The Surma (Suri)
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The Surma (Suri)

Agro-pastoralists

Agro-pastoralists

Venture to the Gambela National Park of the Eastern Ethiopia where the rainforest intertwines with vast plains and valleys. It is an area of contradictions. Politically unstable. But naturally serene.

Powerful identity and culture fuel these incredible lives of the Suri people while farming and trading fuel their economy.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Central Africa

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Intense

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

These agricultural people farm cabbage, beans, yams, tobacco, coffee and more. Not just to survive but also to drive their economy. They trade often with the Ethiopian highlanders, Amhara and Shangalla.
Home

Home

The Surma live in villages of simple grass-roofed and walled shelters deep within the natural wonders of Ethiopia. Each village can anything from 40 to 2,500 people living there.

Culture

Social Structure

The village as a whole is typically run by men who will make decisions in an assembly. Women may proffer their opinions but only in advance of debates, never during. Individual households, however, are run by women.

Religion

The sky god Tumu is the deity that the Surma people worship. Each Surma community has a priest, known as a komoru, who is their connection to Tumu and will lead religious rituals asking for his blessing.

Traditions

There are many rich traditions among the Surma. The most noticable is how they adorn themselves; men and children typically don’t wear clothes; women wear large lip plates. They also engage in a spectacular form of stick-fighting, a tradition they still maintain. The size of the lip plate determines the bride's price with a large one in fifty heads of cattle.

Language

The Surma speak their own language, although it has 80% lexical similarity to the nearby Mursi tribe's language with whom they also share a lot of other cultural similarities.

Art

The Surma are renowned for their ornate self-decoration; painting, scarification and adornment with flowers and other natural objects.

Celebrations

Within this community, there is a diverse range of festivities which can include the slaughtering of animals, dueling competitions and religious rituals.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Never take a photo without first asking permission. The Surma believe foreigners to be rude for taking photos but are very accommodating if asked first.



Photo credit: Omo river canyon
iStock.com/DavorLovincic

Other photos credit: Emani Cheneke / Ethiopia