Sunday, September 1, 2013

dassanech tribe

dassanech woman wearing wig made of bottle caps & watch parts photographed by eric lafforgue 

dassanech tribe animal skin skirt, omorate, omo valley, ethiopia, photographed by eric lafforgue

dassanech woman wearing wig made of bottle caps & watch parts photographed by eric lafforgue 

balo, daasanach tribe, lower omo valley, ethiopia photographed by joey l.

dassanech women

dassanech man in headdress (the clay headdress can indicate the killing of an enemy or dangerous animal) photographed by eric lafforgue

dassanech huts

toudaio, dassanech girl photographed by mario gerth

dassanech tribe, woman with plastic sun shade, photographed by ngaire lawson

dassanech man with his tribal scarification

dassanech woman photographed by eric lafforgue

dassanech fashion photographed by eric lafforgue

the dassanech or geleb tribe live in ethiopia on the shore of lake turkana & along the omo river. the name dassanech means "people of the delta".  traditionally, the dassanech are divided into 8 territorial sections: the shirr (largest), inkoria, narich, elele, riele, oro, randal & kuoro.  furthermore, they are divided into 8 exogamous & non-territorial clans: turinyerim, fargar, galbur, turat, ili, mur, edze & tiyeme. 

the dassanech tribe is not strictly defined by ethnicity. anyone, man or woman, will be admitted, as long as they agree to be circumcised. each of the 8 clans has its own identity & customs, its own responsibilities towards the rest of the tribe, & is linked to a particular territory. 

the largest clan, the galbur is known as the water & crocodile clan. they believe its members have the power over both water & crocodiles & are responsible for dealing with diseases of the glands. the turat are responsible for dealing with burns from fire. they also have powers to keep away snakes, to cure many diseases & the ability to keep away enemies from their animals. the turnyerim have powers over drought & they pray for rains during dry periods. they can also cure snakebites by spitting on the wound. other clans have healing powers over eye infections, scorpion bites, muscular problems and so on. members of the same clan are forbidden from marrying or even dancing with each other.

the dassanech were originally nomadic pastoralists & today are predominantly agro-pastoralists who complement their income from livestock production with cultivation of crops on the flooded banks of the omo river & fishing. they also raise sheep, donkeys & in some parts, camels. sorghum is the staple food crop in addition to maize & beans.

the tribes trade with each other for beads, food, cattle & cloths. more recently they have begun trading guns & bullets as well as other goods such as beer.

they are surrounded by four ethnic groups: the turkana, the gabra, the nyangatom & the hamar, who are considered as enemies. the turkana & gabra are located in kenya, while the nyangatom & hamar are ethiopians.

they are governed by an age-set system, one of the oldest political institutions in africa, which divides people into age categories for the purpose of political, economic & social structure.  power is in the hands of a group of about 30 elders called 'bulls' (ara).

although it is a male dominated society, having a girl also gives a social status among peers & is therefore celebrated.dassanech girls are circumcised young, at around age 10 or 12. if they aren't circumcised she cannot marry & her father won't receive her bride-price. until they are circumcised, girls are called 'wild animals' or 'men' to tease them - the idea is that their clitoris has to be removed before they act like women. once they go through the ritual of circumcision they are given sour milk to drink & a necklace by her mother. from then on, she is allowed to wear a leather skirt to show that she is now considered an adult. marriage follows soon after.

the biggest ceremony in a man's life is called dimi or dime. a dassanech man blesses his daughter's fertility & future marriage. once he has gone through dimi, a man becomes an elder. about 10 cattle & 30 smaller animals are slaughtered & other stock is traded for coffee. both men & women dress in fur capes to feast & dance & the leaders of the village bless the girl. after the ceremony, the participants are upgraded to 'great men' and may now engage in politics.

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