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Bilen Tribe

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by

rita woldemariam

on 11 April 2011

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Transcript of Bilen Tribe

bilen tribe By: Rita Woldemariam The tribe that I felt best fit this assignment was the Bilen Tribe. This tribe, located at the horn of Eastern Africa, has a very small population in the centre of Eritrea. The personal relevance towards this particular tribe, is that it is the tribe where my family and I originate and embody. As you begin to read the traditional human practices and how they coincide with nature, you will begin to not only understand the lifestyle, but see the beauty in the Bilen Tribe. Bilen is an ethnic group located in central Eritrea.
It is in and around Keren and further south near Asmara, the nation’s capital.
Keren is the second largest city in Eritrea, lying northwest of Asmara.
The population of Bilen people is 96,000, and the population of Keren is 86,483.
Keren is known as being one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
The most dominant tribes in Keren are Bilen and Tigre.
The overall environment is semi-desert, and hot during summer and cold during winter. GEOGRAPHY/ ENVIRONMENT In Keren there are two high schools, St. Joseph and Keren Secondary School. Subjects taught include, English, Tigrinya, Arabic and Math.
Bilen’s history goes as far back as the sixteenth century. This was the time when it first entered Eritrea from Ethiopia.
Keren was the site of regular battles in both World War II, the Eritrean War of Independence, and the site of the battle between Italian and British troops in 1941.
In 1840, Germany defeated France, causing the Bilen tribe to flee the land.
In 1872 the Bilen tribe was occupied by the Egyptian military.
They then began to gain prominence in European debates revolving around the Red Sea area. However, after a short time the Italians began establishing alliances with a number of local ethnic groups, allowing them to annex Keren in 1888.
Bilen’s continual change in alliances, as well as religion, assisted them in staying united and maintaining their local cultural traditions, all throughout their involvement in regional conflicts. HISTORY The language spoken by the Bilen tribe is Bilen.
60% of Bilen Christians understand Tigrinya, whereas 70% of Muslims use Tigre. The majority of youth also speak Arabic. The religious population is divided in two, with 50% of the population Christian, predominately Catholic, and the other 50% are made up of Sunni Muslims.
Most jobs worked by the Bilen tribe have are in agricultural industry, as well as factories, and food stores. Others include handmade appliances made by women using palm tree leaves with dye known as “Sbaq”. These appliances include mats, bags, milk and water containers, beds, stools, chairs, hats, boxes, food containers, food accessories, fans, hats, ropes and decorations. These sort of appliances are called “Washaka”. One of the most common and most used appliances is the “Meshrefet”, this is a traditional fan used to blow fire or as a coolant on a hot day.
Within this traditional industry, more new crafts are developed from generation to generation. A large part of their culture is coffee, known as “boun”. The cups used are called “Fjan”, this is a tradition shared on almost any occasion. A “Tuba” is a round basin used to turn milk into butter, and can be used as yogurt as well. One of the most common delicacies is “Kalla”, it is made of Millet or Sorghum flour, yogurt and spiced butter.
“Ses‘et/Shellil” is a head dance that is performed by women, it is when they sway their head sideways continuously with the speed progressing. During this wedding or event accountability and respect are displayed. This dance it usually done by married women or even children. Bilen women are mainly known for their brightly coloured clothing and their vast amount of gold, silver or copper jewellery. One of their more dominant pieces of jewellery is the “Jabera”, this is a gold ring chain worn on the front of their forehead.
A very common male accessory is the “Tallal”, it’s a gold earring worn during a manhood ritual, rite ceremony, or a wedding. Another common male accessory is a “Seff”, which is a traditionally decorated stick.
There are numerous traditions and cultural components to the Bilen Tribe. However, the ones that have been mentioned are those that are most recognized. CULTURE/ WORK Overall, the above provides a concise visual of the Bilen Tribe. Given that the tribe is so scarce, there is very little documented information on it. To be given true and accurate knowledge on the traditions and lifestyle of the Bilen people, one would need to speak to someone who was born and raised in a Bilen Tribe. In this case, those would be my parents and extended family. This tribe’s beauty does not just come from their traditions, fascinating environment or lifestyle, but from the spirit and faith within the Bilen people, that cannot be shown through a paper, presentation or discussion. Thanks for watching!!
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