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 Ethiopian Cultural Attractions
THE KARO PEOPLE

The Karo, with a population of about 1000, are a small group of people who live on the east banks of the Omo River. They are surrounded by relatively wealthy and strong groups, in terms of cattle and population size. Karo, whose neighbors especially the Hamar (to the South East ) ,Bana (to the east ),Bashada (to the East ), the Mursi (to the North)and Nyangaton (to the west across the Omo river ) know them by the name Kara, speak a south Omotic language.

The main subsistence crops of the Karo are sorghum, maize and beans .They are supplemented by bee-keeping and more recently fishing. They plant fields using rain, flood retreat and river bank cultivation but the most important source of grain production is river bank farming than the other two which is carried out both along Omo River and on the shores of Lake Diba. The Karo used to have big, magnificient houses when they were rich in cattle but after they have lost their wealth through tsetse fly they adopted the much lighter conical huts of the Bume. Every Karo family own two houses-the conical shaped Ono which is the principal living room of the family and the flat roofed Gappa which is the center of several house hold activities. The Karo have Muldas- kind of gate having "Y" shaped wooden posts up on which are placed horizontal wooden pars. There are three settlements in Karo -Dus, Korcho and Labuk.


The most striking thing about Karo people's symbolic and ornamental expressions is the painted body and face decorations. This is an elaborate process, which ranges from fine and elaborate details to rough, but striking paintings traced with the palms or fingers. The most beautiful expression is in the facial and chest paintings that combine white (chalk), black (charcoal), yellow, ochre, and red earth. They often imitate the spotted plumage of a guinea fowl. Karo woman scarify their chests to beautify themselves .The complete scarification of a man's chest indicates that he has killed an enemy or a dangerous animal. The scars are cut with a knife or razor blade and ash is rubbed in to produce a raised effect. The wearing of a grey and ochre clay hair bun also indicates the killing of an enemy or a dangerous animal. Both forms of decoration carry the same symbolic meaning for the Karo as they do for the Hamar.

At the end of the harvest and at times of initiation and marriage, the Karo come together to enjoy dances. During the moonlight dances, the Karo men leap joining one another in long lines towards the women, who come forward one by one to select the man whom they favor. Afterwards Karo man and women, coupling themselves, perform rhythmic and pulsating dances, thrusting their hips one against the other in the dusty atmosphere of early evening. These dances often lead to marriage after the initiate has successfully accomplished the pilla (the Jumping of Bulls). A Karo man may take as many wives as he can afford, but usually he marries only two or three.

Being in one of the most tsetse fly infested region the majority of the Nyangatom are now mainly Agro-pastoralists who cultivate sorghum and maize along the western bank of the Omo River and the Kibish .Cattle rearing and fishing are also practiced among these people. Some Nyangatom are also expert forest honey collectors and hunters. The Nyangatom are the sworn enemies of the Surma against whom they go cattle raiding. The counter raiding relation to the Karo, the Hamar, and the Dassanetch & the Mursi is also full of tension and confrontation. However in time of peace, they have bond-relationships with particularly the Karo.

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