by Paulina Guskowski & Lea Richelshagen
On 23/11/2017 we organized a multisensory exhibition as part of the seminar East Africa: Local Finesse – Global Entanglements. Our aim was to connect two topics that had been presented in the seminar – anthropology of the senses and agro-pastoralism in Arbore (Southern Ethiopia) – in a creative and vivid way. We wanted to achieve this by using methods of the anthropology of the senses to present agro-pastoralism in Arbore and created a concept which addresses all senses known to us. Our focus was on the cultivation of sorghum and cattle husbandry.
We would like to thank Christina Gabbert for providing all objects and photos, as well as for the opportunity to hold such a seminar session. Thanks also to Roman Loimeier for letting us use his room and of course to all our fellow students, who showed great interest and asked many questions.
In Arbore music is essential in many ways. That is why we definitely needed to have music in our exhibition. The entire exhibition is accompanied by Gobba, a song of the Arbore, which represents the dedication of young men to the cattle. The translation of the song can be found in the cattle section of the room.
The two photo series represent the division of the exhibition room in the two thematic areas of sorghum cultivation and cattle husbandry and therefore offer orientation for the visitors. We decided to present the photos without descriptive texts. Thus the viewer is not distracted and can think more freely about what the photo is showing. By looking closely, the visitor sees that both thematic areas are interdependent and show cycles of days and seasons.
Generally, there is a special smell in the room simply because of the objects in the exhibition. Furthermore, a calabash from Arbore is hanging on the wall. Since aromatic glowing wood is used for the daily disinfection, the calabash has a very special smell. In Arbore, people drink milk out of it. The use of the aromatic wood gives a smoky taste to the milk.
In one corner of the exhibition room we laid out a cowhide and set up small stools. In Arbore people sit on cowhides in the evening to share milk and sorghum rolls. Every student present has their own piece of bread. A milk-filled calabash is handed around and each person drinks a sip of it. Every interested visitor of the exhibition is invited to participate.
At this station the students are able to form cows out of clay, as the children in Arbore do. We also provided aluminium wire to allow participants to craft rings, bracelets and earrings. Furthermore, a bowl of sorghum is provided to touch it. Some of the students use sorghum to decorate the cows they had moulded.