Suri Tribe

Suri Tribe

The Suri are pastoralists community lives by South West or upper Omo Valley bordering with South Sudan. They know placing much value on their cattle, which they protect vigorously against theft from neighboring tribes. The Surma however also steal livestock from their enemies, and in recent times there has been more pressure on their grazing lands due to input of people from adjacent Sudan who have been displaced by civil war, resulting in not-infrequent fighting in the area.

Possibly more famously, Suri women, like Mursi women, wear lip plates. In her early 13 -15th, an unmarried woman’s lower lip will be pierced and then progressively stretched over the period of a year. A clay disc, which has its edge indented like a pulley wheel, is squeezed into the hole in the lip. As the lip stretches, a succession of ever-larger discs is forced in until the lip, now a loop, is so long it can sometimes be pulled right over the owner’s head! The size of the lip plate determines the bride price with a large one bringing in fifty head of cattle. Suri women make the lip plates from clay, coloring them with ochre and charcoal and baking them in a fire.

The Suri people do not make woodcarvings, statues etc., and instead are renowned for their incredibly ornate decoration of themselves, which they achieve through painting, scarification and adornment with flowers and other natural objects. The paintings are dynamic artworks, which vary greatly in design and are truly fascinating to photograph!

Virtually no area of the body is left out, and nakedness is a standard and acceptable part of daily life for the Surma, who regard Westerners concept of clothing with fascination!

Donga Stick Fight:

Another famous component of Suri life is sticking fighting, known a Donga. We will be exceptionally fortunate to witness such a contest, but our local guide will keep an ear to the ground and with luck, we may be able to attend such an event. At a fight, each male contest is armed with a hardwood pole about six feet long and with a weight of just less than two pounds.

The men paint their bodies with a mixture of chalk and water before the fight. In the attacking position, this pole is gripped at its base with both hands, the left above the right in order to give maximum swing and leverage. Each player beats his opponent with his stick as many times as possible with the intention of knocking him down, and eliminating him from the game. Players are usually unmarried men.

The winner is carried away on a platform of poles to a group of girls waiting at the side of the arena who decide among themselves which of them will ask for his hand in marriage. Taking part in a stick fight is considered to be more important than winning it.