Philosophy in... Afaan Oromo
Updated: Apr 19
“Philosophy is thinking and need not presuppose writing. Writing presupposes thinking”
In this interview, Professor Workineh Kelbessa discusses his life and work in environmental ethics and indigenous intellectual traditions, especially those of the Oromo people. We discuss the location of Oromo philosophy in the wider Ethiopian context, and Ethiopian philosophy in its African context, examining the interplay of orality and literacy, critique and tradition, independence and conformity within these traditions. In addition to our usual ten term wordlist, Professor Kelbessa has provided an expanded wordlist of Oromo philosophical terms focusing on environmental ethics as an appendix, along with suggestions for further reading.
I - Studying Philosophy in Socialist Ethiopia
I thought we might start with a question about your own philosophical formation, as a way into the broader philosophical topics. You grew up during the middle years of the DERG, the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC) that ruled Ethiopia, then including present-day Eritrea, from 1974 to 1987. What opportunities were there for an aspiring young philosopher at this time?
My high school experience influenced my future development and learning. When I was a high school student, I had the opportunity to read the interpretations of the works of Karl Marx and other writers in the Amharic language. From 1982 to August 1984, I was the chairperson of the primary youth association Revolutionary Ethiopian Youth Association in a place called Amaro Kebele in Ambo District, West Shewa, Ethiopia. It also gave me the opportunity to read some philosophical writings and engage in different levels of debate.
The Revolutionary Ethiopian Youth Association (REYA) was established in 1980 by the Ethiopian Provisional Military Government in Proclamation No. 187 of 1980. Among other purposes, the proclamation was designed to enable the young generation “to join hands with the champions of the broad masses and to contribute its due share in the struggle to build People’s Democratic Ethiopia in which justice and equality prevail.” After its establishment, REYA participated in a literacy campaign, military service, the construction of homes for old people and persons with disabilities, the construction of halls and offices, cleaning the cities, cleaning springs, planting trees, teaching the people about socialism, and other social services and public works. During the military regime, young people between the ages of 18 and 30 were required to join the Revolutionary Ethiopian Youth Association.
Soda Volcano, Oromia, Ethiopia
My colleagues and I used both Afaan Oromo and Amharic languages to teach peasant farmers and the members of our youth association about the nature of socialism and the philosophical theories of Marx and others. This regular practice helped me broaden my horizons. So, philosophy excited me more than anything else I read. I was interested in debates, arguments, and other issues that affect our life. Philosophy was one of the subjects I wanted to study at university. But my biggest worry was finding a rewarding job after university. There have been few careers in philosophy directly linked to philosophy degrees in Ethiopia at that time, as was the case elsewhere. In spite of this, I studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia from 1984 to 1988.
What was AAU philosophy like when you studied? Was African Philosophy a major component of your education, and what was its relation to other, more traditionally philosophical and/or Marxist concerns?
When I was an undergraduate from 1984 to 1988, I did not take any course in Ethiopian and African philosophy. At that time, our department offered courses in Marxism-Leninism and continental philosophy. Among other courses, we studied the history of philosophy (ancient to contemporary), logic, political philosophy, philosophy of natural sciences, aesthetics, ethics, fundamentals of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, historical materialism, dialectical materialism, Marxian political economy (reading Das Kapital I and II), philosophical principles of a socialist economy, history of socialist thought (origins of socialism, Lenin and revolution, Marx and revolution, Marxism and the Third World, Marxism and advanced capitalism), seminar on scientific socialism, contemporary philosophy, etc. Philosophy majors were also required to take two courses in history (introduction to the modern world from the end of the Middle Ages to 1848 and from 1848 to 1945) and general psychology.
