Dr. Friedel Schneider
Ausbau 1
15518 Steinhöfel OT Beerfelde

friedel@home4friends.de

 

The archaic world of the Omo River in Ethiopia

Twice, the Schneiders manage to reach the outermost regions of south western Ethiopia: the amazing wilderness at the lower reaches of the Omo River. This area, with its multitude of over 40, mostly small peoples is unique on this planet. Those peoples can be counted amongst the most fascinating ones of Africa. The vast bulk of them still lead an extremely archaic life, deeply engrained in traditions and rites and closely connected to the cycle of nature. As different as the tribes are, as varying are their ways of life. According to the general opinion, there are few places on earth where the people are living that anciently.

The couple gets to explore the outbacks of the Omo, of which parts are declared nature reserves. They get to know the Mursi women with their lip discs and ear plates that measure up to 20 cm in diameter. Hannelore and Friedel venture out to the land of Kaffa, the origin of coffee growing, up to the impenetrable border region Kibish on the western banks of the Omo. There, in the area of the Surma people, they experience the ritualistic, not unperilous and oftentimes even fatal stick fightings of the naked men of different tribes and they are impressed by the tapping of cattle and the drinking of its blood, which is a crucial constituent of the Surma nutrition. In a deep-rooted public ritual the provoking and proud Hamer women have themselves whipped hardly with crops by the men and the Hamer men have to master the ceremony of cow jumping to initialise their pubescence. The Schneiders even get to the people of Konso who live secludedly in the mountains. They visit their fortifications and are overwhelmed by the skilfully constructed terraced fields. They are received in audience by the king in his traditional Kraal and gain insight into the Konso habits - for example, the dead are laid out directly in their own cottage or in a cottage that is situated right next to theirs to honor them even beyond their death, to consult them and to be on their side. The Konso are a people that uphold both, its martial customs and the phallic cult, which are vividly lived out in everyday life, up to this day. In their believe the natural cycle of life and death has an elementary meaning and is defining their culture. In this context the phallus is a symbol for the creation of life, the reputation of the man, and the procreation of offspring, as well as proof for the man's strength when killing large animals and - as it was common up to the recent past - enemies of the tribe. The enemies' severed penis is symbolically worn as adornment on the forehead, displayed as embellishment on the houses or on the grave of the deceased hero, where figures of the killed with detached phalli are pictured. As a sign of trust, Schneider is allowed to visit the sepulchre of the grandfather and the father of the king and to photograph the carvings of phallic symbols. The equally remotely living Bornea captivate the married couple with their inimitable "singing well" and the production of salt at the crater lakes in its deeply archaic way.

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