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The Banna and Tsami

by - October 5 2010

It isn't just San Francisco where men wear miniskirts. If you are a Banna tribesman then a miniskirt is considered the height of masculinity. We met up with the Banna, and their relatives the Tsami, at the Key Afra Market. Most of the people were wearing their traditional clothing, but some wore western clothing, or even mixed the two together. My guide (himself a Banna) told me that many people own both kinds of clothes and choose which to wear based on the occasion.

Several people combined a tribal costume with a football shirt for an English premiership football team. My guide told me that many Banna tribesmen like to watch English football when they are in the town and many of them support a team - usually Manchester United or Arsenal.

As we drove around the Omo valley children who saw us coming would run into the road and dance their tribe's dance at us. It seems that each tribe has its own dance, its own hairstyle, and its own way of dressing. Many of the dances had an interesting similarity to hip hop dances. The Banna were definitely the most impressive: they wear white war paint and dance on stilts.

In the evening we visited a museum about the local tribes. It seems that it is quite hard being a tribal woman. Many tribes seem to accept a man beating his wife as normal provided that he beats all his wives equally, and female genital mutilation (cutting off the clitoris to prevent women getting sexual pleasure) is standard. In the Hammar tribe it is even considered acceptable for a man to simply abduct a woman and force her to marry him.