The Mursi People of the Omo Valley Ethiopia

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In 2009, I had the privilege to read Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester. This book is a collection of photographs featuring two groups of people from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, the Mursi and the Surma. This book made a lasting impression on me due to the incredible beauty and dignity evident in these people. I chose to concentrate on the Mursi for the purposes of this paper. The Omo Valley is in southwestern Ethiopia. The Mursi share the southwestern borderlands with six other groups; the Suri, Dizi, Me'en, Kwegu, Bodi and Nyangatom tribal peoples. These peoples are indigenous to Ethiopia and have inhabited the lowlands of the Omo Valley for several hundred years.

The Mursi are a nomadic people, moving in search of water for themselves and their cattle. The Mursi are a agricultural-pastoral group. The Mursi raise cattle and cultivate sorghum and corn when conditions allow. The Mursi, do however, live in fixed locations depending on the time of year. This lifestyle of following the seasonal movement of their livestock is known as transhumance. The Mursi peoples lives are constrained by periods of intense drought. These extended droughts have brought the modern world knocking on their doors. The Mursi and all tribal people of the Omo Valley currently face the loss of everything they hold dear. The Ethiopian government has leased lands in the Omo Valley to agricultural concerns for the growing of cotton, sugar cane and palm oil. To provide water for these crops the Ethiopian government has plans in place to build the Gibe 3 dam. The Ethiopian government also has plans to resettle all tribal people who live in large villages. Th...

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