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Ethnical groups – Dassenech

It is a tribe living the southernmost in the Ethiopian Omo Valley. They live in the Omo River delta north of Lake Turkana. The name of Dassanech means just the people of the delta. The tribe population is about 50,000, they speak a language of the Kushite language group. They are divided into eight clans. Once they were called Galeb but the name was withdrawn because of the negative connotation.

Despite the proximity of the lake and delta of the Omo River area, the land on which they live is very dry and semi-arid.

As for the other peoples living in this part of Africa cattle is the most important part of their life. It provides milk and meat. Skins are used for the production of clothing, building houses, as well as serve as bedding.

Herd size provides the adequate status in the tribe, there is no marriage without an adequate number of cows transferred in dowry to the bride’s family. The Dassenech ethnic origin is not strictly defined, they assimilated local tribes. Today, they are divided into eight clans with a distinct identity and customs. Young people from the same clan may not enter into the bonds of matrimony and even dance together.

A meal consists essentially of sorghum porridge prepared with milk. They drink the beverage prepared from the shells of coffee. They hunt for crocodiles and engage in fishing.

The women of the tribe Dassenech wear clothes made of leather. On the other hand, more and more women are going into comfortable cotton clothes. Both men and women love to wear ornaments made of beads and bracelets.

The marriage may be solemnized in four ways. The marriage arranged by the family, agreed upon by the bride and groom, by kidnapping the bride, by inheritance after the death of a family member.

Dowry can be transferred in kind or in cash. It is divided among the relatives of the bride but the biggest share falls to her father. We can say that the daughter is the shortest road to riches. It is not surprising that one of the most important Dassenech rituals is associated with a blessing upon the birth of the first daughters. The ritual is called Dimmi. It takes place when the girl reaches the age of 8-10. The girls of the same age and from the same clan are blessed together. Each clan has its own special place where the ceremony takes place. They build temporary huts, kill the cows and goats. The blessing is performed by older men called the Bulls. After the ceremony, fathers of blessed girls also become the Bulls.

Both men and women in the tribe Dassenech are circumcised. This is a prerequisite for marriage. The boys from one clan undergo circumcision together. And in this case, special temporary huts are built where families provide food. The ceremony lasts for three months, during which the boys play and dance, eat meat and milk. On a circumcision day, the boys undergo treatment sequentially. Then they come home with their parents.

Dassenech girls are circumcised at the age of 10, 12 years. A woman not subject to this operation could not marry. Respectively, her father will not receive a dowry. He has substantial interest in his daughter’s circumcision. Until circumcision, girls are subjected to taunts and are called wild pets.

Circumcision is usually held at the mother’s house, always among the other girls in the same age going through the same ritual. Once ii is over, a girl receives sour milk for drinking, the mother hands her a specially designed necklace. Thereupon, a girl can wear a leather skirt in evidence that she is now considered an adult. Typically, she gets married shortly afterwards.


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