Karo Tribe, Omo Valley Tours, Omo Valley Tour and Travel

Way of Life

Unlike with the lowland pastoralists, cattle are owned in small numbers by the Karo tribe, and goats are their main livestock. Although pastoralist by tradition, the Karo now subsist growing sorghum, maize and other crops because of the livestock losses to disease in the tsetse-infected area some years ago.
The Karo lives together in three large villages (Korcho, Duss and Labuk) as they are comparatively few in number.

The Karo tribe doesn’t have their own markets so they trade with the Hamar at the markets in Dimeka and Turmi. The Karo does have a traditional way of fishing. A portion of wood is sharpened at one end and used to spear fish in the Omo River or Lake Karo. In the language of the Karo people, the word Karo means fish.They have cultural and linguistic commonalities with the Hamar and perform the cattle jumping ceremony for young Karo boys to pass into adulthood.

Diet

Dry porridge or bread produced from sorghum is consumed with either milk or boiled coffee husk called shoforo. Young Karo boys mostly eat fish; meat is not often consumed unless there are ceremonies or family events.

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Marriage

The Karo tribe have four types of marriage:
• miliko – arranged marriage
• haramu – consensual marriage
• astergnar – marriage through abduction
• beski – marriage by inheritance

Appearance

In common with most of the tribes, scarification plays an important role in Karo tribe body decoration. The men plaster their hair in tight buns (previously recognized as a hero sign) The hairstyle favored by Karo tribe women is tightly cropped at the side, tied into bulbous knots and dyed ochre on top. Men and women also make an incision below their bottom lip and insert a nail or piece of wood. The Karo tribe men are best known for the elaborate body painting they indulge in before important ceremonies. They paint their faces and bodies in white chalk and pierce their ears in five places.

Ceremonial Events

Gorri is a ritual performed when the first male child is born. The paternal grandfather (if he is no longer alive, a senior member from the father’s side will do) is responsible for the ritual.
The grandfather ties strips made from sheepskin around the child’s neck, wrists and ankles. He also put a strip of rope made from the bark of a metir tree and smeared with butter and clay around the waist of the child’s mother. The leader of the ritual then paints his forehead and chest with a mixture of red clay and butter and other participants follow suit.

Many of the Karo tribe customs surrounding marriage are analogous to those of the Hamar and Banna. They are a polygamous society consistent with the Hamar and the Banna but their marriage customs do not allow a young member of a family to marry before the elder.

Marriage is mostly arranged with the consent of the two partners. When the boy informs his father of his intention to marry a certain girl, the father relays this information to girl’s father. A go-between is then arranged. The go-betweens consist of an elderly man and an elderly woman. The two elders smear their bodies with a mixture of red clay and butter during their first visit to the girl’s parents. The male mediator carries a Y shaped stick, the woman a milk container. The two elders will make four visits. The marriage payment is then made, although this may continue for some time after the wedding. The ceremony consists of a feast and, finally, the girl’s friends will take the bride and deliver her to the groom.

Conflicts / Disputes

The Karo are too few in number to enter a war with their neighbors. However, their relationship with the Nyangatom is strained because the Nyangatom consider the Karo as friends of the Hamar.

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