Fonqolcha fi Darbaa: The Amazing Powers of Oromo Expressions!

Published by Ayele Gelan on

I saw these traditional farming, harvesting, implements and the beauty of Oromo Language suddenly overwhelmed me.

As you may know the one Berhanu (left hand side) holds in his left hand is called Fonqolcha, the other held by Jawar (right hand side) is called Darbaa (in Chabo Wancii/Wanchii area, West Shawa. There could be regional variations, but here that is beside the point.

What i find fascinating is the namings exactly express the functions of the implements.

Fonqolcha dhaan ni fonqolchina, darba dhaan ni darbbanna!

Fonqolcha literally means “sorter or separater (?), used to separate grain from the straw (midhaani fi gaabaa). The straw is pushed up so that the grain would move down to the bottom. From then on, the straw can be easily pushed aside from the top.

Once the straw is removed, the left over is still a mix of grain and chaff ( abaqii). Now the finqolcha has done its job and it would be put aside. It is darba’s turn!

Darbaa can be called “tosser” (?), used to scoop the mix of grain and chaff ( hence the shape of darba) and to throw it upwards as high as possible plus perpendicularly. I tell you this is not a random act of throwing or tossing, it is an art!

The purpose of the throwing is to separate the grain from the chaff (midhaani fi abaqii addaan baasuu) using the power of the wind.

This can be accomplished with a combination of two factors: the existence of reasonable force of wind (an external factor), sometimes obe has to wait for hours for the arrival of wind.

The other is the skill of the farmer, throwing the mix of grain and chaff upwards is not only as high as possible, but also perpendicularly so that the grain would fall to the exact point it was thrown up from.

By the time i left countryside, many years as student cum farmer, I had managed all arts of farming. However, I never managed to properly use darba. Actually I had not managed to ever getting anywhere near to successfully acomplishing the darba tricks:)

Either I would focus on throwing the thing high enough, then again I would end up getting the angle wrong, grains would fall elsewhere. Other times, I get the angle right but not high enough, and hence the grain would come down with the chaff:) Trust me, this thing was a puzzle!

I’m writing with uplands and barley country experience in mind

Note: This piece was originally posted on my facebook page, on January 10, 2020.

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