History witnesses that oral expression among the people of Ethiopia is part of their cultural heritage and among other things a form of commentary in response to larger events that affect them. Peasants who are often regarded as illiterate nonetheless find ways to depict their sentiments in matters of social, political, and cultural importance. The aim of this article is to investigate popular reactions to land reform and land redistribution from 1978 to 1982, drawing on forms of communication and self-expression found in the “local press” (i.e., oral poetry) of both the peasants and former landowners of Gondär Province. Data was collected from primary and related secondary sources to obtain substantive evidence on the subject. By employing oral poetry, the people of Gondär voice their inner feelings, grievances or support for the state’s land reform as well as towards the actions of local officials. Because land has long been the center of life and livelihoods in the rural history of Ethiopia, much oral tradition touches on the issues of land, peasant survival, and state actions as well as on peasant–peasant relations in line with the prevailing social, political and economic context. The continuity of peasant poetic tradition is also celebrated in the content of the poems.

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