People of South Omo Valley
Extraordinary cultural integrity, that there is more than a smattering of truth in the assertion that as recently as 50 years ago the people of South Omo were scarcely aware that such an entity as Ethiopia existed.
hamar Tribes 12South Omo is literally fantastic. Descending from the green, urbane highlands into the low-lying plains of South Omo feels like a journey not merely through space, but also through time, as one enters the vast and thinly populated badlands that divide the mountainous centre of Ethiopia from its counterpart in Kenya. Like much of neighboring northern Kenya, South Omo is a close as one can come to an Africa untouched by outside influences.
The culturally diverse, immaculately colorful and defiantly traditionalist agro-pastoralists who inhabit the region seem to occupy a physical and psychic landscape little different to that of their nomadic ancestors. This is Africa as it once was, or as some might still imagine it to be, and its mere existence is at once wonderful and scarcely credible. It seems facile to label South Omo as a living museum. Yet in many senses, that is exactly what it is. Four of Africa’s major linguistic groups are represented in the region. All in all, depending on where one draws the lines, as many as two-dozen different tribes occupy South Omo, some numbering tens of thousands, others no more that 500, each one of them culturally unique.
The most renowned of the Omotic-speakers are the Mursi, famed for their practice of inserting large clay plates behind the lower lips of their women. Other important groups of South Omo include theHamer-Bena, the Karo and the Ari, whose cultures and quirks of adornment-body scarring, body painting. Romanticize or condemn it, South Omo is there, it is fascinating, and it is utterly unique.