Toltu Tufa is OPride’s Oromo Person of 2013
Jan 1, 2014 (OPride) – For revitalizing Oromo language learning, for revolutionizing Oromo storytelling and inspiring others to look within themselves for “bold new ways” of telling their story, for awakening the Oromo Diaspora to rally behind Afaan Publications, for being the Oromo story of 2013, Toltu Tufa is OPride’s Oromo Person of the Year.
Toltu, 27, was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. Growing up in a multicultural household, Tufa knew the name Oromo only as her father’s native language.
Her father, Abdulwahab Tufa, is a community elder and educator. Among the first Oromos to resettle in Australia, Tufa arrived in Melbourne 30 years ago fleeing Ethiopia’s communist dictatorship.
Shortly after, he married his beloved wife, Nuriye Tufa, who is of Turkish origin, in 1984. A father of five – four girls and one son – Tufa had one dream for his children: to connect them to his Oromo heritage.
With Toltu’s groundbreaking Afaan Publications, Tufa has over delivered on that promise. In some ways, as Toltu noted in a recent Afaan campaign video, the exiled Tufa wanted to reconnect with his ancestral heritage through his children.
Recognizing that language is essential to that mission, Tufa decided to speak only in Afaan Oromo to his children. “My dad spoke to me in English for the first time when we went to Oromia in 1996,” Toltu told OPride during a recent phone call. Toltu was then about 10 years old.
But Tufa also knew that speaking Oromo alone was not enough. For many years, he run a weekend community school where he taught Oromo and Arabic. Toltu, who at a very young age learned the importance of language – not least to better negotiate her multicultural background – is a graduate of his weekend community education classes.
Toltu attributes her passion to modernize Afaan Oromo learning and teaching to years of coaching by her father.
Afaan Oromo, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa, was banned from official use in Ethiopia until 1991. While much has been done in the last two decades since it became the official language in Oromia, Ethiopia’s populous region, challenges remain to standardize and integrate Afaan Oromo into the global community of languages.