After reading about the historical connection between ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophy, I became interested in African philosophy. I started to read some works on Ethiopian and African philosophy. Professor Claude Sumner, a Canadian Professor of Philosophy who worked at Addis Ababa University from 1953 to 2001, introduced me to various African philosophersgr including the late Henry Odera Oruka of Kenya, who sent me two of his books, Trends in Contemporary African Philosophyand Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy. I started to work closely with this illustrious philosopher. He was always so generous with his time and so full of new insights. His encouragement and constructive criticism have significantly impacted my research into African philosophy. In 1993, I published an article on “The African Source of Greek Pdepartmenthilosophy” in the Journal of African Religion and Philosophy, and Professor Sumner invited me to his house to celebrate my first publication. I was charmed by his colleagues and they made me feel very much at home, and this encouraged me to conduct my research on African philosophy, which I have continued to work on developing my research into the vast amount of unrecorded, often rapidly disappearing indigenous knowledge.
Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
How did you start your research on Environmental Ethics?
While pursuing my research into African philosophy, I felt a need to study indigenous environmental ethics in an attempt to understand the worldviews of African peasant farmers and other indigenous people after Professor Odera Oruka asked me to write a paper for the 14th International Conference of the World Futures Studies Federation. The next morning, I went to Mr. Dessalegn Rahmato’s office, my former professor, later colleague, and mentor in the Department of Philosophy, where he advised me to write a paper on “traditional perceptions and environmental protection in Ethiopia.” Indeed, it was Mr. Rahmato who first introduced me to the world of indigenous knowledge.
It was at this same conference that I met Professor Robin Attfield from the University of Wales Cardiff (now Cardiff University). Professor Attfield would later become my supervisor when I was doing my PhD at Cardiff, and we have been in touch ever since.
How did you find working on philosophy in a very different culture? In your experience, is philosophy the same discipline everywhere, or does it have significant regional inflections?
Although some philosophy courses had been offered to Addis Ababa University College students since 1951, the Department of Philosophy was established as a minor at Addis Ababa University on 30 January 1963. It operated in the same capacity until the end of the 1976/77 academic year, offering general and common courses, but only in the 1977/1978 academic year did it become possible to major in philosophy. Prior to the 1990s, the Department had placed a strong emphasis on Marxism and continental philosophy, but due to a change in government policy, the department had to close its main programme at the end of the 1989/90 academic year. The Philosophy Department taught two 100-level courses – “Introduction to Logic” and “Introduction to Philosophy” – from 1991 to 2002. After revising the curriculum, the Department reopened its undergraduate programme in 2002, with a stronger emphasis on African philosophy, Ethiopian philosophy, applied ethics, and political philosophy than in say the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. AAU Philosophy is eclectic in both subject matter and approaches to the subject, and the central research interests in the Department of Philosophy cover all the main areas of philosophy.
As for research, whilst philosophers in the UK are expected to attempt to send articles to reputable journals, and are nowadays subject to Research Assessment exercises, in which, besides everyone having to submit their publications, all subjects are required to attest their “impact”. At African universities on the other hand, philosophers often try to contribute to
local journals, and may feel expected to do this, but the pressure to generate research is somewhat less strong than in the UK and Germany. On the other hand, there is a strong interest in Africa in development issues and development ethics. Indeed there is now far more teaching at all these universities in the field of applied ethics than there used to be.
II - Oromo Philosophy in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Philosophy in Africa
What do you think is unique about African philosophy in general? Would you define it with Hountondji as simply ‘philosophy as done by Africans’, or do you think there is a particular approach or subject matter to African philosophy?
I don’t agree with Paulin Hountonji’s view that African philosophy is “philosophy done by Africans,” if he excludes non–African Philosophers who have studied African systems of thought. Such a view seems to ignore the contributions of non-African philosophers to African philosophy. As you know, various non-African philosophers have contributed a lot to African philosophy. To mention only a few examples, Claude Sumner and Daniel Smith at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Gail Presbey at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, A. T. Dalfovo at Makerere University in Uganda, Anke Graness at the Universities of Vienna and Hildesheim in Austria and Germany, respectively, and more. In this connection, I would like to remind you that Odera Oruka considers Claude Sumner “as an African Philosopher” explaining the unique contribution of Sumner in the following words: “I can foresee no scholar of Ethiopian philosophy surpassing or ignoring Sumner’s contributions in the next one hundred years”.
