A southern neighbor of the Kara tribe…(the tribe of my two Ethiopian families)…the MOST southerly tribe living in the country’s Omo Valley are the DASSANECH people.
Despite their close proximity to Lake Turkana, they live in an incredibly dry region with desert to their west and southwest.
Part of our visit to Ethiopia this time was to visit the Delta home of this tribe and to witness what is probably their most important ceremonial event…the DIMI. It’s certainly the biggest ceremony in the lives of Dassanech fathers with daughters. Its purpose is to celebrate and bless the daughters for fertility and future marriage. When the fathers have gone through DIMI, they become elders in the community…an important distinction. The daughters… also the focus of this ceremony…between the ages of 8 and 11, endure circumcision to become what the Dassenech men consider “marriageable women.” (This is one of the few tribes left in Ethiopia that still practice female circumcision, although it’s now against the law… BUT…IT’S TRADITION!) The two purposes are inexorably linked in the DIMI.
The appearance of the celebrants is very specific and unique…
EACH MAN paints himself with yellow mud
Wears a black ostrich feather hat
A leopard skin cape
A giraffe tail armband
Bells on both legs…
Carries a small wooden shield painted red and white
And a very long stick, reminiscent of a spear.
EACH WOMAN, similarly painted,
Wears a cape of colobus monkey fur
Over a leather skirt
And carries a wooden spoon or baton.
A special, temporary village is set up just for ceremony participants and families. The men march from house to house, stopping at each to chant and dance. The women join the ceremony as the men arrive at their hut, then merge into the procession as it progresses around the village. This repeats, morning and night, for several weeks. About 10 cattle and 30 smaller animals are slaughtered (and other stock traded for coffee,) to feed the community as they feast and dance…and the leaders of the village bless the new “marriageable women.”
Definitely a spectacle… and a privilege to witness such a personal, traditional ceremony. Yet another unique experience organized by Steve Turner at originsafaris.com . Forever grateful…