“One Scar for Each Killed Enemy” – Read the interesting history and lifestyle of the Nyangatom ethnic clan.

Category: Culture | History

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The sacrosanct fact about Africa is that, it’s a continent to behold. The landscapes, the wild life, the weather among others are breathtaking.

In fact, her people with different cultures, traditions, languages and religions are so unique in their diversities.

From here, I bring before you – the NYANGATOM people. Nyangatom people are an ethnic set of people who occupy certain portion of the Omo valley in the southwestern part of Ethiopia and the semi desert land of the southeastern part of the South Sudan. They are also called Bume (the smelly ones), especially by their ethnic rivals in the Omo valley. The word Nyangatom means “Yellow guns” or literally, “Revenge’.

They were said to be part of a larger group called the Karimojong cluster, which according to anthropological records, migrated from the present day Ethiopia around 1600 AD.

Ethno history, however, countered the claim and so, suggests that Nyangatom people are recent people who migrated from Uganda in the mid nineteen century to their present location and so, considered Ethiopians since the conquest of the omo valley by Emperor Menelik in 1896.

Nyangatom spread over four countries: In Uganda they are known as, Karimojong, Jie and Dodos. In Kenya they are called Turkana. In Sudan they are known as Toposa and Jiye. While in Ethiopia they are called Nyangatom.

Numerically small and aggressive, Nyangatom people are agro – pastoralists. They tend their cattle in the semi desert part of the disputed Ilemi Triangle around the Omo valley. Their cultural preference is the zebu cattle and small stock raising. They keep donkeys for migration as well.

Also, Nyangatom people engage in subsistence farming system as they live on soy beans, shorghum, maize and tobacco cultivation.

Notwithstanding, If nature is truly about the survival of fittest, then, it could be said that, Nyangatom people have good martial skills in defending themselves against any external threat.
Thus, they are some of the most feared warriors in the Omo valley as they are locked in deadly feuds with other tribes surrounding them.
They are indeed fierce warriors which is epitomized by their custom to mark their chests. That is, one mark for each enemy killed.

In addition, heavy necklaces and long skirts made from goat skins, which are richly decorated, are part of the unique highlights of the Nyangatom women.
Necklaces were traditionally made from dry seeds, but recently, they have been largely replaced with glass beads coming from Kenya. The Nyangatom women also decorate themselves with ornamental sacrification on their faces, chests and bellies. And traditionally, until recently, the men were completely naked.

Plausibly, Nyangatom people are known for their oral history prowesses and singing – the cattle songs. Their cattle songs are learned by their ethnic neighbours of other families – the Mursi and Karo.
Complimentarily, Nyangatom appreciate and acquire pots from their neighbours because their own wives have not mastered the skill of pottery.

Hence, Nyangatom people have deep appreciation for Culture, Arts, Music and Handicraft.

Nevertheless, the choice of leadership and system of government among the people of Nyangatom are conservatively unique as well.
The political system among the Nyangatom is the SING AURUNET, PL. NGAURIUNET system. It’s a generational set system which, embrace men and women alike, allowed the Nyangatom to separate from their parent stock and to become autonomous polity.

In this system of administration, members, irrespective of their status are considered the Fathers or the sons of the country. Thus, the alternate generations, that is, the grandfathers and grandchildren share the same status. The sons slaughter oxen in feasts dedicated to feeding their fathers. This is the first initiation in the Nyangatom administrative system.

From here, comes the second stage which is the transmission of sovereignty from the Fathers to the Sons of the country. It’s due only once in 50 to 55 years. The ceremony is called the Asapan ceremony which requires human sacrifice.
After the ceremonial rite, the Asapan man ( the medium of the society) looses his status of Father like his other generational mates and at the same time, looses his mind. This is done so that, his fate is to perish in the bush.

However, the Asapan ceremony was outlawed under the regime of the Ethiopian President – Mengistu from 1974 to 1991.

The Nyangatom today, are moving towards modernity through their embracement of penticostism.




Vic Baba - March 5, 2019 | 6:17 pm

This is nonetheless, an expository information about certain clan in the horn of Africa.

Quite interesting!

Dre - March 5, 2019 | 7:26 pm


dlx - March 6, 2019 | 7:17 pm

very educative and interesting

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