I do however agree with Hountondji and Sumner that African Philosophy exists and develops according to the same pattern “as all the philosophies of the world: in the form of a literature. African Philosophy is no more no less than African Philosophical literature.” However, I don’t consider literacy a necessary precondition for philosophy, as writing presupposes thinking.
As you know, some claim that philosophy is and can only be a ‘written’ enterprise. For them, oral narratives as performances or entertainment cannot sustain analytical and rigorous philosophical dialogue. On this account, literacy is superior to oral tradition. But oral traditions are a major source of social, economic, environmental, and philosophical knowledge in non-literate cultures. They embody values, items of advice or warnings, orders or prohibitions, which are useful for developing an environmental consciousness. Oral tradition is a great school of life. Oral traditions help non-literate people to acquire a wide range of knowledge of various aspects of human beings, their activities, and the natural environment and its inhabitants, which no scientific treatise, textbook, or journal can provide.
It should be noted that philosophy is thinking and does not presuppose writing. Writing presupposes thinking. Thoughts can be expressed in writings or as unwritten sayings and arguments associated with some individual(s). Writing and oral expression cannot be considered thinking qualities, although writing helps to record thoughts for further consideration. Writing does not add a new quality to a thought where it did not exist before and it can just as easily promote uncritical and irrational beliefs and doctrines.
Sanetti Plateau, Oromia, Ethiopia
Furthermore, oral and written forms are not mutually exclusive. The introduction of writing makes the storage and retrieval of knowledge much easier. Writing is also important to conduct research into oral traditions. Written literature also draws on the achievements of oral literature: Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche used proverbs and aphorisms to develop their philosophies, similarly to various Ethiopian philosophers, or to Fon Njoya the Great (1876-1933) in Cameroon.
If one views philosophy as something quite broad—a reflection on ontological and epistemological issues—then there is no doubt that philosophy also occurs in purely oral contexts. Oral narratives can be philosophically analysed. Independent thinkers can also be found in non-literate societies. It is in this sense that I have applied philosophical analysis to oral and written African environmental narratives and worldviews. I think that there are many very different African worldviews, and different African scholars have tried to distill environmental philosophy from the worldviews of their respective ethnic groups.
Given this diversity, do you think there are any questions of substance (rather than the form of expression) characteristic of African Philosophy in general?
Yes, I think so. Unlike mainstream Western philosophy, African environmental philosophy opposes anthropocentrism. Africans believe in the interdependence of human beings, animals, plants, and the natural world. African worldviews regard human beings and the non-human world as extensions of each other. They do not regard the earth as a commodity, but as the source of survival. In African worldviews, well-being is relational, as the well-being of humanity cannot be achieved without the well-being of the earth. They are related. They are part of the same whole. In African worldviews, human beings are in nature and part of nature in balance with the whole. When human beings see themselves as outside of nature, it is purely out of conceptual need and abstraction. The purpose here is to make a conceptual analysis. Even here humans are still in nature.
In Oromo thought, Waaqa (God) and Lafa (Earth) are inseparable, and a dichotomy between the creator and created is opposed. Unlike the Christian God, Waaqa is not a transcendent being completely removed from the natural environment. Saffuu (an ethical code) governs the relationship between Waaqa and Earth, inter-human, and inter-species relationships. The metaphysical basis of an environmental ethic is provided by the following Oromo terms: “Waaqa” (God), “Ayyaana” (spirit), “uuma” (the physical world), and “safuu”. “Ayyaana is a refraction of Waaqa. Uuma is the physical thing. Saffuu mediates between the Ayyaana, which is the ideal, and uuma, which is the physical that needs to be regulated. The three should be understood together”. Uuma also means a creator. For the Oromo, Waaqa created all things. It needs to be emphasized, though, that Africans are not lacking in anthropocentric concerns. They continue to conserve and protect their environment and natural resources for anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric reasons. For example, they use the land wisely because it is partly the source of economic value and has an intrinsic value of its own. The point is that African environmental philosophy does not endorse a purely anthropocentric ethical system of values.
