1. (used with a pl. verb) A group of tribes in southern Ethiopia.2. Any of the Semitic languages of the Gurage.
* * *▪ peopleethnolinguistic group of the fertile region in southwestern Ethiopia west of Lake Ziway and east of the Omo River. The Gurage are descendants of a mixture of Sidamo peoples with military conquerors from the Tigray region of Ethiopia and with later immigrants from the southeastern city of Harer. Contact with many outsiders has bequeathed an almost bewildering linguistic and cultural complexity to this group. The Gurage practice animism, Ethiopian Christianity, and Islam. The dominant language group, Gurage belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.Settled agriculturalists, the Gurage centre their lives on the cultivation of their staple crop, the Ethiopian banana (Ensete ventricosum), prized not for its “false” (or inedible) fruit but for its roots.The Gurage have no centralized institutional political power or leadership. Local power is vested in lineages; these descent groups display corporate rights, obligations, and influence. In contrast, the religious or ritual system is highly centralized; ritual officials sanction the authority of the political elders. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this religious-political asymmetry is the integral place in the system assigned to the Fuga, the local representatives of what are believed to be remnants of earlier inhabitants of the Horn of Africa. This lower-caste group of artisans and hunters are also ritual specialists whose powers are feared but deemed essential in all major Gurage religious functions. The Fuga share a ritual language with Gurage women, which Gurage men may not learn lest they discern the mysteries of the female initiation ceremonies.
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