Ashenda celebrations are normally held around this time of year in Ethiopia but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I expect the big celebrations in Mekelle will not be taking place. So here's an interesting film about Ashenda that was made during the 2017 celebrations in Mekelle.
Three days of freedom - Women's Ashenda celebration in Mekelle Tigray
The filmakers say: Ashenda is an age-old women’s culture that was in the process of disappearing. Originally celebrated in highland Ethiopia and Eritrea in August every year, this documentary tells the story about one particular attempt to revive this culture in the regional capital of Tigray, Mekelle. Here groups of girls and young women come from all parts of the region to celebrate their freedom for three days. Presented from both a cultural and religious perspective in light of recent research, participants also tell about the value Ashenda has for them.
The documentary gives voice to different stakeholders like the Women’s Association of Tigray who revived this dying culture in order to forward women’s issues, Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau who utilises it as a tourist attraction in the pursuit of economic growth and wants to register it in UNESCO, and a music expert who envisions it being developed into an opera.
This documentary is a collaboration between the Mekelle-based filmmaker Tewodros Hailemikael and the Norwegian visual anthropologist Thera Mjaaland. It was shot during the Ashenda celebration in Mekelle, August 2017 [2009 E.C.].
Duration: 46:42 minutes.
Language: Tigrinya with English sub-titles.
Production: Selina Studio, Mekelle, March 2018 [2010 E.C.].
Distribution: Theram Production, Bergen.
I'm not sure Ashenda was really in danger of disappearing, but it's certainly become a lot more commercialised in the past few years in an attempt to draw in the tourists. Different districts have different dates for Ashenda, it starts in Aksum a week later than it does in Mekelle, and in some areas it lasts for five days, rather than three.
Aster Tekeste sings Ashenda (ኣሸንዳ) - 2018
And here's a nice music video from Tigray making it clear that lipstick and hair extensions are not to be worn by the daughters of Ashenda!