Distribution of speakers of Afaan Oromo in the Horn of Africa
How do you conceive of the location of Ethiopian philosophy with regard to African philosophy more generally: is it one part among many, one of the traditions of African thought, or is it the ground, or basis, as Sumner seems to suggest? If so, is that because of its unique literary tradition, or some other reason?
I think that Ethiopian philosophy is simply one part of African philosophy, expressed in both oral and written language as Sumner argued. Until recently, there were no written texts of African philosophy in other parts of Africa. But of course there have been oral expressions of African philosophy.
Ethiopian philosophical literature is expressed in the ancient Semitic language of Ge’ez. The cultural impact of ancient Greek philosophy comes to an end as far as Ge’ez philosophical literature is concerned with the Treatise of Walda Heywat in the early modern period. Sumner believed that Egypt is the birthplace of philosophy. He claims that the ancient Egyptian “philosophical” source, which developed remarkably
in the Greek-speaking world (Ionia, Magna Graecia, continental Greece) came back to its place of origin, to Africa, to Egypt, during the late Hellenistic period. It travelled from Egypt to Abyssinia first with works written in Egypt, by Ethiopian scholars living in the Skete monastery and translated from Greek to Ge’ez, like the Fisalgwos (the beginning of the middle of the fifth century AD). Then in the first quarter of the 16th century, works like The Book of the Philosophers were translated by an Egyptian monk, Abba Mikael, who had come to Ethiopia with his father.
The Treatise of Zara Yacob, the Hatata, however, departs from all known Ethiopian philosophies: “It is his original work, the fruit of his own personal reflection, and not a translation or an adaptation from foreign sources, as most of Ethiopic literature is. The philosophy developed in his Treatise is clearly rationalistic (in a religious sense)”.
One element of Sumner’s work that is rarely commented on is his account of Oromo sapiential literature – what was the relevance of this work in his larger project, could we describe it as a kind of ethnophilosophy?
Sumner first examined the written expressions of Ethiopian philosophical and sapiential literature in Ge’ez. He stressed that the availability of written documents encouraged him to begin with them and then proceed from them to the unwritten traditions of Ethiopia. He wrote: “This methodological approach in the beginning limits one’s investigation, linguistically to the ancient Semitic language of Ge'ez usually referred to as ‘Ethiopic’ and culturally to the Christian zones of influence on the high plateaus of Ethiopia”.
In the second place, he examines the oral expression of Ethiopian ‘wisdom literature’, namely Oromo proverbs, songs, and folktales. He focused on “Ethiopian Sapiential Literature,” a literature prevalent among the Cushitic Oromo who have no written language. Sumner writes, “I have come to the oral sapiential literature of Ethiopia via its written ‘philosophy’”. Sumner placed great emphasis on Oromo oral literature as part of a philosophical heritage, a position that was considered at odds with Hountonnji in the 1980s and 90s. Sumner used the following methods to present Oromo wisdom literature: gathering of all printed oral texts, English translation, index cards, classification, and synthesis. According to Sumner, “no study on Ethiopian thought would be complete if it limited itself to its written formulation”. Both spoken and written language was used to develop Ethiopian philosophy. The oral expressions of Ethiopian philosophy are an integral part of the cultural heritage of Ethiopia.
Sumner published a three-volume set of Oromo oral literature, including folktales, proverbs, and songs in the 1990s. He explains the difference between figurative logic, which is common in proverbs, and conceptual logic, which starts with known concepts or laws and then leads to the application of new concepts or laws.
