Cultures in Our Community
Promoting Cultures, Tolerance, Inclusion, and Diversity in Our Community:
Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a rich history. It is vibrant and full of life, music, and laughter, especially in August or in Christmas time. Sometimes though, when the rain is harsh in the Winter, and the news is bad, it is easy to forget that because we’re surrounded by grey rock and grey skies.
In times like these it is important to remember that one of the most beautiful parts of Edinburgh is its people. It is a very diverse city, full of many cultures with vibrant traditions. This past year, Ama-zing Harmonies has worked hard to celebrate these beautiful cultures as a way of showing that Edinburgh is more than grey even on the most rainy day, it is full of life and colour.
With the support of the Edinburgh Council, we have hosted workshops, demonstrations, and activities to help learn more about the people who make up our local community. The idea behind these was to celebrate people’s heritages and promote tolerance, understanding, inclusion, and diversity in Edinburgh.
We thought that we would highlight cultures that make up our local community in the North-West Edinburgh area, and chose to celebrate African, Haitian, Fijian, and Polish cultures. Unfortunately the pandemic interrupted our planned celebrations of Polish and Haitian cultures, however we loved what we learned in our workshops, and thought we would share some of the highlights with you.
The Ethiopia workshop was lovely and very informative.
In it we learned about Ethiopia’s rich history and value to pan-African cultures through its resistance to colonialism.
Our speaker Jeusalem demonstrated Ethiopian fashion, dance, and song, as well as the symbolic value of the colours Green, Yellow, and Red in African cultures.
Ethiopia has unique instruments. It has a single string violin called mansako and a large special flute called embilta.
Their instrumentalists can be actively involved in the dance, and members often swap between dancing and playing with their fellow performers.
Jeusalem told us about the rich history of dance, and how in the summer all the women gather to have a free and carefree dance that allows them to express themselves.
Some neat facts:
- Ethiopia has 86 indigenous languages, the official language being Amharic.
- Ethiopia’s lowest point in altitude, the Danakil Depression, is the hottest place on Earth, full of hot springs, and even lava lakes!
- The longest river is the Blue Nile and is called “Abay”.
- The Omo valley contains some of the oldest signs of human life in archaeology,
- Famous Dishes: Addisu Gebeya, and rich Wat stews over Injera bread!
- Ethiopia is quite Vegan Friendly.
Another one of our Culture Celebrations was for Fiji!
Fiji is a beautiful country of 333 islands and tons of coral reefs.
Traditional Fijian cooking is exciting and pretty much the ultimate barbeque: They wrap meat and fish in banana leaves and bury it with taro and cassava in a fire pit called Lovo.
Fijian culture is very generous, and often involves the sharing of gifts. On New Years eve Fijian women play a game called veicaqemoli, where the losers are given gifts by the winners.
Many Fijian’s are skilled artists, making beautiful sculptures, woodworking, and woven crafts.
Many are multilingual speaking English, Fijian and Hindi.
Fijian music incorporates beautiful dance called Meke, which can involve storytelling and dramatic artistic displays. It is famous for its grass apparel. Meke includes war, spear, fan, club, and sitting dances.
Another striking dance is the Poi, in which women sing and dance while swinging balls on the end of ropes.
Nigeria: Igbo Culture
Nigeria is a hugely diverse country with over 520 spoken languages, some of which are Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, Hausa, and Edo. At Ama-zing Harmonies, we had the special opportunity to learn about Igbo culture.
The Igbo live in South-East Nigeria, and there are over 20 million Igbo people, which is four times the population of Scotland!
The Igbo are very community oriented, and share agricultural land through kinship groups.
In Igbo culture women are respected politicians and businesspeople.
Their food celebrates yams, cassava and taro, corn, and okra.
Drumming is an important part of the Igbo culture, and has many symbolic meanings. It is part of their music, communication, celebration, dancing, mourning, and rites of passage. The Igbo have a unique drum called the Udu. where the pitch is controlled by adding water to the drum. A signalling drum is called the Ekwe, which is identifiable by long slits in the drum. It is quite loud and used to called people together for meetings, or sound alarms.
Below are the Igboamaka Edinburgh Ladies who helped demonstrate Igbo fashion, dance, and culture.