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Portrait of Humanity

Ethiopia

The People of the Delta
These are my encounters with the Dassanech people, also known as Geleb, Merile, and Gabarich. They live on the northern shore of Lake Turkana and further north along the Omo River in Ethiopia and Kenya.

I was raised to believe that strangers are dangerous, that we can't trust them, and that they could hurt us. This could be true, but most of them aren't. So here I am, a long way from home, spending my time with lost tribes and communities and being a part of their lives and theirs in mine.


The Daasanach, whose name can also be spelt Dassanech, are a Cushitic group of people who live in parts of Kenya, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. Their name means "People of the Delta" because they live where the Omo River delta meets Lake Turkana. The 2007 national census says that there are 48,067 of them, which is 0.07% of all the people living in Ethiopia. Of these, 1,481 live in cities.




Baby Namote Baby Otireala



Two Young Girls



The Daasanach have a relatively recent history. Their ties to one another are the result of a shared place of residence rather than of heredity. The Daasanach are proud but beautiful people who believe that souls continue to live after one death in the afterlife.


Circumcision

Girls are usually circumcised before they reach the age of adolescence by having their clitoris removed Dassanech welcomes people of all ethnicities to join them; however, they must be circumcised. In this African tribe, both boys and girls are circumcised. This tribe practise female genital mutilation (FGM). Girls are usually circumcised before they reach the age of adolescence by having their clitoris removed. They are unable to marry until they have been cut.





Old Man and the beliefs

When in danger, a person's soul can be kept hidden, and the owner will survive regardless of what happens to their physical body. After the threat is gone, the soul can be restored to the body, and the person will be alive again.



Sunsets at the Daasanach village



The Daasanach have shifted their focus from pastoralists to agropastoralists in recent decades. Cattle, goats, and sheep numbers have dropped drastically since they lost most of their land about fifty years ago. This was primarily due to being excluded from their traditional Kenyan lands, which included areas on both sides of Lake Turkana and the 'Ilemi Triangle' in Sudan. This has forced many of them to seek refuge along the Omo River, where they cultivate subsistence crops. Unfortunately, this economic solution is complicated by the prevalence of diseases near the river, such as tsetse, which has grown in tandem with the expansion of the surrounding forests and woodlands. A social system based on age sets and clan lineages—which involve strong reciprocity relations—makes the Daasanach, like many pastoral peoples in this part of Africa, a very egalitarian culture.

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