The surprising culture of the Ethiopian Bodi tribe….

Image ref: Eric Lafforgue

Imagine your reaction when you find yourself a tribe where big is definitely beautiful. Welcome to the Ethiopian Bodi tribe where men compete to be the fattest in the village by drinking concoction which they claim is a mixture of blood and milk while living in isolation for six months.

Variety is indeed the spice of life!

Slim might be the big deal elsewhere but for Ethiopia’s Bodi or Me’en tribe, the bigger the better is the case. The Bodi people, live in a remote corner of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley and is home to young men who do all it takes to be crowned the fattest man.

Here’s how it works. Young men are selected and fed special meals and concoction for six months and after that, emerge to show off their newly engorged physiques and for a winner to be chosen. The champion “fat man” is then feted as a hero for the rest of his life.

The food comes in the form of a cow’s blood and milk mixture, served regularly to the men by women from the village. The cows are sacred to the Bodi tribe so they are not killed for the purpose of the ritual. The blood is drawn by making a hole in a vein with a spear or an axe, and after that, they close it with clay.

Because of the scorching temperatures, the men have to drink the two-litre bowl of blood and milk quickly before it coagulates but not everyone can handle drinking so much at speed, so they vomit. These are the ones that are disqualified.

Image ref: Eric Lafforgue

On the d-day, the men design their bodies with clay and ashes before emerging from their huts for the walk to the spot where the ceremony will take place. This long walk seem tortuous, no thanks to the excess weight gain and protruding stomach. The ceremony involves spending long hours walking in a circle around a sacred tree, watched by the other men and helped by women who ply them with alcohol and wipe away the sweat.

Once the fattest man has been chosen, the ceremony ends with the slaughter of a cow using a big sacred stone. Village elders will then inspect the stomach and the blood to find out if the winner’s future will be a bright one or not.

After the ceremony, the men’s lives return to normal and most lose their enormous bellies after a few weeks of eating sparingly and a few weeks later, the next generation of competitively fat Bodi men will be chosen and the cycle repeats.

Image ref: Eric Lafforgue

Becoming a fat man is the dream of every Bodi kid because he will remain a hero for life even though his stomach gets back to normal.

Sadly, Bodi’s traditional way of life is under threat from the Ethiopian government who plans to resettle 300,000 people from all over the country on their lands. For now, the tribe continues as they always have, and still celebrate the Ka’el in a traditional style each June.

What surprising culture do you have in your community? Do share with us in the comment section.

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