Concerning ethnophilosophy, it all depends on what you mean by the term. For me, Sumner’s work on Oromo wisdom literature cannot be described as a kind of ethnophilosophy. Sumner considers himself a historian of Ethiopian Philosophy. Sumner studied the philosophical elements of Oromo proverbs, folktales, and songs. He does not claim that the Oromo people have one unanimous philosophy.
How do you view the import of ethnophilosophical approaches today – does it still have a place?
I don’t think that ethnophilosophy has a place in contemporary African philosophy. I don’t think a particular culture has one unanimous philosophy shared by all its members. I certainly share Hountonji’s view that “African philosophy should not be conceived as an implicit worldview unconsciously shared by all Africans”.
Does your own work on Oromo philosophical thought, especially in environmental ethics, build on Sumner’s approach, or do you consider yours quite different?
Sumner did not specifically study Oromo environmental ethics. He “collected all the texts of Oromo oral literature: proverbs, songs, folktales, which have been printed in various languages: German, Italian, English, and the Amharic transcription. The complete list of these printed sources of Oromo oral literature comprises forty-nine titles”. So, his study of the Oromo worldview was limited to a review of written sources. He did not interview the Oromo sages himself.
In my research, I used some relevant proverbs, songs, and folktales that Sumner collected from various sources. In addition to the literature review, I also conducted fieldwork in different parts of Oromia. I have conducted fieldwork in different parts of Oromia, itself part of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. I focused on the areas in which the Oromo traditions are strongest, particularly in Borana, southern Ethiopia. I have applied both quantitative and qualitative methods of research. During my research, I noticed that the questionnaires were of limited value in allowing the respondent to clearly reveal his or her thoughts and insights about the natural environment. But interviewing, focus group discussion, and observation enable the researcher to understand the values and attitudes of the people towards the environment at a level inaccessible to a questionnaire, and thereby generate indigenous theories of the natural environment and its inhabitants. Therefore, my research is mainly based on qualitative information.
Bale Mountians, Oromia, Ethiopia
I selected knowledgeable elders, religious leaders, indigenous experts in different fields, and other persons in consultation with the local people and government officials at different places. I have examined Oromo values and beliefs through some of the ethical messages found in Oromo oral literature. Unlike modern scientific knowledge and environmental ethics, Oromo indigenous environmental ethics is not found in written form. Oromo environmental ethics is embodied in social norms, myths, legends, religious symbolism, folktales, proverbs, songs, chants, and dramatic rituals of the Oromo culture.
In particular, proverbs can provide unique insights into how environmental knowledge is shaped by a range of ecological, sociocultural, political-economic, and historical factors. Proverbs originate from and reflect the economic, social, and political values of society. Proverbs are the storehouse of knowledge and wisdom about the qualities of the people, the relationships between objects, moral principles, social and political life, pleasure, happiness, God, the world, nature, and the destiny of human beings. Thus, I have employed empirical data to elicit the principles and beliefs of the Oromo people.
That is interesting. So the idea that a group all share the same kind of thought – an idea we might associate with Placide Tempels’ Bantu Philosophy – is out. But what about the idea that there can be joint authorship of philosophical ideas? Can philosophy be the product of a (non-unanimous) group, or does it always have to be the product of a single individual mind? Who exactly did you choose to speak to get this information?
As mentioned above, I did not interview any Oromo professional philosophers, but I interviewed Oromo sages, experts, and religious leaders. In addition to peasant farmers and pastoralists, I also interviewed Oromo intellectuals, agricultural development and extension workers, and environmental theorists, who have conducted extensive research on environmental issues. I read some of the works of environmental theorists and found that interviewing such people on the basis of their work helps the researcher greatly to understand their position and their contribution to the subjects of indigenous knowledge and the natural environment. I have found an interdisciplinary approach to be very useful in researching and understanding the encyclopedic environmental knowledge and ethics of peasant farmers and pastoralists, but subjects that are too often neglected. There have been misconceptions among scholars about indigenous knowledge, and about Africa. Some scholars have made huge generalisations about Africa after studying one or two cultural groups. The myopic view of indigenous knowledge by some scholars has been a real obstacle to the development and understanding of the Oromo environmental ethic. The major significance of my research is that it suggests correcting these misconceptions.
