The Untold Story of The Great People Of Mursi

Mursi People

“Please Pastor!”- she raises her hands in objection.

“I don’t understand!”- she stands straight.

“Are you misquoting the scriptures?” – she queries further.

The pastor raises his head, peeped, took off his glasses, looks at the young lady and said,

“I am not! Georgina.”

“I perfectly know what I am saying.”

So, pastor, sorry to ask, “What then do you mean by that statement and who is this Assile and Dobuto?”

“Are they the old-time saints that we do not know?”- She said that waving her both arms over the other congregants.

“I have read the scriptures cover to cover, chapter to chapter, verse to verse. I have not seen such a name mentioned in the Holy Book before?”- She boldly addressed further.

The Gentleman of God who already was standing in akimbo, looking at her, calmly uttered, “I admire your boldness and curiosity Georgina but that is not enough reason to bridge the flow of the study. That was good, you know!”

Then facing the congregation, he knows said, “Assile and Dobuto are neither saints nor angels, they are mere men like you. Men of Courage and Character, Assile is a Female man, Dobuto Is A male man. Both are from the Tribe OF MURSI.”

“Mursi??”- the little congregation shouted in Amazement.

“Yes, Mursi!” – Pastor Idabor responded sitting down

“Mursi, or Mursu or Mun, anyone you choose is a Nilotic pastoralist ethnic group in Ethiopia in the African continent” the pastor narrated. “They live and thrive in the Lower Omo Valley of Southwestern Ethiopia. Thrive because life is very tough for them that is why they are estimated to be less than 10,000.” – Pastor Idabor began his story

“Their land territory of around 2,000 km lies in the South Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS), between the Rivers Omo (Warr) and Mago (Mako).” He continued adjusting his tie.

“They have this unique Mursi language called Surmic language which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family.”

“So, what is so special about them” -Celine asked?

“ ‘Arichukgirong’ Celine !”- He responded sharply

“‘Arichukgirong’ is one thing amongst many that is special about them and it means ‘snout of the bull’ and it also shows how the Mursi have used cattle imagery to define and describe aspects of the landscape. That is also clear in two of the five names given to sections of the River Omo: Biogolokare, ‘take out the eyes of the cattle’ and Ariholi, ‘white ox.’ ”

“How do they survive?” -Celine pressed further

“Well,Celine like I said before, they are pastoralists, agro-pastoralists to be precise, they occupy an area centered on the Mursi Mountains, the adjacent plain to the west referred to dramatically by the Italians as ‘The Plain of Death’ and part of the Mago Valley where they herd cattle and grow their crops along the banks of the Omo River.”
“But sir I sense they must be artistic since they live in Ethiopia! That is my imagination though”- Paul ,an eight year old toddler interrupted.

“Sure, Paul they are. They are tremendously artistic they engage in what is called cattle branding. A scenario where they artistically decorate their cattle just as you do paint in school. They also do what could be called ‘horning’, a scenario where they carve the horns of their cattle into a certain shape. They are just naturally artistic. Their men decorate themselves with white paint for their bodies and face so do their women. There are men who also practice scarification just like the Wodaabe tribe, but then the marking is seen as a sign that a man killed an enemy. So, scarification is like an honour for the men while carrying lip plates is for their women especially those of marriageable age. It is an excessively big honour for the female gender.”

“Lip plates? Why?” – Elizabeth asked

“Calm down Barrister Elizabeth, I do understand with you being that you are a girl child advocate, but you see whenever a young Mursi girl reaches the age of 15 or 16, her lower lip is pierced so she can wear a lip plate. The larger the lip plate she can tolerate, the more cattle her bride price will bring for her father. The unique “ornament” of the face which they use, is unusual, even for wild people. The matter is that the lower lip of this tribe’s girls is cut at an early age. They begin to put into the lip the billets of wood, every time with the bigger and bigger diameter. So, it is their tradition!”

“Oh! I see so what about Assile and Dobuto”- the young Gemima asked.

“Assile and Dobuto” -the reverend gentleman continued taking a sip of water. I highlighted about them because of marital relationship.

“Assile is a woman while Dobuto a man, I had earlier mentioned t you the pains women goes through before they marry, I mean having their lips cut just as shown in the picture below. It is painful you know.”

Isn’t it Gemima? – Pastor Idabor asked

“Ill! it sucks” – Gemima responded.

“But then, Dobuto goes through something bigger just like any other ethnic tribe in the lower valley, men like Dobuto must pass a test before they can get married. It is a two-way thing. If the woman goes through pain of lip plating just to adorn herself then it will not be an offence if a Mursi man is given a stick called a Donga and must face one opponent in a bid to prove love. See, these men battle it out by beating each other with the sticks and the first fighter to submit, loses and the winner is taken by a group of women to decide who he will marry. They do share a common language, with the Chai, who live west of the Omo and south of Maji and often they intermarry.”

“Ouch! what a pain. I just imagine the bruises these men get” – David spewed while giving a facial expression.

“Yes, David. it is the ultimate price. The price for love”- Pastor Irabor said smiling

“Meanwhile their wounds will be treated by their priests. Their Priests sees to their health, it is their duty to keep a healthy community amidst the presence serving in Mission Station in the northeastern corner of Mursiland, which provides education and basic medical care.”

“Priests?” – a male voice in the congregation echoed.

“Yes priests!” – Pastor Idabor responded

“Their priest carter for both their religion and Health. To the Mursi Tribe, Religion and healing are very much interconnected. So, knowledge of illness and of the divine emerges from people’s experiences of the natural and social world. and it is the priest as well as members of other lesser ritual families who are sought out to treat epidemics, drought, and crop pests. Besides, the Mursi also have a healing tradition based around the powers of women healers. And their religion is classified as Animism.”

“But pastor, I cannot go through such pains just for a lady”- Joshua , a middle aged bachelor shouted

“Josh! I will not recommend that you go through physical fight but if you must love, you must insist and go any mile to prove it. Same goes for our married couples here. It is not all about the zest to profess love but the will to fight and defend it when the time comes.”

“Pastor do not mind Joshua, he forgot what the tribal ladies you used as an example had to go through just to be marriageable.” – Dorothy said

“It is not an issue Dorothy” – he smiled.

“It is both ways!”

“The Fight for love works for the man the same as the woman. Do not worry some other time am going to tell Joshua what the women of Hamar go through apart from Childbirth just to prove love for their husbands.”

“That will be interesting.”- Elizabeth said

“Yes, for sure! for now, it is a good night. It is late already.”- He concluded

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Ifeanyichukwu Chukwu emeka Ezenwanne

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