Bodi Tribe: The Ethiopian Tribe Where Body-Shaming Does Not Exist

Whilst body shaming in “civilized communities” and on social media is the order of the day, becoming a fat man is the dream of every Bodi child. Why? Because in the Bodi tribe, the most desired men are those with the largest bellies – the bigger the belly the more attractive you become to the Bodi girls. Fat Bodi men attract the Bodi girls.

Brief History of the Bodi tribe

The Bodi or also known as Me’en lives in the Omo-Turkana Basin, in the lowlands east of the Omo river, Ethiopia. The Bodi people refer to themselves as the Me’en, even though the government and tourists refer to them as Bodi, which has become popular. They are made up of two different tribes that collectively make up Me’en. Their population is around 10,000.

Due to their pastoralism, the Bodi are among the Me’en thought to be the most faithful to their lineage. For these people to survive socially and economically, they must breed cattle. Several Bodi traditional rites include the sacrifice of animals. Cattle supply the dowries for brides as well as the family that own them with food security.

How and Why Do The Bodi Men Fatten Their Bellies?

To be fat as a Bodi man is to be famous and admired by your tribesmen and women. It earns you respect, adoration, and fame. Their women are not attracted by wealth, fashion, exotic cars, luxury homes, and six packs. The women of the Bodi tribe are attracted by the fat Bodi men. But to gain such stature as a Bodi man, you will have to face stiff competition from your fellow tribesmen. This usually takes place in a form of a festival called the Kael festival.

What is the Kael Festival and what happens during the festival?

The Kael festival is a festival that takes place annually in the remote area of Omo Valley, southern Ethiopia, home of the Bodi tribe. It’s a festival that celebrates the tribe’s new year, and also showcases the fat tribesmen who will be competing against each other for the title – which involves fame and of course luring women. Because the Bodi women are attracted by men with bigger stomachs, the festival is considered a good opportunity for them to get their men.

Before the festival, the tribesmen are required to go through several processes to get their bellies fat. They are banned from having sex; they should only drink fresh milk and blood from the cows for six months. On the day of the festival, the fat men will be put in a hut separately covering their bodies with clay and ashes, while some will wear a headdress made of ostrich feathers. The men will not be allowed to have sex, nor go out of their hut until a certain period.

During that period, women are assigned to take care of the men in their huts. The women will give the men alcohol, cleanse them from their sweat and sing for them to keep them awake. Every morning, they will bring them fresh cow milk in traditional pots, and blood from cows. The men will drink the blood throughout the day. About 1-2 liters of blood is drunk in the morning hours and then before sunset. This is done every day until the last day of the festival.

Drinking many liters of fresh cow milk and blood enlarges their stomachs. The tribesman whose stomach is the largest is considered the winner. Fame, respect, and women follow. For him, he has accomplished his childhood dream. He will be a hero for life and his name will forever live.

What will happen to their stomachs after the festival?

There is no cause for alarm. Everything will get back to normal. Yes! You read that right? Their stomachs will shrink to normal within weeks. They will regain their normal bellies back.

Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean content writer, author, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream, an online platform for inspiring, positive and compelling African stories. Contact: abubakarrjalloh@theafricandreamsl.com WhatsApp: +23276211583