Keeping Order with the Konso tribe of the Omo Valley


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Africa » Ethiopia » Southern Nations Region
June 30th 2019
Published: July 17th 2019
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Our first tour of the day was a brief 90 minute ‘cruise’ in a local fast boat on the nearby Lake Chamo to check out the local wildlife. That wildlife comprised half a dozen fresh water crocodiles (that we have often seen in Oz) and a few heads of hippos sticking out of the water (a poor relation of our sightings in Kenya), so I guess overall I would have to say it was pretty underwhelming, but this was all included in our travel package.

Our second tribe visit was to the Konso village to learn about a tribe best known for its unique social life structure. It is built heavily on communities of which we were advised there were nine within this particular village of some 3,000 people. Each of these has a democratically elected chief, who has the dual roles of looking after the welfare of his own community and in conjunction with other chiefs, resolving any conflict between communities. We were shown a couple of the very impressive community huts, which are about as sturdy as any such structures we have seen on our trip. The village is located on hilltops and has an impressive set of concentric stone walls to fortify it as a defensive measure. There are a series of alleys keeping the village hard to access and adding to the security. Their land is generally dry and infertile which limits their crop options, with sorghum being their main crop from ground often fertilised by animal dung.

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. We counted around a dozen poles strapped together suggesting this village is over 200 years old. Carved wooden statues are also used to mark the grave of a famous Konso tribal member. We saw this marker, called a Waga, above one member’s grave, along with some smaller statues representing his wives and conquered enemies. Although the Konso traditions date back hundreds of years, their clothing does not, with virtually all tribal members now comfortable in western clothing, especially the younger generation. All up, a couple of hours well spent and most informative discussions.

This was followed by a three hour road trip from Konso village to Turmi that would have to be one of the most fascinating I’ve ever undertaken. Firstly, the scenery changed significantly over the duration of the journey and some of it, especially in the higher mountainous regions where there were lots of terraced crops, was just stunning. But equally interesting were all the sideshows on the roads themselves. As well as the now regular potholes, which forced our driver to zigzag his way regularly from side to side (fortunately there was little oncoming traffic and drivers here show lots of consideration to their fellow motorists), there were many live obstacles to contend with as well. Every few kilometres, we would be confronted by a group of young kids, either waving to us, swinging their hips, dancing up and down, or bending down and sticking their arse out at us, and they would then follow that up by running after the car as we pass, shouting out at us. Add to this, at even more frequent intervals, the presence of a herdsperson (is there such a word? - they could be male or female, young or old) along with their considerable flock of cows, sheep, goats or donkeys, or often some combination of all of these. These would regularly take over the whole road and we would have to carefully negotiate our way through the pack. Add to this the interest in all the frequent villages passed, most with crowds of people hanging around, so never a dull moment on the trip.

Our final arrival in the small town on Turmi took us to the Buska Lodge, where we are to spend the next two nights. Tomorrow we have a long trip to check out the Karo tribe, well known for their facial and chest painting culture. Bring it on!


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24th July 2019
They might be poor but they're happy

Priceless photo
Kids around the world are happy no matter their circumstances. They look joyful.
24th July 2019
They might be poor but they're happy

Priceless photo
Except when they are born into money. A sad reflection of our western world!

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