Dhaba’s Short Biography
Dhaba Wayessa is a reputed novelist, playwright, filmmaker and journalist. He has published two novels, written/produced five stage plays, written three full-length screenplays, and written/directed/produced three short films.
Dhaba was born on September 22, 1966 in a remote rural village called “Jaggaa Lootuu” of the Eebantu district, western Oromia regional state. One month later, he was given up for adoption to his uncle and raised as the only child of his foster parents, Wayessa Manqi and Dame Niquse – who gave him the utmost love and education. Access to education only came to that part of the country in the 1975, when Dhaba turned nine years old.
One year earlier, in 1974, in an attempt to get education and become like a person he saw in his local market with a suit, eyeglasses and a briefcase, Dhaba plotted with two boys of about my age and run away from his parents to go to Finfinnee (Addis Ababa). However, after a two-day travel on foot, they were caught in a far-off arid place Bareedduu by a group of merchants, who happened to be from his locality. Dhaba was returned back to his parents immediately. However, this incident had become a wake up call for his mother and father. They were alerted and worried that he would run away again and disappear from them if they were not to send him to school by any means possible.
After attending my elementary classes in the very first and newly established elementary school in his area, Qeelloo, he was allowed (by his parents) to move to distant towns, Hindee and Jiddaa Ayyaanaa, to continue his middle and secondary school education successively. Then, he became one of the first people to graduate from high school in his locality.
While he was a student in middle and high school Dhaba had developed passion for literature and art of various forms. However, writing and publishing literature and arts had not existed in his local people whose artistic expression was mainly oral poetry and traditional songs at that time.
As he studied novels only available in the Amharic language, he was inspired and began to daydream his own fictional stories and poems. However, the chance to attain his dream was almost none since his Amharic language was not good enough for writing fiction. Afan Oromo, his native language, had not been accepted for formal education and published literature in Ethiopia during that time and for over a century before that. Despite thre challenges, Dhaba was persevered and managed to write some short plays and poems during his last secondary school years just for the local consumption. After he graduated from high school and moved to Bahir Dar Teachers’s college for further education, he suffered embarrassment as some of his instructors and the privileged Amharic-speaking students mocked at his poor facility with their language. However, his determination to gaine knowledge and skills in fiction writing ptompted him to read and study few literary guidebooks available at the college’s library. Later, his literary proficiency in Amharic had improved incrementally. He was able to publish a short story entitled “Megnexisaawii Simmeet” and a poem called “Immaammaa” in Bahir-Dar College’s yearbooks. He also published few more short stories in various school-related magazines in the following years. Nevertheless, he grew up being bewildered by his own inner question of how the Oromo people, the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia – numbering over 35 million people – had been kept under extreme suppression and tyranny by successive Ethiopian regimes for over a century. He used to be disheartened by the non-existence of any written Oromo literature to look at as an example.
After he graduated from Bahir Dar College and was employed as a high school teacher in the Amuruu district of his home province, Wallagga, from 1988 to 1991, Dhaba was determined to continue his writing in Afaan Oromoo, and wrote several short stories, radio plays, folklores and commentary articles for the only Oromo entertainment program of the National Radio of Ethiopia at that time.
Then, at the downfall of the dictatorial communist government of Ethiopia in 1991, he got an opportunity to write a full-length stage play in his mother-tongue, Afan Oromo. The successful staging of his first drama, Dukkanaan Duuba (Beyond the Darkness), in 1991 at Ethiopian National Theater was the first production ever of a modern stage play in Afan Oromo. His works instantly received huge acclaim from the large Oromo audience and the media. To mention few: The Ethiopian Herald, the only and well known English Newspaper in Ethiopia at that moment, commented about the play, Dukkanaan Duuba (on February 19, 1992), calling it, “the first of its kind to be written and staged in the Oromo language. It has become successful in its artistic mastery and thematic value by demonstrating the social and political intricacies of the past Ethiopian governments.” The national newspaper, Addis Zemen, reviewed the play (on February 7, 1984 Eth. C.), saying, “It is a breakthrough and a foundation stone for the renaissance of the Oromo art and culture.”
Consequently, Dhaba was handpicked by the Curriculum Department of the Ministry of Education for the first-ever preparation Oromo-language textbooks for elementary classes. Along with five other members of the language team, he accomplished the assignment of writing of six student texts and six teacher’s guides. He also went on to write and produce four more stage plays and publish two novels. His bestselling first novel, Godannisa (The Scar), was also one of the first two modern novels in Oromo literature.
Right after he moved to the United States in 1995, Dhaba was enrolled at Howard University in Washington D.C. to study film. Meanwhile, he published his second novel, Gurracha Abbaya (The Black of the Nile), and directed/produced his fifth stage play, Faana Miilaa (The Foot Prints), which was staged at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis in 1996.
Dhaba earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in film from Howard University in 2004. “The Fallen Beats”, the short film he wrote, directed and produced in 2001, while he was in graduate school at Howard, won three awards including the Black Filmmakers’ Hall of Fame Award and Paul Robeson “Creative Excellence” Award for the “Best Short Film”. VOA Television broadcast this short film along with his other short film, At the Edge of the Day in February 2002. His feature-length screenplay, Hibboo (Riddle) also won a “Paul Robeson Honorable Mention Award for Scriptwriting – Feature” in April 2005. He also studied as an undergraduate in the Radio, TV, and Film department at Howard University from 1997 to 1999 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors.
In general, Dhaba has published two novels, written/produced five stage plays, written three full-length screenplays, and written/directed/produced three short films so far. His feature-length screenplays including the award winning “Hibboo” (aka Riddle) and “Halkan Dorrobaa” (aka Pregnant Night) are awaiting God’s perfect time and resource for production. He has been Voice of America’s international broadcaster and editor for over 19 years, writing, broadcasting and editing news and feature stories. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife and four children.
Abdisa B.(Facebook: Abdiisaa Bancaa Jaarraa). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, Mob:+251911527293/0910130926.
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