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Tribes of Omo Valley2018-09-10T08:21:32+00:00

In this unique, unspoilt part of the world a number of colourful tribes survive in their own age-old traditional way. Independent from all modern achievements they still live as nomads or semi-nomads, wandering through the wilderness with only their few possessions such as spear (or rifle), knife and three-legged stool, driving their livestock before them. Some have settled down on the rich soils of the Omo river banks and grow maize or Sorghum, others live from hunting, fishing or bee-keeping.

Every tribe has its own unique way of clothing, body painting, hair-style, cultural habits and social structure. This small area is really a rich source for anthropologists! In different villages you can visit the colourful markets where the local people are selling their handicraft products, homemade butter or honey and other foods.

The Konso people, who live east of the Omo Valley, are specially famous for their wooden grave monuments (Waga’s). They have succeeded to earn their living from the dry land around them by constructing ingenious terraces of stones. Their fields and terraces are also surrounded by stone walls as a defence against cattle, floods and enemies.

The Hamer people are specially known for their remarkable hair style and body decoration. After killing a dangerous animal or enemy, the men are allowed to wear a clay hair bun with some large ostrich feathers. Also famous is the ceremony of the Bull Jumping: young men who have reached the age to marry have to be tested by jumping from one bull to another without falling. If a young man falls, he can try it once more, but when he falls a second time he is beaten by the women and will be an outcast for the rest of his life.

The Tsemay are located in the southern region, with no more than 10,000 people. In rural areas of Ethiopia, girls are mostly requiring to keep their virginity until they get married Nevertheless this custom is not generalized throughout the county. The Tsemay can engage in premarital relations, and amongst youngsters having sexual partner is not un common.

The Mursi are cattle hardier and cultivators whose number about 6000 and live in the lower valley of the river Omo. The Mursi are renowned for the strange customs followed by their women who are reaching maturity have their lower lips slit and circular clay inserted. The plates made from mud (reddish or black) or wood. There are different sizes and shapes (circular or trapezoidal) they may be decorated with cuts or incisions on the wood or mud. Sometimes the centre is hollow, forming a large labial ring. The larger the disc the more desirable the wearer.

They are famous for their beehive huts all over the posters and photos. It is measures as long as 12m with a central pillar carrying the whole load o the tukul. It then woven with bamboo in vertical and horizontal styles. The down word nature o the structure is to resist the torrential rainfall of the area and the house well built may last half a century without any major maintenance. The Dorzes having this remarkable experience will produce the famous weaving in the country.

The Dassenetch or Geleb occupy land on both sides of the Omo River. The Dassanetch are known all concern the same people. The most important ritual of Dassanetch is the So-called dime. The daughter is most important in the dimi ceremony. The whole population of a tribal section attends this ceremony where, for six weeks. The dime ritual is directly connected to the upcoming marriage of the daughters and consists for the larger part of slaughtering large quantities of cattle. By the end of the ceremony the participants are well dressed, with ostrich feathers in their clay hair, oxtails around their arms, leopard skins over their shoulder.

The Karo people, who live in the Southern Omo Zone or Omo Valley, are a small group only about 1000 people. The Karo are considered the master of body painting in which they engage when preparing for a dance feast or celebration. They are physically attractive because of their elaborate body decoration and modification. This is an elaborate process which ranges from fine and elaborate details to rough, but striking paintings traced with the palms or fingers. The most beautiful expression is in the facial and chest paintings that combine white (chalk), black coal, yellow, Ochre, and red Minerals, Suri, Karo and Nyangtom women apply Ornamental Scarification, on abdomen, arms and back, which enhance their beauty in the eyes of man.

The Nyangatom also known as Bume, the Nyangatom (Bume) belong to the Nilo Saharan linguistic group. Nyangatom (Bume) women are known for their enormous bead necklaces and for their use red ochre in their hairdo. Ornamentation of the women is designed not only for beauty, but also to assert the woman’s social status. The number, color, and variety of necklaces worn make a social declaration. Nyangtom men use the delicately colored clay head caps decorated with feather. They use natural clay and pigments found in their area, the Omo River basin. Colors are made from chalk; soft red, bluish, grey and yellow stones; and charcoal powder. In addition, both men and women also insert lip plugs of ivory, aluminum or wood on the lower lip. Scarification on bodies is a typical decoration for both men and women. They made little dots to highlights their eye and cheekbones.

The Surma used to be nomadic pastoralists, but now depend on substance cultivation of sorghum and maize. The most famous tradition the Surma is ‘Donga’ or stick fighting. At a certain age, they must face each other with long wooden clubs (donga), around two meters in length and whose ends have phallic form. Each contestant wears a duelling kit which both protective and decorative.

Donga: is a stick fighting festival of the Surma young men. At a fight, each challenger is armed with a hardwood stick. Each player beats his opponent with his stick as many times as possible with the intention of knocking him down, and eliminating him from the game. Players are usually unmarried men. The winner will be carried on a platform of poles to a group of girls waiting at the open field. The winner holds the privilege to ask among those girls for his own wife. The young Surma men & girls paint their bodies with a mixture of varied chalks – prepared by them. The Surma women are well-known for piercing their lips and inserting a large wooden and clay plate into it. Surma ethnic’s culture is beyond what we are experiencing in the current civilized world. Surma and Mursi ethnics exercise the same culture. Donga – stick fighting is often in every September.