Ethiopia: Means for Vividly Portraying Cultural Values


Nothing is much more exiting and appealing than putting what is abstract for mind into a tangible pictorial demonstration. Artifacts, sculptures, jewelries and souvenirs in general have had pivotal importance in providing people with catchy pictorial representations and designs on materials full of wisdom. A number of means have been appreciated to depict the very telling, mesmerizing and amazing features of the country, leaders, historical places, tangible and intangible heritages and other manifestations of life.

Of the ways painstakingly applied to portray historical accounts, norms, cultural aspects, dressing and living styles, spiritual and traditional values of all aspects of the nation and its people, depicting national values using knick-knacks–employing souvenirs–is quite common and crucial, too.

This writer had a stay with Solomon Habteselassie, who graduated from Art school and at present working in a souvenir shop. He said, “Yes, souvenirs are reflections of cultural values, traditional features, economic and social assortments of a given society in a given nation. If the word ‘souvenir’ brings to mind one of those small novelty gifts people receive when someone in the family, or one of their friends, gets back of holidays then quite rightly so.”

Although usually connected with holiday gift shop merchandise, the word ‘souvenir’ is actually a French word meaning remembrance or memory. Souvenirs are also referred to as keepsakes or mementos and can be any item that somebody keeps for the memories it brings back.

He further said that a number of people are coming to the shop to buy different souvenirs, jewelry, pictures depicting a range of personalities, historical places that can be transferred from generation to generation.

He said, “Many people like to take a little something home with them as a reminder of their travels, something to show for where they have been to, something they can use to look back and reminisce about the fantastic experience they had during their holiday, overseas travel, extraordinary incidents in life, as well as calculatingly or unknowingly organized events. In Ethiopia, these days buying souvenir is part and parcel of the fun holiday experience though it is not as expected and not equivalent with what the country has possessed.”

He further said that tourists also tend to take lots of gifts and novelties back home for family members, friends, relatives and workmates. It is really a pleasant way to show a person, souvenirs bearer, has been thinking of them while the former has been away on their vacation.

Even some people cannot just resist walking into a gift shop especially when they are on holiday with children. The consumption of goods by tourists while being on holiday is an essential subject in the tourism industry. Souvenirs are seen as universal elements of traveling and are looked upon as objects tourists can bring back home to remind them of their activities during their holiday, trying to make an intangible experience tangible through the purchasing of these artifacts.

According to Solomon, souvenirs, furthermore, represent the notion of trying to prolong the travel experience. The phenomena of collecting souvenirs while being away from home is rather nothing new. In fact, there are records going back to the time of ancient Egyptians, Romans, and later explorer-travelers who would bring mementos back from their journeys.

“Nowadays, the most typical souvenirs that tourists will collect can be categorized into five groups. These groups of souvenir types exist: pictorial souvenirs like postcards, piece-of-the-rock souvenirs such as natural elements collected, iconic souvenirs including items that evoke a message about the place they come from, markers for example, t-shirts with the name of the destination and local product souvenirs like items indigenous to a given area,” Solomon elucidated.

The consumption of souvenirs plays also a major economic role in tourism destinations where producing, consuming and the selling of souvenirs are worth billions of dollars each year. On a smaller scale, many retail businesses located near or at the destination are dependent on the selling of souvenirs. Furthermore, souvenir consumption also helps in supporting indigenous local people who produce and retail authentic handicrafts and souvenir goods.

He further elaborated that people find their holidays more enjoyable nowadays as the majority of tourist attractions have thought about other people’s needs, for example, disabled people are now able to enjoy their holiday without struggling, due to various methods and planning done by the tourist industries to make holidays for all groups of people suitable.

Whenever one thinks of travel and tourism, pleasant images of relaxing on the beach, strolling through colorful neighborhoods, or hiking through a landscape of awe-inspiring natural beauty, may come to mind. Travel and tourism, encompassing transportation, catering, accommodations, recreation and services for travelers is actually the world’s largest industry and generator of millions of jobs.

According to him, tourism involves travelling or being involved in leisure activities. Hospitality involves friendly treatment of guests or tourists and is a very important sector in the tourism industry. The local communities can obtain revenues from tourists that responsive of the natural environment, and this income can support association in their living style; and provide the activities of inspiring local communities to coordinate in conservation.

Whenever festivals are thought of, opportunities to souvenirs shops to get some earning from the occasion are widely witnessed and the business of candle, greeting cards, sweets and other associated items can attract high public demand though they are not well known in developing countries like ours, added Solomon.

Souvenirs are the best hosts of memories in the minds of beloved ones. Yes, they are important components of the tourist experience with most tourists bringing back mementos and souvenirs as evidence. People like to be reminded of special moments in their lives and to hold evidence of those special moments. Though there have not been considerable researches conducted so far regarding souvenirs and public purchase behavior, the significance of souvenirs in promoting the culture of people, attracting much more foreign currency and helping the generation pass down cultural assets and irreplaceable values to the next generation.

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