing shade. Observers braaied meat and enjoyed refreshments in the shade. They donned colourful cultural attire in colours such as white, black, green and red.
These colours are symbolic for the Oromos. White is a colour used to symbolise peace, said one of the participants. “We [the Oromos] are peaceful people,” he added.
The Oromos present also danced and sang for the entire duration of the celebration. As is customary, they later shared food that some people had brought with them.
The main festival takes place every year on the 2nd of October in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, by the natural lake of Hora-Arsedi near which several deaths occurred last year.
The deaths were caused by a “stampede triggered by security forces’ use of tear gas and discharge of firearms in response to an increasingly restive crowd,” according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
According to the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s latest population census, the Oromo people make up to 34.4 percent of the about one hundred and five million Ethiopian population.