BANNA TRIBE,ETHIOPIA By Jimmy Nelson
The Omo Valley, situated in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, southwest Ethiopia, is home to an estimated 200,000 tribal people who have lived there for millennia. The Banna, approximately 45,000 in number, are a mainly agricultural people who inhabit the highlands east of the Omo River.
“A close friend can become a close enemy”
Like other tribes, the Banna practise ritual dancing and singing. To prepare for a ceremony, they paint themselves with white chalk mixed with yellow rock, red iron ore and charcoal. The biggest ceremony in a man’s life is called Dimi, to celebrate his daughter for fertility and marriage.
The Banna are a mainly agricultural people who inhabit the highlands east
of the Omo River. Cattle and goats provide milk and meat, as well as hides
for clothing, shelter and sleeping mats. They also display wealth and
prestige: without them, a man is considered poor, and in most tribes cannot
get married because he has nothing to offer as a bridal gift.
The Banna People are a friendly people and they look fantastic;
women wear many decorations and men wear the clay or braided
hair style they get when they honour the slain of an enemy or of a
The Banna like the Hamar have very unique rituals such as a bull-leaping
ceremony, that a young men has to succeed in order to get married.
The cow jumping is an initiation rite of passage for boys coming of age.
Cows are lined up in a row. The initiate, naked, has to leap on the back of
the first cow, then from one to another, until he finally reaches the end of
the row. He must not fall and must repeat successfully four times to earn
the right to become a husband. Totally committed to their initiated sons,
the mothers and sisters are whipped to blood, in order to prove their
courage and accompany the boy during the test.
In order for young tribesmen to qualify for marriage, own cattle and have
children, they must face up to a unique dare, known as the bull-leaping
ceremony. It’s also a rite of passage to mark the boys’ coming of age.
Cows are lined up in a row. Each boy, naked, has to make four clean runs
over the backs the cows, without falling. Success gains him the right to
marry. During this impressive display, the young man is accompanied
by women of his tribe. They dance and sing, encouraging him.
The Banna are a pastoral tribe whose culture revolves around cattle.
Their harsh environment forces them to be semi-nomadic. During
the dry season, the men walk long distances with their herds looking
for water and grass, and to harvest wild honey.
The Banna have been isolated from the rest of Ethiopia by choice as
well as by their remote location in southern Ethiopia and the Kenyan
border. They are closely related to their neighbors, the Hamar, in both
language and culture.
Banna people are good beekeepers. They have more honey than they can consume themselves, so they sell it at markets or around the roads. It’s their fundamental source of money to buy tools can’t develop on their own.