Facts About The Karo Tribe of Omo River in South-Western Ethiopia

The Karo or Kara tribe are a Nilotic and the smallest ethnic group residing along the east banks of the Omo River of South-western Ethiopia and survive mainly on flood retreat cultivation with Sorghum, Beans, and maize with few of the dwellers rearing cattle.

The Karo people are estimated with the population ranging from 1300 – 3000 dwellers and are closely related to the Kwegu tribe of Ethiopia.
Over 400 years, they have been practicing the same tradition and lifestyle of painting themselves daily with animal fat or ochre, styling their hair with flowers or clay with their men wearing large beads around their neck which symbolizes that they have once taken down a big game animal kill.

The Karo men covers their body and face with ash mixed with animal fat to show the importance of festival activities and clan combats which occurs after harvest period, this ceremonial clan combats are very important to them as it’s a medium for their men to show their beauty and bravery which attracts women to them.

It is said that the scars, especially the ones on their chest depicts the mark of valor to their men. Their hairstyle has its front portion made in braids, framing the forehead, while the rest being drawn back, forming a thick chignon held firmly by a heated clay while tree barks are optionally gummed on the cap with holes where an Ostrich feathers will be attached.

At times, the hair is being painted in 3 mystical colors – red, grey and black in red.
A Karo man on red and grey ochre clay hair bun with an Ostrich feather signifies that he has bravely killed an enemy from another tribe or a dangerous animal like lion, cheetah or leopard – an attire that takes up to three days to put up and usually remade every three to six months and at times a year after a particular kill.

It is believed that each cut on a Karo man represents a killing, and in their women – they are considered sensual and attractive only when a cut are made deep into their chests and torsos with ash rubbed in which is believed to enhance their sexual beauty.

The people of Karo has no drinkable water nor electricity and medical service – the closest hospital is 4 hours away on a dusty roads. Poor school facilities are also present.

In their fight, a visitor or tourists pay around 60 dollars to watch their fight, with 20 dollar drive trip to the community and a dollar to take a picture of any warrior, an act that has discouraged the young men from cultivating crops not rearing of animals as the elders did.

The Karo tribe is feared to go into extinction as a massive damage is been made since the Italian construction company built a hydro-electric dam by the Ethiopian government, the Gibe III which would cause large decrease of fishes and waters from the Omo River and Lake Turkana causing hunger, thirst and mortality reduction.

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