Werji people

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Worji
MedievalEthiopia.png
A medieval map of Ethiopia locating the ancestral homeland of the "Werjih." It indicates the approximate location of a province named for them that lied between the Great Rift Valley and the Ahmar Mountains
Total population
13,232 (2007 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Ethiopia
Languages
Oromiffa, Amharic
Religion
Islam
Related ethnic groups
Oromo, Jebertis, Argobba, Gurage, Amhara, Sidama, Afar, Agaw, Hadiya, Beja

The Worji (Oromo: Warjiih, Ge'ez: ወርጄ, Arabic: ورجي[wɔrdʒi]), fully known as the Tigri-Worji, are an ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia. The prefix for their traditional name, Tigri, comes from the word Tijaari, which is an adjectival in the Arabic language that literally translates to "merchant." Their tribal name Worji is eponymous with the name of their ancestral homeland. Thus, Tigri Werji essentially means "merchant of Werji."[2]

History[edit]

The Worji were among the first people in the Horn of Africa to become Muslim, having accepted Islam by the 8th century. Alongside another ancient Muslim group to their west, the Gebel, who would eventually procreate the Argobba people, the Worji participated in many battles against Christian Abyssinia. They sided with the Ifat and Shewa Sultanate as they rose to power in the Middle Ages, especially during the Abyssinian-Adal War. These warriors were reported to be very skilled in warfare. Although they were not under the direct control of either empire, they acted as a supporting force for neighboring Muslim kingdoms during times of reprisal against Abyssinia. It was this time of military conflict that opened the door for the northerly expansion of Oromos, and thus began the assimilation of conquered populations, such as the Worji. It is based on this historical tale that some members classify themselves as a separate ethnicity. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that over centuries of living in Oromiyaa, the Worji have well assimilated among the Oromo, with no cultural distinction evident between the two.

Demographics[edit]

The Worji historically populated an area in south-eastern Ethiopia within the Oromiyaa Region. Today, they are found primarily in their modern hometown of Daleti and in numerous pastoral communities scattered throughout the regions of Shewa and Wollo. Some have settled in major cities within these former provinces, most prominently in Addis Ababa and Dessie. Due to their longstanding livelihoods as merchants, members of the Worji community can be found transiently in cities all across Ethiopia

According to the 2007 Ethiopian census carried out by the Central Statistical Agency, the Worji population numbered 13,232 individuals.[1]

Language[edit]

The Worji primarily speak Afaan Oromoo as their mother tongue (14,066 in 1994) and Amharic as a second language, although this order of primacy may be vice versa depending on where a person lives. Both languages belong to the larger Afro-Asiatic family.

Having lived in Shewa ever since it was a Gurage kingdom, there is a possibility that the Worji may have originally spoken an East Gurage language. Throughout their history of existence as a people, however, they have never had a language of their own, but rather spoke the languages of their neighbors. This can be attributed to the fact that they never settled in one place for very long due to their constant trading expeditions. Today, they are one of the few ethnic groups in Ethiopia without their own language.

Politics[edit]

Prior to the 2010 General Elections, the current Ethiopian regime approved the creation of the Tigri Worgi Nationality Democratic Organization, which represents a minority of the tribe.[3]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Grover Hudson, "Linguistic Analysis of the 1994 Ethiopian Census", Northeast African Studies, Volume 6, Number 3, 1999 (New Series), pp. 89 – 107.
  • Pankhurst, Richard K.P. The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles. Addis Ababa: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1967
  • Pankhurst, Borderlands, p. 79.
  1. ^ [1], Ethiopian Government Portal