Ethiopia an old country beyond all imaginations has culture and traditions dating back over 3000 years. With over 80 different Ethnic groups with their own language, culture and traditions. Mursi Surma is the Ethiopian government’s collective name for the Suri , the Mursi and the Me’en . All together they number about 80 thousand people. There is no current census. Suri or Shuri is the name of a sedentary pastoral Nubian people and its Nilo-Saharan language in the Bench Maji Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region in Ethiopia, to the Sudan border, and across the border in Sudan. Some are located west of Mizan Teferi.
Mursi or Murzu is the name of a closely related sedentary pastoral Nubian people whose language (Mursi) is over 80% cognate with Suri. They are located next to the Suri in the center of the Omo Region and the lowlands southwest of Jinka in the Debub Omo Zone. The Mursi do not regard themselves as Surma, despite the cultural and linguistic similarities. Population: 3,258 (1998 census). Anthropologist David Turton estimates the Mursi Population at 6-10,000.
Me’en is the name of a closely related sedentary pastoral Nubian people whose language (Me’en) is over 80% cognate with Mursi. They are located in and around Bachuma, and in lowlands to the south, near the Omo River. Population: 56,585 (1998 census) All three peoples share a similar culture. Their homeland is remote, located in desolate mountains, and traditional rivalries with their tribal neighbors such as the Nyangotam have become quite bloody as automatic firearms have become available from the parties in the Sudanese Civil War. The police allow foreigners to travel there only with a hired armed guard. They have a macho culture, with an obsession for stick fighting called donga bringing great prestige to men – it is especially important when seeking a bride – and they are very competitive, at the risk of serious injury and occasional death. The males are often shaved bald, and frequently wear little or no clothes, even during stick fights.
At a young age, to beautify themselves for marriage, most women have their bottom teeth removed and their bottom lips pierced, then stretched, so as to allow insertion of a clay lip plate. Some women have stretched their lips so as to allow plates up to five inches in diameter. Increasing with exposure to other cultures, however, a growing number of girls now refrain from this practice. The tribe’s children are sometimes painted with white clay paint, which may be dotted on the face or body.
Village life is largely communal, sharing the produce of the cattle (milk and blood, as do the Maasai). Though their chief (styled komaro) wears the fur crown of a pagan priest-king, but he is merely the most respected elder and can be removed. Few are familiar with Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and their literacy level is very low.
At a young age, to beautify themselves for marriage, most women have their bottom teeth removed and their bottom lips pierced, then stretched, so as to allow insertion of a clay lip plate. Some women have stretched their lips so as to allow plates up to five inches in diameter. Increasing with exposure to other cultures, however, a growing number of girls now refrain from this practice. The tribe’s children are sometimes painted with white clay paint, which may be dotted on the face or body. Village life is largely communal, sharing the produce of the cattle (milk and blood, as do the Maasai). Though their chief (styled komaro) wears the fur crown of a pagan priest-king, but he is merely the most respected elder and can be removed. Few are familiar with Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and their literacy level is very low.
Surma is the collective name for the Suri, the Mursi and the Me’en. Altogether they number about 80,000 people. There is no current census. All three speak languages of the southeast branch of the Surmic language cluster. Some have used the terms “Suri” and “Surma” interchangeably, or for contradictory purposes, so readers should note carefully what group an author is referring to Suri or Shuri is the name of a sedentary pastoral people and its Nilo-Saharan language in the Bench Maji Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) in Ethiopia, to the Sudan border, and across the border in Sudan. Some are located west of Mizan Teferi. Population: 20,622
The Hammer (also spelled Hamar) are a tribal people in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region of Ethiopia . They live in Hamer Bena woreda (or district), a fertile part of the Omo River valley. They are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle. According to the CSA census of 1994, there were 42,838 Hammer language speakers,and 42,448 self-identified Hammer people of a total population of about 53 million, representing approximately 0.1% of the population. On an episode of the BBC Wales television series Going Tribal, first broadcast in 2006 and also aired on the Discovery Channel, host Bruce Parry visited the Hamar tribe. He participated in the key tradition of the pastoral culture, cow jumping. This rite of passage for men coming of age must be done before a man is permitted to marry. The man-to-be must “jump the cattle” four times to be successful and only castrated male cattle and cows may be used to jump over. This test is performed while naked (except for a few cords bound across the chest) as a symbol of the childhood he is about to leave behind him. On completion of this test, the young man joins the ranks of the maza – other men who have recently passed the same test and who spend the next few months of their lives supervising these events in villages throughout the Hamar territory. Unlike the Minoan bull-leaping, the cattle is held still by maza, so the physical risk is limited.
