Colour Terms and their Dynamics in Gedeo

Authors: Ongaye Oda Orkaydo, Yetebarek Hizekeal Zekareas (Dilla University, Ethiopia)
Speaker: Yetebarek Hizekeal Zekareas
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


This article explores the colour terms and their dynamics among the Gedeo, Cushitic speaking people in south Ethiopia. Based on the findings of the study, the Gedeo have their native nomenclatures for the universally recognized basic colour categories except for the basic colour term blue. The analysis goes beyond the description of the basic colour terms in that it further addresses colour-costume and colour-religion interfaces. The Gedeo indigenous costume has manifold colours with various meanings associated to each colour even though, colour composition and dressing style have been highly influenced by cultural contact and structural forces. The analysis of the colour-religion interface shows that the Gedeo believe in Mageno- the only supernatural being that manifests itself with/in/of the nature. As in several Cushitic speaking communities in Ethiopia, the Gedeo perceive that the colour of the supernatural being (Mageno) is black. However, “modern” religions, especially Christianity, have shifted the local perception of the supernatural being from having the basic colour term black to having the basic colour term white. Moreover, Christianity has introduced the black as a colour depicting devil that the Gedeo have never used before.

Keywords: colour terms, religion, costume, Gedeo, Ethiopia