Ethnic Raya Wollo girl with her braids and sharpened teeth at Hayk market. Ethiopia.The Raya Wollo people, sometimes called Raya Oromo are agricultural and music-loving Cushitic Oromo people but now mixed with small amalgamated Tigre and Amhara bloodlines living in the Debubawi Zone of the current Tigray Regional State at the eastern edge of the Ethiopian highlands in Ethiopia.
Historically, the Raya Wollo (Raya Oromo), with the Yejju Oromo, are the northernmost groups of the Oromo people and are a part of the Wollo Oromo Tribe. Their women especially are known by their distinctive hair-braiding styles and facial tattoos.
The Wollo Oromo (particularly the Raya Oromo and Yejju Oromo) were early Oromo holders of power among the increasingly mixed Ethiopian state. The later north-to-south movement of central power in Ethiopia led to Oromos in Shewa holding power in Ethiopia together with the Shewan Amhara. "In terms of descent, the group that became politically dominant in Shewa – and Subsequently in Ethiopia – was a mixture of Amhara and Oromo; in terms of language, religion and cultural practices, it was Amhara.
Currently, Debubawi Zone/Raya-Azebo woreda (county) is bordered on the south by Alamata, on the southwest by Ofla, on the northwest by Endamehoni, on the north by Hintalo Wajirat, and on the east by the Afar Region. The administrative center of this woreda (county) is Mersa; other town in Raya-Azebo includes Weyra Wuha.
Despite their historic resistance against dominance (read any literature on Ethiopian history, the Raya Oromo revolt given below is mentioned as the first revolt against the Teferi government as early as the late 1920′s and as the predecessor of the Bale Oromo revolt), Raya’s ties with the rest of Oromia have weakened due to years of wars in that part of the region. Today, the challenge should be given to Oromo artists to produce music of the Raya in Afan Oromo; music serves as a cultural ambassador as well as a path to reconnect to one’s historic past (heritage). It’s also paramount that the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) set up a session during its annual meeting to deliberate on the history of Raya Oromo and on ways to bring about the renaissance of Oromummaa in Raya.
Why the name Raya Wollo?
Wollo was an historical region and province in the northeastern part of Ethiopia, with its capital city at Dessie. The province was named after the Wollo Oromo, who settled in this part of Ethiopia in the 17th century. An older name for Wollo is Lakomelza.
Following the invasion by Britain that toppled Italian colonial authority in 1941, the provinces of Amhara Sayint, Azabo, Lasta, Raya Province, Wag, and Yejju were added to Wollo. A number of peasant rebellions rocked Wollo, which included the Woyane rebellion in 1943, and revolts of the Yejju Oromo in 1948 and 1970. With the adoption of the new constitution in 1995, Wollo was divided between the Afar Region, which absorbed the part of the province that extended into the Afar Depression; the Tigray Region, which annexed the northwestern corner; and the Amhara Region, which absorbed the remainder of the province in the Ethiopian highlands.
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah