Tribes in the Omo Valley

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I bring to your attention a different corner of the world, to see a new perspective of being born in a fortunate country and overall situation,taht will hopefully make you more humble and more empathic.

Omo Valley is home to over 200,000 indigenous people grouped in at least 9 tribes. The Omo Valley and its hydrographic basin are of geological and archaeological importance for the region and for the scientific world. Here some of the oldest human fossils, as well as ancient tools made of quartzite, dating back to 2.4 million years ago, were discovered.

Located in the southern part of Ethiopia, this remote region is reminiscent of Sub-Saharan Africa more than any other area of the country. What really makes the Omo Valley unique is the authentic liveliness of ancient cultural groups.

Groups have different customs and rituals. One can easily distinguish architectural differences or clothing.

The Hamer tribe

The Hamer tribe numbers about 46,000 people. In the dry season, the men of the Hamer tribe go with their flocks to graze, during which time they feed only on the milk and blood of the cattle. Instead of killing the cattle, they break a vein to drink the blood they then fill with clay.

Cattle and goats are the main source of food, as well as for the other tribes in the Omo Valley. Animals play such an important role that only men who have cattle and goats have the right to marry.

The women of the Hamer tribe wear their hair braided and stained with red clay. They perform the ceremonies with bulls that mark the transformation of a child into a man.

There is a separation of the workforce when it comes to sex or age. Women and girls deal with agriculture (especially sorghum, the main bread cereal in Africa, beans, corn and pumpkins), cooking and raising children. The boys deal with agriculture and defend the herds, while the adults go with the herds to graze and deal with the plowing of the land.

Those in the Hamer tribe marry their children only with people from the same tribe. Parents have control over male children, especially when it comes to marriage, because they have to offer payment to the girl’s parents consisting of goats or cattle. Although the payment is made in time – like a bank rate – the costs are so high (usually 30 goats and 20 cattle) that most of the time they cannot be paid in life.

There is also a cruel tradition among the members of this tribe. Unmarried girls may have children to test fertility, but children are often abandoned in the field because they believe that children born out of wedlock are unclean. For them, such a child is the expression of the devil who can bring disasters such as epidemics or drought. These beliefs are also observed in other tribes in Ethiopia: many parents prefer to sacrifice their own child rather than risk being affected in any way by the evil forces.

The Banna tribe

The people of the Banna tribe are known for their entrepreneurial skills and organize popular markets. They live around Mount Chari and speak the Hamer-Banna language. They get their food from the herd and from the game. Goats and cattle produce milk and meat, and their skin is used for clothing and for making blankets and shelter. The Banna tribe has its own king, it has a Muslim religion, but there is also a Christian group that counts several hundred people.

The Banna tribe separated from the neighboring tribe, Hamer, due to divergences that probably occurred several centuries ago. They have a similar appearance to those of the Hamer tribe and are often called Hamer-Banna. I also share a number of traditions and rituals.

Men can marry as many women as they want, the only condition being that the girl is also from the same tribe.

Konso tribe

Konso people are famous for their stone-built houses. They speak the Konso language (also known as affa xonso) and are divided into four dialects: Kholme, Duuro, Fasha and Karatti. Although there are many cultural differences between Konso and the other tribes in this region, they share a number of common traditions. Konso is mainly based on agriculture, and their crops include sorghum, corn, cotton or even coffee. Cattle, sheep and goats are raised for meat and milk.

As with other groups, polygamy is accepted.

The members of the group raise sculptures (wagas) created in memory of a dead man who killed an enemy or an animal. Statuettes are often arranged in groups, with figurines representing the man, his wives and his opponents.

Konso practices a traditional religion focused on worship at Waaq / Wakh. In Oromo culture, Waaq denotes the god of early faith, believed to have been worshiped by the Cushitic groups.

The Mursi tribe

Mursi is a tribe of about 7,000 people, known in particular for the ornaments worn by women.

In the most isolated region of Ethiopia, in an area surrounded by mountains between the river Omo and its tributary, Mago, Mursi people live. They are adjacent to Aari, Banna, Bodi, Karo, Kwegu, Nyangatom and Suri.

The members of this tribe speak the Mursi language which is part of the Nile-Saharan language family. Mursi is closely linked to Me’en, Suri and Kwegu.

Like all agro-pastoralist groups in Africa, Mursi believes there is a stronger force than they, called Tumwi. It is usually located in the sky and sometimes manifests itself as a thing of the sky (ahi of tumwin), such as a rainbow or a bird. The main religious and ritual function in the society is that of Komoru – priest or shaman. Komoru embodies in the person the well-being of the group as a whole and acts as a means of communication between the community and the god, especially when threatened by events such as drought, pests or disease. The role of priests is characterized by performing the rituals of bringing rain, protecting people, cattle and crops from diseases and avoiding attacks from other tribes. The religion of the Mursi tribe is classified as animism.

Mursi people go through several rituals of passage, educational or disciplinary processes. The lip discs are a well-known aspect of Mursi and Surma women, probably the last women in Africa to wear ceramic or wooden discs on the lower lip.

The members of this tribe organize an annual championship with the bats they called “Donga”. Each local village sends its best male fighters where they will fight for the village’s honor.

KARO Tribe

Those in the Karo tribe are especially known for the designs and accessories they adorn their bodies with. Karo is the smallest tribe in the region, with an estimated population of between 1000 and 3000 people. They live on the east bank of the Omo River and are close to the Kwegu tribe.

Karo men and women decorate their faces and bodies with chalk and ocher paints to enhance their attractiveness to the opposite sex.

Unlike Mursi, Karo did not practice bats. But more recently, many young people have adopted this activity because visitors pay up to $ 60 to see a fight. The scars on their bodies are the price they pay for this money.

Nowadays, tourists pay $ 20 per car to enter the village, and a picture of a warrior costs about $ 1. This type of income, which requires little effort, discourages young people from cultivating or grazing as their elders did.



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