South Omo Research Center (SORC), situated at Jinka, capital of South Omo Zone, has been transferred to Arba Minch University in April 2015. The center previously was headed and managed by Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.

SORC came into being following the efforts from Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University and proactive role played by renowned German Prof. Ivo Streker. Its prime objective is to conserve and foster cultural heritage of diverse ethnic groups of the region as it offers a forum for scientific debate and trans-cultural understanding in Southern Ethiopia, said Acting Director, Yohannes Yitbarek.

Its existence solely hinges on three core components i.e. museum, library and research. A well-built museum showcases cultural implements of various ethnic groups range from clothing, adornment, household items, ritual paraphernalia, musical instruments etc. It also has collection of ethnographic films and texts on sociology, anthropology and school curriculums.

Through research, efforts are made to conserve the cultural heritage and maintain equitable development. Now having assuming full charge of the center, AMU is planning to study other thematic areas to be soon approved by the management, he said.

Citing rationale behind transfer, Acting Director said the stakeholders were just handling it because 750km long distance was making micro-managing of day-today’s activities bit difficult. Furthermore, it has no formal structures; therefore board decided to hand it over to AMU for being close by.

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology from College of Social Science and Humanities had submitted the proposal about center’s significance that got approved by Senate and AMU Board. Similarly, according to the newly approved organizational structure, it will be headed by a director, who will be accountable to university President.

Having got this new center attached to university structure, next step will be to recruit professionals like anthropologists, sociologists and administrative staff in museum, library and research. Later, specific guidelines and policy on ‘museum and research’ will be formed.

With SORC’s acquisition, AMU’s research activities stand to get widened with the inclusion of areas like environment, cultural heritage, development related and pastoral issues; thematic areas are being identified, he adds.

SORC’s supervisory board includes Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany; Center for African Studies, Kyoto University, Japan; Culture, Tourism and Government Communication Department, South Omo Zone Administration; Jinka Mayor; while Chief Administrator is its board chairman. The Center is spread in 2000 sq. miles; its infrastructure includes museum, library, guest rooms, meeting hall and some administrative functionaries.

An acting-director, further adds, ensuring the center performs well in conserving the cultural heritage through museum and in future research on thematic areas rolls in. With SORC, university is expanding its developmental initiatives in South Omo. We will address community’s problems and pressing needs by conducting research. Though, it’s the beginning which will embolden our international outreach initiatives with international communities.

Source: Arba Minch University
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