The cattle currency of the Suri people in Ethiopia

For the Suri people in Ethiopia it seems that everything centers around their cattle. Except of their Kalashnikovs of course. But that is another story. For a Suri the cattle is a very important status symbol. And it all starts for a boy at the age of about 14 or 15. At that time a boy gets cattle from his family, usually between 10 or 15 cows, depending on the prosperty of the parents. From now on the boy is responsible for his own cattle, and if possible he should try to increase somehow the amount of his cattle. And that for a good reason: when a young man wants to marry he has to pay for the bride, and there is only one currency: his cattle.


But stop, after he paid all his cattle to the father of the bride, is he poor? Not really, if hopefully he has enough sisters! There is a good chance to get more cattle from his family when a sister of the young man gets married. But a young man without any sisters is indeed in deep trouble, and often these young men have to work in the gold mines to get money for their own cattle after the marriage.

At night of a full moon Suri children love to dance and sing. You can hear the songs of the kids from several villages, and sometimes the children walk while dancing and singing from one village to another to join the other kids. Very often the dances continue until after midnight. And of course their songs are also about their cattle. One beautiful song I learned from the kids is the song 'Bekori'. Bekori means 'spotted cow'. The song is about the beauty and loveliness of a cow. The cow is compared to the wonderful earrings of a beautiful girl. I had the great luck to sing this song and dance together with the children in Koka at a night of a full moon. Next day I got the nick name 'Bekori' in the village. But the nick name 'spotted cow' was worth the unique and wonderful experience! Here the main text like the children tried to teach me (it is not that simple to write it down because Suri people only learn writing Amharic at school):

Hejeijee woooouuh
Kugime kali woooouuh
Bekori ki ban ban tun nja wa
Bekori ki ban ban tun nja wa

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05/03/2012, Gilles Marcil:
Great blog, fantastic images. Thank you!
04/23/2012, nils, spain:
such a well-written and thoughtful post :)
04/13/2012, Benson Paris:
Suri people looks very different. In this every image attach some history.
04/07/2012, Framed and Shot:
some great portraits here! You have captured the dream, the hope,the joy and the struggle. Well done!
04/06/2012, praveen rastogi:
great post for me...
thanks for sharing all....