Way of Life of the Bodi Tribe
The Bodi are predominantly pastoral, living directly north of the Mursi, with whom they share much of their way of life. Except for limited agricultural activity around the Omo River, the Bodi depend entirely on animal husbandry. Their culture is very much based on cattle. Like the Mursi, the Bodi’s classification of cattle is complex, with over 80 words used to denote different colors and hid patterns. They migrate with their cattle, constructing temporary camps to prevent overgrazing of the land, and they also practice slash and burn techniques to grow new grasses. When a child is born, livestock is bestowed upon him; the father will usually present him with an ox and a cow.
Men dress much like the Mursi and shave their hair in the same way. Bodi men are of larger stature than men from the neighboring tribes. Women dress in skirts made from goatskin tied at the waist and shoulder. The men fasten a strip of cotton or bark-cloth around their waist. Like the Mursi people, women cut their hair short and wear a small wooden plate in their ear. And like the Karo, Bodi women pierce their bottom lip and fill the hole with a nail or wooden plug in a wider mode. Body scarification is practiced by men and broadly by women for decoration.
Their diet consists mainly of blood (taken either directly from a wound made into the neck of the cattle, or stored in a calabash gourd), milk and dry porridge made either from sorghum or maize.
Book Enriching Omo Valley Tours We Offer and Get Authentic Cultural Experience with the Bodi Tribe!
The Bodi have three types of marriage:
• eukola – arranged marriage
• neyneda – consensual marriage, and
• Marriage by inheritance.
At the marriage, the father will give ten cattle to his son and a dowry of 30–36 cattle to the bride’s family. When a girl marries, her maternal uncles receive five cattle, her paternal uncles receive two cattle and her paternal grandfather receives one cow from the dowry. A wife is usually given three milking cows by her husband.
Ceremonial Events of the Bodi Tribe
The Komoro is the traditional leader of the Bodi. When he dies, the elders kill some cattle and put the blood in one gourd and the milk in another. The beaded necklace of the deceased Komoro is placed in the blood and then into the milk. The beads are then untied and retied in a new design and worn by the eldest son and successor. The new Komoro will then be smeared with the blood of the cattle and blessed.
Before the men go hunting they must ask a sorcerer if the hunt will be lucky. They will only participate if they are going to have good fortune. If a man kills large game such as lion or buffalo, he must return with the skin and horns. The father of the successful hunter will then slaughter a cow (using a stone) and the hunter is smeared with the blood and blessed by the elders. Relatives and friends are invited and a dance ensues.
Fattening Ceremony (kel)
The kel ceremony takes place every June or July, which is the beginning of the Bodi New Year. Bodi men feed on blood and milk for several months before the ceremony. The date for the ceremony is fixed by the traditional leader (Komoro). On the day of the ceremony cattle are killed using a stone and the elders examine the intestines in order to forecast the coming year. More cattle are killed until the forecast is agreeable and the blood from these cattle is smeared on the Komoro. The Bodi men who have been fattening up then pass in front of the Komoro and elders showing off their physique. The Komoro elects the ‘Fat Man of the Year’. Feasting follows and the women perform a special dance called a haret.
Conflicts / Disputes
Historically, the Bodi have been the usual enemy of the neighboring Mursi. Recently the Konso peoples have settled on Bodi land, causing some conflict between the two. Unlike the majority of peoples living in the Omo region, the Konso have not armed with modern weapons. The Konso are seen as a hardworking people and the government has been able to resolve most of the encounters.