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African HistoryThe Banna People of Ethiopia Where Young Men Walk on Stilts

The Banna People of Ethiopia Where Young Men Walk on Stilts

The Banna, sometimes called Benna or Banya are a Nilotic ethnic group in Ethiopia that can be found in areas like Chari mountain near Kako town and Dimeka. There are about 45,000 Banna people living in the region. According to statistics by the Ethiopian authorities, the Banna people are mostly Muslims and they have their own king and rules.

History has it that the Banna people who live in the arid lands in the region of the Omo river in Ethiopia used to walk around on stilts to protect themselves from being attacked by wild animals in the region and also for agricultural purposes. This used to happen for years and until now, but for different purposes. Today, young men and women of the Banna tribe walk around on stilts not only to protect themselves from wild animals but also as a way of life. This practice has become part of their daily activities and for the young boys it makes them look taller than others – this gives them joy and pleasure.

Some schools of taught told us that the Banna people originated from another group called Hamer. The Hamer people can be found on the hills in the eastern part of the Omo valley in Southern Ethiopia. But after hundreds of years, the Banna people migrated to the other sides in search of greener pastures to breed their cattle – this makes the Banna people cattle breeders to date even though they are widely known for keeping bees.

The Banna people actually have quite unique values. Women are not allowed to do harsh jobs. During the dry season, the men go in search of water and grass with their herds and also go out to harvest honey. When a Banna is born, after some years before adulthood, he must go through some rituals to prove that he is ready for adulthood. One of them is a cattle-jumping ceremony.

Another interesting tradition that the Banna people have is the bull-leaping ceremony. The bull-leaping ceremony is done to test the agility and fitness of the male Banna to know whether he is ready to marry, have children and own cattle. During the bull-leaping ceremony, the young Banna man is expected to leap across fifteen cows. Once he has achieved that, he will be allowed to marry, have kids and own cattle, and a celebration would be held to celebrate his success and he will be given all the support he needs.

The bride price of a Banna woman is cattle, honey, and other items. Men in the Banna tribe can marry more than one woman and they are also obligated to protect a widow, a divorced woman or the wife of an absent husband.

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