Tribes in Omo Valley
The Omo Valley is located in the remote south-west of Ethiopia. The area is rich in anthropological remains and archaeological findings. The Mago Park and the Omo National Park which are among the richest parks of the country are found in this region. The Omo valley is also home of mostly nomadic and semi-nomadic people like the Hamer, Borena, Nyangatom, Tsemay, Dasanech, Mursi and Karo who wander with their spears, head rests and cattle. There are more than a dozen different fascinating ethnic groups. Although most of them lead a simple pastoral life, they have rich traditions and colorful rituals. Their jewelry, body paintings, scarification and hairstyles are unique and fascinating.
The most visited ethnic groups are:-
The unique trait of the Mursi ,shared by other surmic groups, is the spectacular labial and lobular plates worn by the women and their ceremony. Tusk pendants worn by Mursi men is a sign of bravery and status. Also the deep horse-shoe shaped scarifications the Mursi warriors make on their upper arms whenever they succeed in killing their enemy group is typical. The scars are put on the right arm for a male victim and on the left for a female victim but the more successful warriors may proceed to put the incisions on thighs. A heavy piece of iron collection worn by the women is also intended to attract.
The Dassanetch or Geleb are some 22,000 people who inhabit the region around the southern & hence the lower most course of the Omo river reaching to the place where the delta of the Omo river is found close to Lake Turkana.
The Hammer is a large territory that stretches east from the omo river to lake chew Bahir stands out as perhaps the archetypal people of the south omo. The women are particularly striking, adorned with thick plaits of ochre-colored hair hanging down in a heavy fringe, leather skirts decorated with cowries, a dozen or more copper bracelets fixed tightly around their arms , thick welts on their body created by cutting themselves and treating the wound with ash and charcoal. Married women wear one or more thick copper necklaces, often with a circular wedge of perhaps 10cm long projecting out of the front.
Among the people of Hamar there is a belief that evil and bad luck exist in certain unholy or impure things, which are the causes of some unfortunate and disastrous circumstances like drought and epidemics on the larger community. Twins, a child born outside of formal marriages, and children whose upper milk teeth grow before their lower ones, are considered to possess mingi (abnormality, pollution, unclean) and, for this reason, they are thrown into the forest to die. Hamar parents would rather lose a child than risk crop failure, drought, or ill health in the family.
The Hamar have evolved a sophisticated age-grading system characterized by intervallic "rites of passage" which celebrate transitions from one age grade to the next. Circumcision which occurs when a child or young man has lost his milk teeth, and the "leap over the bulls"-symbol for a social jump from boy hood to adult hood.
Situated on the banks of the seasonal Segen River, the town of Karat-Konso, has roughly 3,000-4,000 inhabitants. It is perched at an elevation of 1,650m and is 90km far from Arbaminch.
Although, it is undeniably the case that the town boasts little to distinguish it from a hundred other comparable tiny Ethiopian settlements, equally true, however is that the Konso people of the surrounding hills adhere to a unique and complex culture every bit as fascinating as that of the more popular lowland peoples of the Omo region. It is a place of old walled or fortified villages, complex and fascinating cultures all of its own.
Konso region is full of rugged land which is predominantly composed of many hills. Through time the people have devised their own mechanism of retaining their fertile soil by developing complex and yet entirely their own, terracing system. Extensive and intricate, this system preserves the fertility of the friable top soils and prevents them from being washed down in to the valleys below. The people are so hard working that one can hardly see untraced hill. They grow sorghum, wheat, barley, maize, peas, beans, bananas, cotton, tobacco, coffee and root plants.
Konso has been registered as World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 2011; makining it the latest addition to Ethiopian's already recorded (eight) Wold Heritage sites.
The total number of the Tsemay does not exceed 10,000 people. Their neighbors include the Konso to the east, the Banna - Bashada group to the west, the Male to the north, and the Arbore to the south.
They occupy the semi-arid region of the Weyto valley, which is found west of the Weyto River. Here, the Tsemay live as agro - pastoralist. The banks of the Weyto River are particularly suitable for crop cultivation and other plantations like cotton. However, the Tsemay mainly grow sorghum and millet.
The Tsemay society, unlike most other people in rural Ethiopia, does not have a custom, which emphasizes on the availability of girls virginity until their official day of marriage. In other words, a Tsemay girl, if she wishes to, can have a sexual partner with whom she can engage in premarital relations. However, Tsemay culture strictly prohibits the girls from bearing a child out of this relation.