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People & Ethnic Groups

Konso people

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The Hamatic language group, Konso excel as cultivators. Their territory on the eastern rim of the lower Omo river valley lies in mountainous terrain at an altitude of approximately 5,000ft. Despite plentiful rain, it is difficult terrain for agriculture due to the steep inclines and the erosion caused. The Konso therefore have created elaborate terracing buttressed with stone. The Konso are sedentary, hardworking and materialist.

They worship the sky god “Wag” venerate serpents and display elements of an ancestor cult, commemorating dead heroes with carved wooden figures known as “Waka” or “something of grandfathers”. Representing the sum total of man’s achievements, these totems are placed in open fields or by roadsides and depict the deceased his wives, the enemies he has slain in battle and any noble animals he may have killed. They definite age-set institutions, hold elaborate initiation ceremonials to mark the rites of passage from one grade to the next and wear phallic “Kalicha” on their foreheads during these ceremonies.

Hamar people

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The Hamar are a semi nomadic tribe with a total number of about 15,000 and like the Borena, they are pastoralists. Although they are known for their skills of pottery, beekeeping, and smithing, their herds especially their cattle are the focus of their culture and of their socioeconomic life. Even their vocabulary reflects this concern. There are at least 27 words for the subtle variations of colour and texture of cattle, and every Hamar has several names, including a Goat name.

These are a superstitious people who believe that evil and bad luck (mingi) exists in certain unholy or impure things. Twins, a child born out of wed lock, and children, whose upper milk teeth come before their lower cones, are considered to possess mingi and for this reason, they are thrown into the forest to die.

The Hamar have evolved an elaborate age-grade system characterized by periodic “rites of passage” which celebrate transition from one age grade to the next. Hairstyle is important here. By far the most significant ceremony is known as the “jumping of the Bull”. For the novices passing from boyhood into early adulthood.

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