Ari Tribe

The Aari Nationality lives in Northern Aari and Southern Aari, and the rest live mixed with Gofa, Oida, Benna, and Maale nationalities. In rural and urban localities they also live with Basketo, Gofa, Welayita, Konso, Acharacle, Oromo, Gamo, and Tigre communities. As for the topography, the Highland in which the nationality lives is surrounded by the mountain chain of Berka, Tolta, Shengama, and Senegal. its lowland is plain.

There are different opinions on the origin and settlement of the nationality. The first one says they are indigenous by providing the name of the nationality itself as evidence. Even though the name “A-eri” was changed to Aari in due process, its meaning is “being born or created “to say it is created here in the area. Kersa and Myina are parts of the Aari Nationality. The vast part of the community is Qensa. There are two main clan bases in Qensa which are bases of other sub-clans. They are called Endi and Ashenda has 36 sub-clans that do not marry each other.

Arbore Tribe

The Arbore tribe is a small tribe that lives in the southwest region of the Omo Valley. They have ancestral and cultural links to the Konso people and perform many ritual dances while singing. The Tsemay people are their neighboring tribe.
Arbore people are pastoralists (livestock farmers). They believe that their singing and dancing eliminate negative energy and with the negative energy gone, the tribe will prosper. The women of the tribe cover their heads with black cloth and are known to wear very colorful necklaces and earrings. Young children will wear a shell-type hat that protects their heads from the sun. Body painting is done by the Arbore using natural colors made from solid and stone.

Traditional dancing is practiced by the tribe and wealth is measured by the number of cattle a tribesman owns.

Dorze Tribe

Well-known cotton weavers, the Dorze tribe were once warriors. They are famous for their cotton-woven cloths and beehive huts. The Dorze people live in large communities north of Addis Abada. They cultivate their own food and prevent erosion by terracing along the mountainside. In their farmlands, the Dorze will grow highland cereals. They also grow spices, vegetables, fruits, and tobacco within their compound.

Women of the Dorze tribe have most of the responsibility in the family. They must take care of any children and all of the house choirs. The women are also responsible for cooking, spinning cotton, and collecting firewood. Male tribal members spend most of their time on the farm or building huts. Sometimes you will find them weaving material to use for different things. The Dorze people wear colorful toga robes called Shammas. They are very popular throughout Ethiopia.

A Dorze hut is made up of hardwood poles, woven bamboo, Enset, and other natural materials. It can stand two stories tall and last up to 80 years. Inside the main hut, you will find a fireplace, a seating area, and bedrooms. Smaller huts can include guest houses, a workshop, a kitchen, and even a cattle shed. When termites attack the hut, the Dorze can just remove it from its foundation and relocate it. This allows the home to last much longer, but every move shortens the height of the hut.

Konso Tribe

The Konso live in an isolated region of the basalt hills. The area is made up of hard rocky slopes. A Konso village may be fortified by a stone wall used as a defensive measure. Their village is located on hilltops and is split up into communities, with each community having a main hut. In order to enter a Konso village, you must pass through a gate and a series of alleys. These paths are part of its security system, keeping the village difficult to access.

They are mixed agriculturists using their dry and infertile lands to grow crops. Animal dung is used to fertilize the grounds and their most important crop is the sorghum. Sorghum is used as flour to make local beer. Grains, beans, cotton, corn, and coffee are also grown by the Konso people.

The erection of stones and poles is part of the Konso tradition. A generation pole is raised every 18 years, marking the start of a new generation. The age of a village can be determined by how many poles are standing. Carved wooden statues are also used to mark the grave of a famous Konso tribal member. The marker, called a Waga is placed above the grave and smaller statues are then placed around the larger one representing his wives and conquered enemies.

Although the Konso people have many customs dating back hundreds of years, it is not uncommon for them to be seen wearing western clothing. As newer generations grow, their traditional attire has gradually changed to modern societies. The Konso is a very interesting tribe to visit on your trip to the Lower Omo Valley.

