Omo valleyOn this piece I would like to show another great book about Ethiopia, particularly the lower Omo valley tribes. The book is under a title “Omo people and design”.

This is a book by Gustaaf Verswijver and Hans Silvester very elaborated and detailed about the Omo valley tribes and their way of life.

It is a resourceful book for anybody who has an interest to investigate and research about the Omo valley tribes.

A client sent me this book from Belgium as a gift while I was looking for it in the market. The book has four main chapters that are dealing with the lives of the Omo valley tribes; their history, geography, culture and livelihood.

You will like the book not only for the detailed and well written pages but also for its  excellent pictures of people, their household goods and cultural stuffs.

The first chapter is under a title “Situation in time and place”; in this chapter there is a heading “Recent history of the Omo Valley and its people” it writes about the region consisting of a mosaic of different ecological zones, each with their own characteristics, inhabited by different peoples who speak Nilotic, Cushitic, Surmic, and Omotic languages.

About their territory it tells, “The lower Omo valley ecosystem is highly complex and fragile whole whose inhabitants live off limited and widely scattered natural resources. This lowland is the territory of different, relatively small tribes of whom the majorities are passionately dedicated to their livestock.

They have neither monarchs nor native state structures and must constantly respond to what nature offers them.”

Second chapter is under a title “Living with livestock”, a chapter that gives a general outline of the lifestyle of the Omo peoples. It deals with two main areas as shown on the titles ‘The cattle complex’ and ‘Material culture’.

Here I have excerpts of few lines that I think reflect the people as well as the book itself. “The cattle is not only a source of food to ensure the family’s survival in critical phases. It is also a means for treading to acquire other possessions and a payment method to acquire certain rights or to compensate for calamities. Cattle constitute the basic package of the dowry and are source of inspiration for songs.

Cattle ownership defines social status to a great extent. Each man has a special relationship with one ox (since childhood). The animal while still a calf is given to the boy. The boy derives his name from a specific aspect of the pattern on the animal’s skin and will shape the animal’s horns using stone hammers and leather straps until they acquire the desired shape and design.”

The third chapter is under the title “Objects, use & aesthetics”. This chapter helps youOmo tribes learn a lot and in detail about the Omo valley tribes.

It writes about the tribal groups baskets, bowls, spoons, pots, containers, stirrers, castration hammers, ox decorations, cow bells, bow and arrow, wrist knife, spear, sticks for walking and initiating.

You can also find beautiful pictures and descriptions of shields for rituals, arm ornaments, dancing shields, metal dancing bells, arm bands, bracelets, armlets and anklets, metal neck rings, metal necklaces, bead ornaments, chest ornaments, tobacco boxes, belts, cowry shells, skirts, aprons, lip and ear plates, plugs, clay caps, feathers and stools.

Omo people and design has some paragraphs about the body paintings on how and why they are doing it.

Few lines here; “Among the Omo people’s body painting with clay is usually related to rituals and transitional phases. The first menstruation, the birth of the first child, the death of the family member, illness in the family and the killing of an enemy are all events that give rise to body painting.”

The book also witnesses the changes we are seeing as a result of an increased contact with the outside world especially with western tourists has had an impact on the evolution and body painting of the people.

It reads “They realize that they are more likely to be photographed when they are painted and skillfully take advantage of this situation. As soon as the tourists arrive with their cameras the young people start to paint themselves in the hope of being photographed.”

Get this book and learn about the exotic Omo valley tribes. I hope you will like it so much as it also has the best photograph collections.

And why not experience the people for yourself before the rapid changes happening in this part of the world.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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