Through the course of my research, I learned that the interviewees who would say they could not answer questions due to cultural and religious reasons also tended to resist philosophical questions. The Socratic tradition of questioning ideas is not easy to use in rural areas where the people are determined to oppose those who question the sanity of longstanding practices and beliefs. In addition, it was not easy to overcome the suspicion of some informants that I might be a government spy. I have done my best to convince respondents by explaining the purpose of the study. Thus, the study of indigenous environmental ethics, where the tradition of the interview and critical examination of the established traditions is not common, requires patience and systematic approaches. The road is far from smooth and easy to drive. Even where fieldwork is conducted, ordinary people are deeply skeptical of its significance. They want to see some positive effects of the research carried out by outsiders in their areas. The people will support the study of indigenous environmental knowledge and ethics provided that they are the beneficiaries of this study. Therefore, researchers and all interested parties should take this into account.
My study is partly based on some years of field research carried out among the Oromo people, the largest indigenous ethnic group in Ethiopia, for it is only of this culture among the cultures of Africa that I have first-hand or inside knowledge through both natural upbringing and deliberate reflective observation. I have a deep and sympathetic interest in the beliefs and values of indigenous people. In my study, I draw on two distinct philosophical traditions, using my training as a student of philosophy in the Western tradition, to the exploration of the indigenous Oromo environmental ethic and Oromo environmental ethics.
As I pointed out earlier, a philosopher can apply philosophical analysis to wisdom literature. S/he can also help a sage in some ways to clarify or generate his/her otherwise implicit ideas by asking various questions. The articulation of the views of the respondents can occur through the joint discussion of a philosopher and local informants from different groups. In this case, it can be said that philosophical thought can be developed through the joint discussions of philosophers and sages. Philosophers have done this for centuries, as they have developed their views in response to their predecessors and the fundamental problems of their respective societies.
While it is not always easy to identify the original authors of proverbs, proverbs were originally the work of individual thinkers who were in turn influenced by the worldviews of their own societies. Societies can use or appropriate individual inventions and see them as their common heritage. This fact shows the progression from individual authorship or composition to communal ownership. It is in this sense that I question the conventional view that proverbs are the communal invention of all members of the community. What I want to emphasize here is that trained philosophers can help focus group members and other sages to remember and express some proverbs that were originally invented by individual thinkers but later adopted by the community.
Why was it essential to conduct your fieldwork in Afaan Oromo?
First, the respondents could not speak English. Second, speaking in a non-Oromo language would simply not enable you to understand the full meaning of the topic being discussed. For instance, without speaking the language, it is impossible to understand the original intonation, gestures, melody, and rhythm of the song, as well as the social context and reactions of the interviewees. Also, unrecorded new proverbs, riddles, songs, and folktales are not accessible to the researcher who cannot speak the language of the local people.
Did you find many problems with translating their ideas into English or Amharic (the language that serves as the lingua franca of Ethiopia)?
Yes, it was very difficult for me to translate some Oromo words into English, as some translations could not capture the entire meaning of various words, and there is no Oromo dictionary dedicated to translating philosophical terms into English. Although the researcher can face similar problems as translating Oromo terms into English, the fact that Afaan Oromo and Amharic languages share many terms in common can help the researcher to overcome the difficulty of translating some common terms. Both languages have borrowed different words from each other. Likewise, other Semitic and Cushitic languages of Ethiopia have been borrowing various words from each other.
What can modern Environmental Philosophers and Scientists learn from Oromo Environmental Philosophy/Ethics?