Suri Tribe

Suri, also known as the Surma people live in the southwestern plains of Ethiopia. They raise cattle and farm when the land is fertile. Cattle are important to the Suri, giving them status. The more cattle tribesmen have, the wealthier they are. In order for a man to marry a woman in the Suri tribe, he must own at least 60 cattle. Cattle are given to the family of the woman in exchange for marriage. Like the other tribes, the Suri will use the milk and blood from the cow. During the dry season, people will drink blood instead of milk. Blood can be drained from a cow once a month. This is done by making a small incision in its neck.

The Suri is very much like the Muris tribe and practices the same traditions. The women wear lip plates that are made out of clay. The men in the tribe fight with sticks called Dongas. Both the men and women scar their bodies. If you see a Suri man with a scar, it usually means that he has killed a member of a rival tribe.

Mursi Tribe

The Mursi people are the most popular in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. They are well known for their unique lip plates. They are settled around the Omo River and in the Mago National Park. Due to the climate, they move twice a year between the winter and summer months. They herd cattle and grow crops along the banks of the Omo River.

The Mursi women paint their bodies and face in white. They also are the ones who wear the lip plates. Women of the Mursi tribe may have their lips cut at the age of 15 or 16. A small clay plate is then inserted into the lip. Through the years, larger plates are inserted into the lip causing it to stretch. The larger the clay plate, the more the woman is worth before she gets married. It is said that the clay plates were originally used to prevent capture by slave traders. Although very unique and part of their tradition, the Mursi women only wear the plates for a short time because they are so heavy and uncomfortable.

Men of the Mursi also use white paint for their bodies and faces. Just like any other ethnic tribe in the lower valley, the men must pass a test before they can get married. A Mursi man is given a stick called a Donga and must face one opponent. The men then battle it out, beating each other with the sticks.

The first fighter to submit loses and the winner is taken by a group of women to determine who he will marry. Men of the tribe also practice scarification. Like other tribes, this is the marking of an enemy killed by him.

Although they are known to be aggressive and combative, the Mursi are more than happy to allow you to take pictures of them. However, they keep a count of every picture taken and will charge you for each one.

Karo Tribe

The Karo or Kara is a small tribe with an estimated population between 1,000 and 3,000. They are closely related to the Kwegu tribe. They live along the east banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia and practice flood retreat cultivation. The crops that are grown by them are sorghum, maize, and beans. Only small cattle are kept because of the tsetse flies. These flies are large and consume the blood of vertebrate animals.

Like many of the tribes in the Omo, they paint their bodies and faces with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. The chalk is mixed with yellow rock, red iron ore, and charcoal to make its color. Face masks are worn at times and they have clay hair buns with feathers in them. Red clay mixed with butter is put into their hair and clothing is made from animal skin. The women scar their chest believing it makes them beautiful.

The men’s scars represent an enemy or dangerous animal killed. They also wear clay hair buns which symbolize a kill. A man in the tribe can have as many wives as he wants but must be able to afford them. Most men will only marry two or three.

Hamer Tribe

Also well known as the Hamer or hammer, they are one of the most known tribes in Southern Ethiopia. They inhabit the territory east of the Omo River and have villages in Turmi and Dimeka. Tourists visit the hammer hoping to see a traditional leaping ceremony (the jumping of bulls).

They are cattle herders and practice agriculture. Very colorful bracelets and beads are worn in their hair and around their waists and arms. The practice of body modification is used by cutting themselves and packing the wound with ash and charcoal. Some of the women wear circular wedge necklaces indicating that they are married. Men paint themselves with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. Hair ornaments worn by the men indicate a previous kill of an enemy or animal.

Traditional bull jumping is a rite of passage for men coming of age. The event lasts three days and involves only castrated cattle. The man must jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls four times completely nude without falling. If this task is complete, the man joins the ranks of the Maza. Maza is another man that has successfully completed the bull jumping event. During this ceremony, the women of the tribe provoke the maza to whip them on their bare backs. This is extremely painful and causes severe scarring on the women. The scars are a symbol of devotion to the men and are encouraged by the tribe. Night dancing called Evangadi is also a Hamer tradition.
The Hammers have unique huts that are made up of mud, wood, and straw.

