Traditionally, Oyda society is hierarchical, divided into three major groups along occupation and clan membership (cf. Dereje 2003). One of the three groups is the Mala, whose members come from the Oydina and Debina clans; these constitute traditional ruling families, and from one of them the ritual king (kaati) originates (cf. also Klausberger 1976: 101-102). Members of the second group, the Tsoma, comprise the majority of the society. They represent different clans and are occupationally farmers. The third group, Mana, consists of craftsmen (potters and smiths) only. Traditionally, the latter are marginalized; they are allowed only in-group marriage and are not supposed to own cattle and farmland, and they settle in peripheral areas, such as near riverbanks or at the outskirts of villages. Dereje (2003) reports that the social stratification is also reflected in language use: the Mana use the Ometo language Basketo as a lingua franca in markets and other public settings in order not to reveal their identity. Summarising patterns of social hierarchy in southern Ethiopia, Freeman (2003: 301) talks of occupation as “notional or hereditary”, since it remains vital in defining social groups even if the members do not practice it any more. Social stratification is progressively declining due to education, socialist ideologies introduced in the 1970s and more importantly, due to the recent spread of the Pentecostal-Christian religion. Other religions still practiced in Oyda are the traditional religion (characterised by worshipping a “Sky God” and the spirits of ancestors) and Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.

Oyda house building (Nov 2010, Garda)

A market day in Garda (Nov 2010 in Garda)
Some of the products in the market in Garda (Nov 2010):
mins’á boyé ‘tree yam’ pergá ‘chilli’

buná ‘coffee’ benjelé ‘ginger’


Dereje Feyissa. 2003. Oyda. In: Freeman, Dena & Pankhurst, Alula (eds.), Peripheral People. The Excluded Minorities of Ethiopia, pp. 149-171. London: Hurst and Company.

Freeman, Dena. 2003. Understanding Marginalisation in Ethiopia. In: Freeman, Dena & Pankhurst, Alula (eds.), Peripheral People. The Excluded Minorities of Ethiopia, pp. 301-333. London: Hurst and Company.

Klausberger, Friedrich. 1976. Königtum und Königsrecht bei den Oida in Äthiopien. In: Ethnologische Zeitschrift Zürich. EZZ, 1976 Heft 2, pp. 91-116. Bern, Frankfurt am Main & Las Vegas: Verlag Peter Lang.