Girls ‘assert independence’ at Ashenda festival

Girls 'assert independence' at Ashenda festival
Girls ‘assert independence’ at Ethiopia Virgin Mary festival. Girmay Gebru/BBC

The heavy rains in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have not deterred thousands of girls from taking part in the annual Ashenda festival, which celebrates the Virgin Mary. It gives girls carte blanche to sing and dance over the three-day celebration.

At the eve of the festival, which first started centuries ago, girls plait their hair in an elaborate design called Ga’me and head to the market, where they buy necklaces and other traditional cosmetics.

The girls also gather Ashenda grass from the riverside. Ashenda means “the tall green grass” in the region’s language, Tigrinya, and gives the festival its name.

The grass is sewn together and worn on the girls’ waists as a skirt.

The girls form groups of eight to 12 with a lead singer and a drummer, and they gather in the public squares of Mekelle, Tigray’s main city.

For the first time this year, Tigray’s culture and tourism bureau allowed the festivities to take place at Baloni Stadium. Read more >>

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