Field Journal: Ethiopian Culture Tour 2016, South Omo Valley
Posted by Marco Tonoli
in Africa and Expeditions
Moving south through Ethiopia takes one beyond any expectation you could have of the country. The southern reaches, along the banks of the Omo River, are home to some of Africa’s most remarkable ethnic groups. No less than 14 culturally independent and unique tribes, some numbering as few as 1,000 individuals, and some as many as 250,000. All are scattered through a harsh land not yet influenced by western civilization. Our journey through the South Omo Valley took us to the Konso, who have villages of stone labyrinths and terraced farms that are no less than 700 years old. We met the Mursi, a fierce tribe whose woman don lip plates and warthog-tusked head pieces, men carry old Kalashnikovs and live almost exclusively off the grains they produce and milk and blood from their cattle. The Hamer people, are a peaceful, welcoming tribe, adorned in beads, who practice the art of scarification along their exquisite torsos. It was here in the Hamer region that we were welcomed to attend the bewildering ceremony of Bull Jumping, an initiation practice for young men. This three-day event culminates with villagers from the region all gathering on the host family’s land, singing and dancing by the women to a point of frenzy, and the gathering of the family’s bulls all lined in a row for the young initiate to propel himself up onto the backs of the jostling bulls and run along their backs. This is done four to six times with the entire community frantically singing and bounding around the affair. It is the raw energy of the ceremony that draws you into this remarkable practice that earns a young boy the right to call himself a man and chose a wife.
Ethiopia. It is a land of immense diversity, deeply entrenched faith, ancient history, an enormous variety of cultures, remarkable wildlife, and overwhelming natural beauty. It is a country that every person should visit sooner rather than later.
Read more about this expedition on our Ethiopia Tour page.