First of all, the concern to preserve all species and the belief that domestic animals ought to be treated without cruelty; an ethic of preservation and production based on the fact that without production and transformation of nature human life is unthinkable and that a healthy green environment is a sine qua non for the survival of all living things; the importance of a positive rather than purely exploitative relationship with the environment; and an appreciation of the Earth as the mother of life. It offers us a way of understanding our concern for the interests of the present and future generations, the interdependence of human and nonhuman species and the unity of human beings and the natural environment.
Professor Workineh Kelbessa, thank you so much for your time.
III - Oromo Philosophical Wordlist
Truth – Dhugaa, hooda
Mind – Sammuu
The word “sammuu” has different meanings including head; brain, i.e., the mass of the soft grey matter in the head, and the like. Gurbaani suni sammuu gaari qaba. That boy’s mind is very sharp.
Reason – Maddaa Yaadaa, Sababa/ Sababi
Appearance – Muulatuummaa, Bifa
Reality – Dhugaaiina
Eternity – Yerroomartuummaa, Yoomiyuu Kan Jiiratu, Kan Barabaraa
Infinity – Aldaangeesuummaa, Jalqabaafi dhuma kan hin qabne, Lakkoofsa kan hinqabne.
God – Waaqa
Good – Gaarii, Dansaa, Misha, Bayeessa, Baroo, Gameessa (adj)
Gaarii can mean well, fine, and opportune moment. Yero gaari dhufte. You came at the right time.
Gaarumma n. goodness/wellbeing.
“Gaarii ni –Swahili: car, cart. – gaarii harkaa: handcart, whhelbarrow” (Leus with Salvadori, 2006:236).
Dansaa (adj, adv): good, nice, fine, well, okay.
Hujii akka dansaa hojjatte: You have done a good job.
“Dansuma. n. goodness, honesty, kindness” (Leus with Salvadori, 2006:141).
Misha can be defined as well. Misha dubbatte – You spoke well.
Bayeessa adj. well, all right; O.K. (Of health) better.
Baroo adj. good, magnificent, superb, or wonderful.
Gamessa adj. (usu of male) wise.
Gametti adj. (usu of female) wise.
Evil – Hamaa, Hamtuu, Ongofofa, Gadhee (adj.)
Hamaa, Hamtuu, Hammoo, (pl) hammamaa: bad, evil, spoiled, cruel, wicked, dishonest” (Leus with Salvadori, 2006:307).
Hammeenna. n. wickedness, evil, troubles.
Gadhee (adj.) 1. Bad, evil, terrible, or wicked. Gurbaani suni nama gadheedha. This boy is a bad/wicked person. 2. Of poor quality. Mana gadhee ijaare. He built a poor quality house.
Beauty – Bareedina, Miiidhagina, Simboo
Society – Hawaasa
Philosophy - Falaasama
Philosopher - Falaasamataa
Epistemology – Xiinbekuumsa
Metaphysics - Xiindhugomuumaa
Appendix: Extended Oromo Philosophical Lexicon
Waaqa (n) God
Ayyana (n) God’s Creativity in Any Thing, Person or Group; Spirit/Divine Agent, Deity or Divinity, Auspiciousness, Fortune, Blessing
Afuura, Ruhii, Karaamaa (n) Spirit /Devine Agent) (Mekuria, 2009:903).
