Donga

 

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The Surma or Suri are an ethnic group of the Southern Nations of Ethiopia.

The Suri are an agro-pastoral people and inhabit part of the West Omo zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) in Ethiopia, while the Other live partly in neighbouring South Sudan.

The Suri population was 32,000 in 2016.

The most significant ceremony in Surma culture is the “Donga”. When harvest is finish, a few chosen warriors of every Surma village fight with wooden sticks called “donga” surrounded by all the people of their villages. The point is proclaiming virility, in order to revenge or to find marriage. Every village supports their fighters dancing behind them, while shouting rhythmic songs.

The Donga is the main social event for a Surma and all kind of relationships between Surma people of different villages turn around these meetings. Not just warriors but other men, women and children are summoned to the Donga, an event that runs a few times a year.

Most of the warriors fight naked and wearing just a few protections (in head, hands, knees, elbows) weaved by themselves. Some of them overestimate their skills and fight nude. Usually, fighters have a tight control during the fight in order to just win but not kill the opponents. But sometimes there are deaths. If this happens the winner has to pay a fee in cows or goats to the family of the dead man, and the shame fall over him.

There are also a sort of referee who decides the winner in some matches and try to avoid casualties.

Winners pick up from the soil the award gifts: usually necklaces weaved by single girls postulating to marriage. Then they walk through the field dancing and blowing some whistles to proclaim and show the victory to the public.

Notice that the sticks (donga) have a point penis-like shaped (that links this ceremony with the virility-marriage deepest meaning)

It is common to see weapons and, from time to time, shoots to the air. I’d never seen to shoot a Kalashnikov ten meters from me. Sometimes a lost bullet kills someone in accident, usually at the end of the ceremony because of alcoholic beverages.

Major sources of the weapons have been the parties in the Sudanese Civil War. It is also possible to buy it: a Kalashnikov is about 20000 Birr (almost 800 Euros), the price of a cow.

 

 

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