The Art 404 exhibition design class designed the exhibit Bareedina: Women of Oromia, based on their art history professor’s dissertation. Dr. Peri Klemm traveled to Ethiopia as a graduate student to conduct research for her dissertation. The question turned out to be why women who were so poor spent so much time and energy on the arts of the body, which included hairstyles, tattoos, dress, jewelry and generally the ensemble of things that make up body art.
“The Oromo are the ethnic majority within Ethiopia but they have lived under Ethiopian imperial rule,” Klemm said. “It is within this context, where issues of identity are crucial, that women’s costume in Oromia becomes especially important.”
In the Afaan Oromo language, Bareedina refers to the state of being beautiful, Klemm said. “I realized that for an Oromian woman, her personal arts are very important for a variety of reasons,” Klemm said. “They communicate something about her age, her religion, her occupation, what political affiliation she holds and most importantly her identity as an Oromio.”
Klemm added that it’s through language, culture and art that they maintain a sense of themselves. “Women’s bodies become a really important canvas for Oromo identity and Oromo expression,” Klemm said. She said she took the photos in the exhibit to document what women are doing with their bodies. Joan Klemm, Peri’s aunt, said she thought the photographs are beautiful.
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