Meet Ethiopia’s stilt walking tribe

stilt walking tribe

Ethiopia is a mix of different cultures, and there is a cute story about the Banna stilt-walking tribe. The tribesmen from this area are known for their “air walking” style because of this.

Their family tree goes back to the Omotic people who live in the Lower Omo Valley, especially where the Weyto and Omo rivers meet. Some people call this group “Banya,” “Bena,” or “Benna.” There are more than 47,000 Banna people, and their main sources of income come from hunting, herding, and small-scale farming. There are also adherents of Islam and Christianity, and a monarch oversees the community.

Their long history is interesting, and people are still interested in it in the 21st century. This is all because of “Beshitas,” a word used in the area to describe people who walk on stilts.

Which Tribe Walks On Stilts?

There is a reason behind Banna tribe’s cultural intrigue. Young men from this tribe walked on stilts as a mechanism to avoid attacks by wild animals while herding cattle. However, this is not the only reason why stilts are common in this part of southwestern Ethiopia.

stilt walking tribe

Stilts-walking is a long-standing cultural tradition among community members. Unmarried young men are the carriers of this tradition popular during community festivals and rituals. A rule for banna tribe stilts walking during a ceremony is painting their bodies in white strips.

The wooden poles used to build the stilts are sourced locally. A stilt can be several meters high and moving them requires a great deal of expertise, balance, and physical strength. Amazingly, young men pull it off with amazing elegance and dexterity which is a show of strength and physical aptitude. They captivate the audience with their dexterous movements as they perform complicated footwork, dance-like motions, and acrobatic performances.

Essentially, banna tribe’s stilt-walking custom has numerous cultural and societal significance. For young males, it represents a transition from youth to maturity and is a rite of passage. Striking a balance on the poles and walking gracefully sends a strong message to the tribe that the boy is responsible, independent-minded, strong-willed and is confident to take on life with the temerity of a lion. Moreover, these shows help to preserve cultural history while fostering a sense of pride and identity among the tribe.

Where Is Banna Tribe (stilt walking tribe) From?

The Banna people live in southwestern Ethiopia, particularly in the Lower Omo Valley region; between Omo Rivers and Weyto. Banna language is a widely spoken language. Ideally, it is a mix of Hamar-Banna influences. Although the Banna people do really walk on stilts, there are other factors that also contribute to their popularity and cultural significance.

To begin with, they have distinctive, eye-catching traditional regalia that captivates a lot of people. Their ethnic identity is shown in the elaborate embroidery, beaded, and decorative motifs on their traditional clothes. Also, banna people’s kindness and generosity make them popular.

What’s more is that much as banna tribe stilts are the real deal, they are endowed with a wealth of indigenous knowledge. This includes sustainable resource management methods, farming methods, and traditional medical procedures. Researchers and environmentalists interested in maintaining traditional knowledge systems and supporting sustainable practices seek out their expertise in these fields.

Lastly, they are famous for their craftsmanship in a wide range of industries. They produce fine wood carvings, woven baskets, ceramics, and other traditional crafts that are highly prized for their creative merit.

Why Does The Bana Tribe Walk On Sticks?

Banna tribe stilts are more of a cultural symbol than a safety undertaking with significance as a rite of passage for young men. Not to discount its importance against wild animals attack. Additionally, it exhibits that a young banya man is of age to take up life on another level. Therefore; this Ethiopian tribe walking on stilts does this as a means of cultural preservation.

Tourists and academic researchers interested in the region’s varied cultural traditions have spoken widely about the stilt walking tradition. What’s more; it provides a window into Ethiopia’s rich cultural heritage and the distinctive practices of its indigenous communities.

In retrospect, stilt walking isn’t as common and pronounced as it was decades ago because a lot has changed. The shifting dynamics of modern society and civilization have toned down this practice but you will still find it during major community ceremonies.