The Mursi
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The Mursi

Nilotic pastoralists

Nilotic pastoralists

Journey deep into the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, near the border to South Sudan, to discover the beautiful Mursi people. Completely isolated from the rest of the country, you’ll have just the surrounding mountains and the rivers Omo and Mago to keep you company.
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

Many men take up arms as warriors so that they may protect their village. Meanwhile women do the most important work; constructing homes, looking after children, preparing food and transporting water.

A common meal found among the Mursi is a dry cereal made from maize and sorghum. To this, they add milk and blood cut from a cow’s neck without killing it.
Home

Home

The Mursi move every 9 to 18 months to discover greener pastures for their cattle. Once somewhere suitable is found, usually under a tree for shadow, they build villages from mud huts covered in dry grass .

Culture

Social Structure

Women tend to be in charge of individual households. But the community is politically and publicly led by men who will come together to make collective decisions.

Religion

The Traditional religion among Mursi is an animist one. They believe in Tumwi (God) and the village’s kômoru (Priest) will lead public rituals to gain Tumwi’s blessings over their people, cattle, harvest, etc.

But this religion has been rapidly disappearing since Christian missionaries arrived in the area to convert the indingenous peoples.

Traditions

As well as religious traditions, a large part of Mursi culture is they’re traditional body decorations. For example, women decorate their chests for and will wear ceramic lip plates for important events. Bigger plates represent beauty. This is practised from an adolescent age, the woman’s lower teeth are removed and she will slowly increase the size of her lip plate over years.

Scarring is something else you will see a lot of. When they come of age, men scar their left shoulder to show that they are now warriors.

Language

Mursi is a Nilo-Saharan language closely related to other languages in the area. Until recently, there was no way to write Mursi but missions over the last few decades have developed both a latin-based and an Amharic-based writing system for Mursi.

Art

You’ll see a lot of stunning jewelry among the Mursi, including bracelets and big headpieces. These are often made from metal or elephant tusks. During dances and ceremonies they paint their body with white chalk paint.

Celebrations

Mursi events include religious rituals, ceremonial dueling, dances and other festivities.

The Donga: Young, single men engage in stick-fighting to show their strength and ultimately to earn a wife. The winner is brought to the women who decide which of them will propose to him.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Please be conscious of the amount of waste you are producing since it could contribute to the local land plastic pollution.

Tourist photography is damaging Mursi lifestyle and culture. Because the Mursi can charge for photos, this has led to the neglect of their traditional way of like, in particular raising their cattle.



Photo credit: Elephant
iStock.com/ivotheeditors

Other photos credit: Emani Cheneke / Ethiopia