Monday, March 1, 2010
March 1 marked the crowning of a new 'ugaas' for the Ciise clan of Somalis. Djibouti is made up primarily of Ciise so this was a huge deal. I'm still learning about the concept of an 'ugaas.'
The ugaas is the head of all the sultans for the Ciise clan. I didn't even know there were sultans so I've got a lot to learn. I can't find much on-line and am getting really contradictory anticdotes from Djiboutian friends so I am not promising this post will be highly accurate.
The ugaas is partly elected by clan elders, partly appointed by his father and partly chosen based on his character, personality and physical appearance. The last ugaas died fifteen years ago and the hunt for a new one has been on since then. At the same time, the new ugaas is supposedly the dead ugaas's son so I'm not sure how they lost this all important man for fifteen years. They may have just been waiting for him to grow up as the new one is only 17-years old.
There were two men for the elders to choose between and according to one friend, this kid, Mustafa, was chosen because he was taller and ugaases are supposed to be tall. Also, he was chosen because of a sort of test. The two guys were sent to different locations and the one who was able to call down rain also happened to be the taller of the two - both requirements were met and he was the chosen one.
His official job function is to be a guardian of Ciise culture and religion. He has an intimate connection with Allah and is able to bring rain and other blessings. Some people see him as a sort of mediator between humans and Allah.
Our landlord and his family went to Somaliland for the ceremony. They left a day early and slept in an open courtyard with tons of other people in order to get a close up view. They borrowed our camera and we now have priceless pictures and video of this unique and fascinating ceremony.
You can't see it very well in the first photo (shows up better in video, but our internet is too slow to load that) but he was wearing suit pants, a nice shirt and had a milk bag slung over one shoulder. A milk bag is made from the skin of a goat and maintains the goat's shape including the legs, neck and tail. Flourescent pink tassles are sewn on to it and it is carried by nomads. I loved the contrast of modern and traditional.
The second picture is of traditional dancing. Watching men dance is a lot of fun and really rare.
The third photo is the ugaas - he is the young man in the middle.
Posted by Rachel Pieh Jones at 10:02 AM