Ayaantuu (n) A person who knows the ayaana of the days, who is expert in celestial observation and knows how to calculate a horoscope in terms of ayaana
Uuma (n) Creation, Creator
Uumu (v) (used of life) Create, i.e./ cause something to exist or bring into being
Uumama (n) Nature
Dhagna, Qaama, Nafa (n) Body
Naannoo (n) 1. Environment, Surroundings 2. Round 3. Roundabout
AADAA (n) Tradition, Way of life
Qaalluu (n) Hereditary Ritual Officiant “born from God”; a Ritual Expert
Raaga (n) Prophets and Men of Wisdom
Qaro (adj) Wise, Clever, Intelligent, Smart
Qarumaa (n) (f); Qarooma. Ability, Knowledge, Education, Know-how, Practice, Wisdom in the sense of knowing What to Do in Any Situation
Ogummaa (n) Wisdom, Skill or Knowledge, usually in handicraft; Technology
Beekumsa (n) Knowledge
Dhugaa, hooda (n) Truth
Haqa (n) Justice
Eebaa (n) Blessing
Gadaa (n) The Generation Set System
Lafa, Dachee (n) Earth, Land, Territory
Maqaabaas (n) Cycles of Temporal Units
Muuda (n) Anointment
Nagaa or Nagaya (n) Peace, Happiness, Safety, Health; Peace with God, People, and the Natural Environment
Sababa/ Sababi (n) Reason
Muuxannoo (n) Experience
Sammuu, Qaroo, Dandeettii waa Yaaduu (n) Mind
Yaaduu, Abbaaluu (v) Think, Meditate, Consider, Imagine, Reflect, Contemplate, Plan
Yaada – Yaadda (n) Thinking , Thought, Opinion, Preoccupation
Qorataa/ Xiinxala adj. Researcher, Investigator (male). Analyst.
Qorattuu/Xiinxalttuu adj. Researcher, Investigator (female). Analyst.
Xiinxalluu v. Analyze, Investigate
Lubbuu (n) 1. Soul, Spirit, Life Force. 2. Throat, Neck, Windpipe, Larynx
Jiruu, Jireenya (n) Life, Existence
Soba, Kijiba, Dhara (n) False
Hawaasa (n) Society
Sabbaa (n) People
Nama (n) 1. People/Persons 2. Human Being 3. Fellow Countryman
Namumma (n) Person, i.e. Physique and General Appearance
Birmaduu (n) A Free Person, i.e., One Who is Not classified as a “slave”, Unmixed or “Pure”
Ummata (n) Human Beings, Masses, or People
Jamaa (n) People
Liiban (n) People
Horii (n) 1. Money; Property or Wealth 2. Livestock
Bineensa Bosonaa (n) Wildlife Bineensa (n) Wild Animal, Also Small insects in general, weeds, wild grass.
Gaarii, Dansaa, Misha, Bayeessa, baroo, gameessa (adj) Good
Hamaa, Hamtuu, Ongofofa, Gadhee (adj) Evil
Mammaaksa (n) Proverb
Saffuu (n) Mutual relationships in the cosmic order, Moral Principle
Sakkoo (n) Ethics
Sona, Gatii (n) Value
Uumamuumaan Kan waa wajjin jiru – Intrinsic
Waan tokko raaw’chuf akka meeshaatti kan itti fayyadaman - Instrumental
IV - Endnotes and Further Reading
Gamta, Tilahun. 1989. Oromo-English Dictionary. Addis Ababa: AAU Printing Press.
Hountondji, Paulin J. 2009. “Knowledge of Africa, Knowledge by Africans: Two Perspectives on African Studies.” RCCS Annual Review 80.
International Labour Organization. 1986. Youth Employment and Youth Employment Programmes in Africa: A Comparative Sub-Regional Study: The Case of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: Jobs and Skills Programme for Africa.
Kelbessa, Workineh. 1993. "The African Source of Greek Philosophy." Journal of African Religion and Philosophy 2(2):14-23.
Kelbessa, Workineh. 1994. “Foreign Influence and Its Impact on Ethiopian Philosophy,” in Marcus, Harold G. (ed.). New Directions in Ethiopian Studies. Ethiopia 94. Papers of the 12th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies. Vol. 1. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press, Inc., pp. 440-450.
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 Odera Oruka (1990)  Odera Oruka (1991)  Odera Oruka (1997:159)  Kelbessa, (2018:213)  Sumner (2001:429)  Ibid p.434.  Sumner (1994a) p.419.  Ibid p.432  Ibid p.418, emphasis added  Hountondji (2009) p.4-5.  Sumner (1994a) p.420