I was born in Romso, southwest of Mega, during the gada Guyyo Boru. I am about 45 years old. I was married to my husband Boru when I was 14 years old and have given birth to four daughters and a son.
Life has been difficult, especially since the drought. Boru lost many of his cattle to the drought and he chose to live with the few remaining cattle and his second wife in another village. I ended up here in Dolollo Makkala in a camp for people who have had problems recovering from the drought. I have no cattle but my son and unmarried daughter help out. Three of my daughters are married.
I made this gorfa to help me hold the milk from cows. Making milk containers is part of everyday life. It is something that we all learn before marriage-it is like learning to collect firewood or make butter. The gorfa and chicho that I make look the way they do because they are part of our cultural heritage.
The gorfa and chicho are more than milk containers. There cannot be any marriage without a chicho and there cannot be any reproduction without woven milk containers. This is why every woman must be able to make milk containers. Woven milk containers represent our fertility. They are round, full of milk and nourishment, just like a pregnant woman's belly.
My mother started to teach me to weave the gorfa when I was ten years old. It took several years before I could make one by myself. There is a lot to learn to be able to know all the designs and be able to make a perfectly balanced gorfa or chicho.
Making these containers is not easy. I weave when I have free time and it generally takes me from one to two years to complete a gorfa or chicho. I have made a number of containers: two gorfa for my own use, three chicho for the marriage of my three daughters and several other milk containers for various relatives. I have made a fourth chicho for my unmarried daughter. But it doesn't look like she will be getting married very soon so I will sell it to you for your museum. I'll make her another one.
1. The Borana divide time into periods of eight years, each named for the individual who was in charge of the eight-year gada ritual cycle.
2. Elema is referring to the drought of 1983-84 that struck southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya and decimated most of the Borana's herds of cattle. The drought has had catastrophic effects on the economy and lives of the Borana. Elema's plights is not unusual. The wealth and livelihood of the Borana is based on the ownership and exchange of cattle and most if not all of the cattle belonging to Borana families died in the drought. Dolollo Makkala is the site of a refugee camp supported by national and international relief organizations to aid the victims of the drought, like Elema.