Revitalising the Oromo Language | the power of stories

Blog Post by Zac Exner from Burrinja.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be involved in a film shoot which captured an incredibly moving story around community/cultural ties and the power of language to support the development of this enduring community fabric.

I woke early to pick the film maker, Scott Baskett of Legitimate Films, up from Melbourne Airport. I was unaware of the details around the shoot other than the fact we were working with a community leader named Toltu Tufa.  As soon as I met Toltu I was captured by her personal story and the grander story of the Oromo community in Australia and worldwide. Oromo is the 4th most spoken language in Africa, with a community of over 40 Million worldwide and to this day there are little to no educational tools available.


The Oromo language was been kept alive through the determination of a community holding Saturday Schools to verbally pass on the language and culture, I was lucky enough to visit five of these schools over the course on the day. The teachers that donated their time were truly inspiring but the real inspiration was the enthuasim with which the young students connected with the teachers and the content.


Toltu has been instrumental in administering these schools but now Toltu is stepping up to pursue her dream to create educational text books, posters, flash cards and cartoons to help the language be passed on to future generations all over the globe.

Throughout the film shoot I was astounded by the complexities of the issue but was further interested in the power of film/design and well thought out artistic practices; and how they can impact emotionally to start a social movement. This project has come from the community – but it is building a bigger community network which is strongly represented online and in-person. This passion for language feeds culture, community and individual expression allowing for the development of an enlightened generation that is in touch with the past and looks to the future.


Toltu has utilised many means to communicate her story including film, design and photography to develop a strong story to engage and mobilise a community. This was felt by the filmmaker Scott Baskett. “Having the opportunity to help tell Toltu’s Story has been an absolute privilege……. Film is a truly powerful medium and this is one project which reminds me of such power. It really shows what a well-timed clip, combined with a passionate leader can do.”

To learn more about the Afaan Publications project and the Oromo community visit

To support Toltu’s campaign you can make a pledge through Pozible

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