This is a primary research I conducted through interviews and my own observations. It is only a fraction of the vast, colorful culturalactivities of Eritrea, which still preserves its peculiarity. Humans all over the world go on with their lives exercising various social activities; some of these are the ways to carry a baby. There exist various sorts of culture-related phenomenon. For instance, the Red Indians still carry their children on their backs using papoose–a material made of buffalo’s skin. In West Africa, they use swaddling clothes to carry their children. Whereas in Eritrea Mahzel is one of the ways to carry a baby. Eritrea is home to nine Ethnic groups, which share some common and distinctive cultures, including peculiar ways of carrying babies. For example, the Kunama use swaddling clothes as the West Africans do. While the Tigre, Beniámer and the Rashaida use sari clothes, most of the other ethnic groups, especially, those living in the highlands use Mahzel. The word Mahzel can be generally recapped as a piggybacking stuff. It is made up of a processed goat’s skin and is decorated with seashells. Brownish by nature, the goat skin is widely adorned with proportionally distributed white seashells. The oval white cowries are mostly accompanied by small round shells that can be blue or of other colors depending on the taste of the decorator. This makes the general shape and picture of Mahzel visible and palpable. When the mother walks, the seashells towards the bottom make somewhat jingling sounds entertaining and pleasing the carried baby. Responsible as they are within their families, mothers, besides rearing children, are busy covering tasks beyond household ones. In countries like Eritrea, where mothers must qualify themselves for managing multiple activities, they use Mahzel as a solution for not leaving their children behind, while at the same time avoiding all the risks that could come along with it. They walk effortlessly with their hands free and ready for some other jobs to do. Mahzel is destined to provide mothers with a means that entails prudent life. Meanwhile, there are many unseen factors created by the motherand- child physical contact. These factors play a great role in shaping the child both emotionally and physically. Mahzel keeps the child’s spinal cord tight. His neck carefully rests in a manner that enables him to move 180 degrees. Therefore, it plays a great role in the child’s physical development. Mahzel also allows the baby to seat comfortably leaving his two ears pricked up and enjoying fresh air in the surrounding. The ears ventilate the hot temperature that could stem from the body contact with his mother. They also help the child develop balance and muscle control, allowing him to sit independently and be able to walk sooner. It enables infants to increase cardiac activity, which increases circulation, promotes respiration and aids in the digestive system. It is empirically proven that when a child is in the womb, he develops the auditory sense. The closest sound that the child hears is that of his mother’s continuous heartbeat. Physicians confirm that the newborn misses the sound of the heartbeat during infancy. They say that it is one of the reasons why an infant cries. When a carried baby encounters a familiar sound similar to his mother’s heartbeat, he immediately stops crying, as well as is eased and calmed. Taking in to consideration infant’s mental state, scientists in their studies found out that heartbeat is related with Musicology; the continuous sound of heartbeat helps the child to stimulate his music ability. Apparently, the child is able to hear the heartbeat whilst on his mother’s back, and has the privilege to enjoy all the benefits mentioned above. In fact, Mahzel plays a big role in relating the Eritrean culture with the present-day vital scientific inventions. In Eritrean culture, a mother is the center of social life, especially, in rural areas; she has to wake up early in the morning, prepares her family’s breakfast, and she has to do grain-grinding and other related activities. Every task is carried out carrying her child on her back with Mahzel. Having had their breakfast, all the family members leave the house. The children go to school and their father to cultivate the land. The mother joins her husband fetching him food and helps him in the agricultural activities with her child on her back all along tightly held with Mahzel, but allowing her move freely to and fro. Mahzel, however, has minor shortcomings and assumptions that can easily be avoided. Firstly, when the mother’s hair is in contact with the child’s eyes, it can cause him eye disease or harm. Nonetheless, it is a matter of paying attention to the hairstyle and making sure that the child is free from such a discomfort. the notion that mother-and-child eye contact is very essential in the child’s mental development gives rise to the idea that a child on his mother’s back misses many necessary things that could be learned from his mother’s facial expressions. Nevertheless, when the child gives a sign of hunger or the need for diaper change, his mother holds her child and gives him food or breastfeed him during which eye contact takes effect. A child, indeed, needs to see his mother’s face to learn from her expressions. He also gets entertained and is comforted greatly. However, the many adventures that a child enjoys while piggybacked should not be
underestimated. When the mother, for instance, has to join in communal activities that take place in her village such as marriage and delivery ceremonies, the child on her back is able to explore the world around. Naturally, children’s mind is like camera, which records everything. All children are fascinating, charming, creative and emotional. As the years go by, the world of their childhood flashes through their minds as if displayed by an electronic machine. Needless to say, when a child travels carried by Mahzel across different areas, he observes various cultural activities, hears a variety of sounds; all of which help the child develop an intelligent mind. If we relate this with the modern world, parents have to spend a lot of money, in order to meet all the conditions necessary for the development of their child’s mind. Particularly in rural areas, there are programs arranged with the aim of helping mothers tackle illiteracy. Naturally, they go to attend their lessons with their children on their backs; a child as old as three years can be carried using Mahzel. Children learn lessons equally, with their ‘Mahzel’ mothers, and it sometimes happens that they amusingly give answers in place of their mothers, and some other times they correct their mothers when they make mistakes. It is natural to see cultures being influenced by other cultures, if not, replaced by new ones. With the fast-changing world, we need to broaden our outlook and know what to preserve, and what to replace. Mahzel is one of our cultural heritages worth preserving. Sadly, too, Mahzel, which has played a big role for many generations in the Eritrean society, is now in the process of dying out.