On the Poetics and Politics of the Afar Kassow

DOI: 10.1080/23277408.2017.1323169
Author(s): Gidey Alemu MuauzDepartment of Political Sciences, South Africa, Mohamed Hassan SalehResearch and Study Center of Djibouti (CERD), Djibouti Republic


The Afar people have a rich poetic tradition pertaining to every aspect of their pastoral way of life in the harsh condition of the Afar desert. One of the many genres of Afar poetics is Afar Kassow the folk’s poetized performance art. Scholars such as Morin and Hassan have identified the types and to some extent utilities of the various genres of Afar poetics, including Kassow however none fully presented the rich poetic tradition of the Afar society. The Afar Kassow is presented as poetry of accusation, defiance and resistance per se. Nonetheless, the vital utility of Afar Kassow for building consensus, empathy and understanding across wider geographic, political and social space has been unattended. It has a unique illocutionary and creative power emended in addressing the immediacy of the concrete and existential needs of the Afar people in the Horn. The poetics and politics of Afar Kassow have not been examined at wider scale and in a cross-generational manner from the period of Tola Hanfexe the leading poet of 19th century Afar to date. Therefore, this study, based on primary and secondary data, brings to light the multidimensional utility of Afar Kassow and related genres from multi-disciplinary vintage point. The authors argue that the imperative for invigorating the powerful role of Afar Kassow to keep historical themes reverberating across generations in the service of ideal of peace, reconciliation and democratic toleration of differences to the troubled local and regional relations in the Afar-Horn states. Still more vital is its utility for reducing violence (in all its forms and manifestations), increasing justice and constructive transformation of local and regional conflicts.

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