The Kaffa (also called Kefecho) are primarily agricultural people living in southwestern Ethiopia. Their land is primarily mountainous, with many rivers and a rich source of coffee, musk, honey and a wide variety of agricultural and forest products. Traditional Kaffa society was divided into five major social classes consisting of the royalty, the nobility, commoners, occupational castes, and slaves. Relations between these classes varied in rigidity through time, but each class was traditionally associated with a particular subgroup locally called a clan.
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Africa --Eastern Africa
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Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number. The Kaffa collection (MP14) provides historical, political, cultural and economic information. Time coverage of the collection spans from the origin of the Kaffa kingdom at the end of the 14th century to mid 1990s, but most of the documents focus on the decades before and after the Ethiopian conquest in 1897.
The work of Max Gruhl provides the earliest systematic attempt in the collection to reconstruct the history of Kaffa people prior to their forced incorporation into the Ethiopian empire in 1897. The book is primarily based on the author’s visit to Kaffa in 1926 in the course of which he met a key informant named Amaro Giorgis. Gruhl’s analysis is also informed by his knowledge of earlier written sources on Kaffa. The later included the works of Antonio Cecchi, and F. J. Bieber who visited Kaffa in 1879 and 1905 (with a follow-up visit in 1909), respectively.
Two works by the German ethnologist Werner J. Lange stand out as the basic sources on Kaffa history and political organization. The first discusses the history of pre-1897 Kaffa history based on ethnographic field work conducted in 1972-1973 (Lange, 1982: no. 3). This book provides valuable primary data, including verbatim reports of informants’ accounts at numerous points in the text, together with the author’s own reinterpretation of available secondary sources. The second work focuses on analyzing the structure and nature of Kaffa kingship. It argues that the divine nature of the Kaffa king should be explained not in the religious ideology that equates him as the incarnation of the spirits of the sky-god. It should instead be viewed as an irrational expression of ordinary peoples’ rational need for rain, crops, health, and security (Lang, 1976: no. 4).
The collection also includes a broadly descriptive ethnographic survey compiled by G.W. B. Huntingford which provides a brief introduction to culture and society. Finally, a book chapter by Gezahegn Petros discusses the lives of submerged occupational castes (Gezahegn, 2001: no. 5).
For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
Ade Rasho –minister of public works (roads and bridges) and commandant of the king’s bodyguard and palace guards– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Arche Rasho –king’s architect and supervisor of buildings– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Awa Rasho –king’s speaker; master of ceremonies; minister of foreign relations– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Awraja –Amharic term for subprovince– Use PROVINCES ( 635) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)
Ensete –false banana root crop widely grown and used in south central and south western Ethiopia– Use VEGETABLE PRODUCTION ( 244) with DIET ( 262)
Gudji Rasho –supervisor of the king’s slaves and servants and of labor on the royal domains– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Gane Rasho –royal treasurer– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Gude –district governor– Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624) with DISTRICTS ( 634) and/or TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)
Katama Rasho –head of the administrative system over provincial governors, districts chiefs, and local headmen; military commanderinchief; administrator of the capital city and royal residence– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Ogge-ashi-yaro –people of higher clans– Use ETHNOSOCIOLOGY ( 829) with CLANS ( 618)
Manjo –hunters caste– Use HUNTING AND TRAPPING ( 224) with CASTES ( 564)
Manno –leatherworkers caste– Use WORK IN SKINS ( 281) with CASTES ( 564)
Mashkaro –feast of the cross– Use REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS ( 527) with ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796)
Minjo – Use STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554) with CLANS ( 618)
Mikrecho – Use DELIBERATIVE COUNCILS ( 646) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Negado Rasho –superintendant of trade– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554) and DOMESTIC TRADE ( 438)
Nemeche –concubine– Use POLYGAMY ( 595) with SPECIAL UNIONS AND MARRIAGES ( 588)
Qemmo –smiths caste– Use SMITHS AND THEIR CRAFTS ( 326) with CASTES ( 564)
Sharrare-yaro –people of lower clans– Use ETHNOSOCIOLOGY ( 829) with CLANS ( 618)
Shode Rasho –administrator of the royal estates, warehouses, and herds– Use ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Tato –title of Kaffa king– Use CHIEF EXECUTIVE ( 643) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Tatekisho –subdsistrict governor– Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624) with DISTRICTS ( 634) and/or TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)
Tugo –local official/headmen– Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)
Worafe Rasho –provincial governor– Use PROVINCES ( 635) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631) and STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)
Yero –skygod– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)