The maza are also responsible for a ritual which precedes the main cattle jump. The village’s women (and in particular, the would-be jumper’s sisters) purposefully provoke the maza into lashing their bare backs with sticks which inflict raw, open wounds and scar them for life. However, these wounds are seen as the mark of a true Hamar woman, and all the village’s women spoken to by Bruce Parry were not only consenting, but eager to participate.
Because the sister or relative was whipped at the man’s ceremony and endured the pain for him she can later in life look to him for help if she falls on hard times because she has the scars from the whipping she received for him to prove his debt to her. Women commonly end up as the heads of families because they marry men who are much older than themselves while they are young. When her husband dies she is left in control of the family’s affairs and livestock. She is also in control of his younger brother’s and their livestock if their parents are dead. Widows may not re-marry. One Hamar woman who had long since left the village and begun life in a larger town spoke out against the (whipping) practice as unfit for an educated person.
The ceremonies end with several days of feasting, including the typical jumping dances, accompanied by as much sorghum beer as the cow-jumper’s family can provide to the visitors.
The Amhara women wear dresses that are tight bodice and full skirted. The dresses are bright white with colored embroidery and woven borders. The men are resplendent in white jodhpurs and tunics. Although originally most of the border designs were based on the varied design of the Ethiopian cross, today you sometimes see more modern motifs – flowers, birds and even airplanes.
The Afar, most of whom occupy one of the most inhospitable desert or semi-desert areas in the world, have long been regarded as a fierce and warlike people. They are certainly proud and individualistic, and somehow manage to eke a living out of the challenging wilderness in which many of them live. The majority of the Afars are semi-nomadic pastoralists, but a minority has settled, notably those in the Aussa oasis. Almost all are Muslims, and are organized into confederacies, tribes, and clans. The nomads live in small, isolated groups with the camel as their beast of burden, and keep sheep, goats, and cattle.
The Muslims of Harar wear colorful dress. The men often dress in red, purple or black. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make large buns behind their ears. Harari women have been known for their basketwork for centuries and still weave intricate creations from coloured fibers and grasses. Harar is also famous for the work of its silversmiths, who craft beautiful anklets, necklaces, arm bands, silver chains, bangles and earrings out of the precious metal. Although these items can be purchased at the market, some of the best selections can be found in the homes of the craftsmen and women.
The Anuak people are found in the Gambella region. The indigenous Anuak people are mainly fishermen in this region, and the crops they do grow such as: sorghum does not reach their full potential because of the extremely basic methods employed. There are few large villages, as people prefer instead to group together around a mango grove in the extended family compound of no more than five or six huts.
The Oromo people offer their products for sale in open markets. They produce the more familiar grains and vegetables of established agriculture. Coffee, one of the world’s favorite beverages, is believed to have been ‘born’ in this region.
The lowland Somali wear long, often brightly colored cotton wraps, while some of the cattle-herders in the Lake District have clothing made of skins.
The Southern region comprises hundreds of ethnic groups. The region of the south of Konso and Yabello is inhabited by the Konso people. Except for trading with the neighbouring Borena for salt or cowrie shells, outside influence had, until recently, virtually passed by the Konso. The cornerstone of Konso culture, however, is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone; enable them to extract a productive living from the none-too-fertile hills and valleys that surround them.
The women of Tigray wear dozens of plaits (shuruba) tightly braided to the head and fuzzing out at the shoulders. Young children often have their heads shaved, except for a tuft or a small tail of plaits, which are left so that if God calls them ‘He will have a handle by which to lift them up to Heaven’.20,622