Daasanach, Hamar, Karo, Konso & Mursi (Ethiopia)

Daasanach

Also known as Geleb tribe, living in the south of Ethopia near Omorate

The Daasanach are also called Marille especially by their neighbours, the Turkana of Kenya. The Daasanach are traditionally pastoralists, but in recent years have become primarily agropastoral. Having lost the majority of their lands over the past fifty years or so, primarily as a result from being excluded from their traditional Kenyan lands, including on both sides of Lake Turkana, and the ‘Ilemi Triangle’ of Sudan, they have suffered a massive decrease in the numbers of cattle, goats and sheep. As a result, large numbers of them have moved to areas closer to the Omo River, where they attempt to grow enough crops to survive. There is much disease along the river (including tsetse, which has increased with forest and woodland development there), however, making this solution to their economic plight difficult. Like many pastoral peoples throughout this region of Africa, the Daasanach are a highly egalitarian society, with a social system involving age sets and clan lineages – both of which involve strong reciprocity relations.

Hamar

The Hamar are an Omotic community inhabiting southwestern Ethiopia. They live in Hamer woreda (or district), a fertile part of the Omo River valley, in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR). They are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle.

The Hamar are known for their unique custom of “bull jumping,” which initiates a boy into manhood. First, female relatives dance and invite whipping from men who have recently been initiated; this shows their support of the initiate, and their scars give them a say on who they marry.

Karo

Karo is an Omotic language spoken in the Debub (South) Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region in Ethiopia. Karo is described as being closely related to its neighbors, Hamer and Banna, with a lexical similarity of 81%, and is considered a dialect of Hamer by Blench (2006).

Konso

The Konso, also known as the Xonsita, are a Lowland East Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central Ethiopia.

Although there are today marked differences in customs between the Konso and their Oromo neighbors, Konso society has also retained some commonalities with traditional Oromo culture. The latter include the gadaa generation-grading system of social organization, similar high priests and a cult of phallicism.

Konso society is largely agricultural and involves the irrigation and terracing of mountain slopes. Staple crops include sorghum and corn, with cash crops including cotton and coffee. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised for food and milk.

Polygyny is an accepted practice among the Konso.

Group members also erect carvings (wagas), which are created in memory of a dead man who has killed an enemy or animal. The statues are often arranged in groups, with statues representing the man, his wives, and his adversaries present.

In terms of creed, the Konso practice a traditional religion centered on the worship of Waaq/Wakh. In the related Oromo culture, Waaq denotes the god of the early faith believed to have been adhered to by Cushitic groups.

Mursi

The Mursi (or Mun as they refer to themselves) are a Nilotic pastoralist ethnic group in Ethiopia. They principally reside in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, close to the border with South Sudan. According to the 2007 national census, there are 7,500 Mursi, 448 of whom live in urban areas; of the total number, 92.25% live in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR).

Surrounded by mountains between the Omo River and its tributary the Mago, the home of the Mursi is one of the most isolated regions of the country. Their neighbors include the Aari, the Banna, the Bodi, the Karo, the Kwegu, the Nyangatom and the Suri. They are grouped together with the Me’en and Suri by the Ethiopian government under the name Surma.

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