The Konso are known for their custom of erecting wooden grave markers, which mark the resting place of important leaders and warriors. These markers are carved with the exaggerated features of the dead person. In a similar fashion, the Konso also erect poles to signify the coming of age of a generation, and these poles can be found in their village squares.
The Ari people are the largest group in the Omo region numbering over 100,000. The villages are built in have neat compounds on fertile land which support coffee plantations. The people have large herds of livestock and in addition produce large quantities of honey. The women are known for the pottery they make and sell.
The Tsemay are one of the lesser known of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups, with numbers not exceeding 10,000 people. Their neighbours include the Konso to the east, the Banna – Bashada group to the west, the Male to the north, and the Arbore to the south.
The Mursi are perhaps the best known of the Omo Valley tribes, due to the distinctive custom among women of wearing clay plates through their lips. When a woman reaches the age of about 20, a small cut is made in the lower lip and a clay plate inserted, which is then extended each year. The Mursi people live in one of the least accessible areas of Ethiopia – when a British anthropologist visited them for the first time in the early 1970s, they had never heard of the country of Ethiopia where they live. They are a relatively small ethnic group, comprising of about 7-10,000 people.
The 15,000 to 20,000 members of the Hamar make their living as successful cattle herders and farmers. Once they hunted, but the wild pigs and small antelope have almost disappeared from the lands in which they live; and until 20 years ago, all ploughing was done by hand with digging sticks. Hamar men come of age by leaping over a line of cattle in a ceremony which qualifies them to marry, own cattle and have children. They must leap over the cattle four times – only then are they considered to be men. At this time, the female relatives of the men leaping will line up to be whipped by the maza, a group of men who have performed the leap themselves and live separately to the rest of the tribe. This whipping is said to create a strong bond between the jumper and his female relations, as he now owes them a debt and they can call upon him during times of hardship.
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