Bodi Tribe

The Bodi speak the Bodi language as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family. The Bodi or Me’en is the name of a semi-nomadic tribe leaving in the Omo valley, about 140 km from Jinka town, Ethiopian Southern town. South of the Bodi is the Mursi tribe. Although they do cultivate sorghum, maize, and coffee 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.

Every year, they celebrate their new year, Kela (Bodi New year Celebration) between June and July, depending on the full moon, the rains. This celebration is a bit different than a usual new year celebration’s as the tradition is to feed young men from every Bodi village. They are fed only with honey, cow blood, and milk during 3-6 months (fattening process). They manage then to almost double their weight, being then ready for the competition. On the competition day, they arrive in the Bode King village and after the dance, they are measured by the elders who then decide who is the winner and the fattest after the competition.

Benna Tribe

Banna, Bana, and Benna are other spellings for the Bena people. They are neighbors with the Hamer tribe and it is believed that the Bena actually originated from them centuries ago. The markets in Key Afer and Jinka are often visited by them.

Just like most of the indigenous tribes in the Lower Omo Valley, the Bena practice ritual dancing and singing. The men often have their hair dressed up with a colorful clay cap that is decorated with feathers. Both the men and women wear long garments and paint their bodies with white chalk. Women of the tribe wear beads in their hair that is held together with butter.

The Bena look very similar to the Hamer and are often called the Hamer-Bena. Common rituals and traditions of other tribes are shared by the Bena. The boys in the tribe participate in bull jumping. When it is time for the boy to become a man, he must jump over a number of bulls naked without falling. If he is able to complete this task, he will become a man and be able to marry a woman.

Bumi Tribe

The Bumi or Bume people are also known as the Nyangatom. Known to be fierce fighters, they are often at war with Hamer and Karo tribes. Different from other tribes, the Bumi tribesmen hunt crocodiles using harpoons and a canoe.

The Nyangatom are some of the most feared warriors in the Omo Valley, locked in bloody feuds with the tribes that surround them. In the Lower Omo Valley, the Nyangatom face raids from the Mursi, the Dassanech, and the Karo and Hamar to the east. But despite the conflict, strong friendships between particular individuals are possible, despite the traditional conflict between their tribes.

Scarification is practiced by both men and women in the tribe. The women do it to beautify themselves and the men to signify a kill. Both sexes wear a lot of multi-colored necklaces and may also have a lower lip plug. The tribe practices both agriculture and cattle herding. Floodwaters must recede along the river’s banks before they will plant their crops. Beehives are smoked out by the Bumi and they gorge themselves on honey.

Dasenech Tribe

Also known as the Galeb or Geleb, this tribe lives just north of Kenya’s Lake Turkana. Their neighboring tribe is the Turkana people. The Danish are pastoralists (cattle herders), but due to the harsh territory, they have moved south to grow crops and fish. Cattle are used by the tribesman for meat, milk, and clothing. Often their cattle die from disease and drought. Of all the tribes in the Omo Valley, the Daasanech are the poorest.

Because the Daasanech people come from multiple ethnic groups, both men and women must agree to be circumcised. There are eight clans that make up the Daasanech tribe, each having its own name. They are the Elele, Inkabelo, Inkoria, Koro, Naritch, Oro, Randal, and the Ri’ele. Each clan is defined by its territory with the Inkabelo being the wealthiest.

During a ceremony, the Dassanech men dance with large sticks and the women hold wooden batons. A Daasanech man blesses his daughter’s fertility and future marriage by celebrating the Dimi. During the Dimi 10 to 30 cattle are slaughtered. Both men and women wear fur capes while they feast and dance. A Dimi ceremony will most likely take place in the dry season.

Kewegu Tribe

The Kwegu or Muguji is one of the smallest tribes in Omo Valley, living in small villages along the Mago River. The Kwegu speak the Kwegu language as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family. A

Unlike the other tribes, the Kwegu do not have cattle. They are hunters and live off the land. Small games are trapped by the tribe for food, but they also eat fruits and honey if available. They are largely dependent on the Omo River for fish to eat. They spend a large part of their time on the river and are noted for their canoe-making skills. Close relatives to the Kwegu are the Karo people. It is often that you can find Kwegu and Karo people living together or even marrying each other.


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