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Archive for October 16th, 2008

Endangered Ethiopians

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 16, 2008

Ethiopians living side by side in the past, present and future

Let’s encounter some of the most remarkable tribal peoples on this planet of ours. These are some of the most wonderful Ethiopians, whose cultures are threatened to vanish, whose million-year-old existence is acutely endangered by aggressive ‘civilization’.

We are probably experiencing this sort of physical coexistence only for a very few years to come.

The Ari

The Ari inhabit the northern border of Mago National Park in southwestern Ethiopia. Ari Villages have neat compounds in fertile and scenic land with coffee plantations. They have large livestock herds and produce large quantities of honey.

The women wear skirts from the banana like tree, called Enset. Ari women are famous for their pottery which they sell to support their families.

 

The Bodi

The Bodi are of Nilo-Saharan stock and pastoral background. Although they do cultivate sorghum along the banks of the Omo River, their culture is very much cattle centered.

Similar to the Mursi, livestock plays an important role in marriage, divination, and name-giving rituals. The Bodi classification of cattle is complex, with over eighty words to denote different colors and patterns.

Bodi dress is simple. The women wear goatskins tied at the waist and shoulder, while men fasten a strip of cotton or bark-cloth around their waist.

 

The Bumi

Also known as the Nyangatom or the Bume, the Bumi live south of Omo National Park and occasionally migrate into the lower regions of the park when water or grazing is scarce. Numbering around 6 – 7000 in population, the Bumi are agro-pastoralists, relying on cattle herding and flood-retreat agriculture (consisting mainly of sorghum harvesting on the Omo and Kibish Rivers). The Bumi tend to indulge in honey and frequently smoke out beehives in the Park to get to the honey inside the nests.

The Bumi are known to be great warriors and, quite frequently, active warmongers, they are often at war with the neighboring tribes including the Hamer, the Karo and the Surma.

Small groups of Bumi living along the Omo are specialized crocodile hunters using harpoons from a dugout canoe. The elders of both sexes wear a lower lip plug, the men’s being made from ivory and women’s made from copper filigree.

 

The Hamer

The Hamer are pastoralists and number about 30,000. They are known for their practice of body adornment and wearing a multitude of colorful beads. Women adorn their necks with heavy polished iron jewelry.

Hamer society consists of a complex system of age groups. To pass from one age group to another involves complicated rituals. The most significant ceremony for young men is the “jumping of the bull” – the final test before passing into adulthood.

Several days before the ceremony, initiates pass out invitations in the form of dried knotted grass. The ceremony lasts three days. Late in the afternoon on the final day, ten to thirty bulls are lined up side by side. The naked initiate rushes towards the animal, vaults onto the first bull’s back and then runs across the line of animals. At the end of the line he turns back to repeat the performance in the opposite direction. He must make this unstable journey without falling.

The Hamer men have a reputation of being less than adoring husbands. The Hamer women submit to the ritual floggings proudly and love to show the deep scars that are regarded as a proof of devotion to their husbands.

 

The Karo

The Karo, who number only about 3,000 people, mainly live on the practice of flood retreat cultivation on the banks of the Omo River in South-western Ethiopia.

The Karo excel in face and body painting, practiced in preparation of their dances and ceremonies. They pulverize locally found white chalk, yellow mineral rock, red iron ore and black charcoal to decorate their bodies, often imitating the spotted plumage of a guinea fowl. Feather plumes are inserted in their clay hair buns to complete the look. The clay hair bun can take up to three days to construct and is usually re-made every three to six months. Their painted face masks are spectacular.

Karo women scarify their chests to beautify themselves. Scars are cut with a knife and ash is rubbed in to produce a raised welt.

The Karo tribes’ existence is somewhat precarious today. The inevitability of the encroaching populace and the introduction of modern weaponry has affected their already delicate ecosystem.

Being the smallest tribe in the area, this group obviously struggles with direct threats from nearby tribes that have more gun power, greater numbers, and likely coalitions with one another.

 

The Mursi

The Mursi live between their dry season range in the Mursi Hills, and their wet season range on the Tama Plains, north of Mago Park in the Omo River region of South-Western Ethiopia. They care for livestock and plant some crops. They have a war-like reputation given their strong desire to control as much grazing land as they can for their livestock. And although the Mursi have been relatively isolated from the world outside the Omo River region, it is not unusual to see the men carrying AK-47 rifles.

The men practice light scarification on their shoulders after killing an enemy, and shave geometric patterns on their head. During dances and ceremonies they adorn literally every part of their body with white chalk paint. Young unmarried men practice group stick fights. The winner is carried on top of poles to girls waiting beside the arena, who decide among themselves which of them will ask his hand in marriage.

When a young Mursi girl reaches the age of 15 or 16, her lower lip is pierced so she can wear a lip plate. The larger the lip plate she can tolerate, the more cattle her bride price will bring for her father.

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