Archives for posts with tag: east africa

it’s the pokomo people (agriculturalists) vs. the orma people (pastoralists) this time. in kenya. they’ve fought before, so this is nothing new. but these people really do mean business:

kenya - ethnic wars - nyt

nobody accidentally leaves a machete scar like that on a nine-month-old kid (orma kid, btw). i bet the person who did that meant to behead that child, they just missed.

this photo reminded me of a quote about the yanomamo that steven pinker had in Better Angels:

“Helena Valero, a woman who had been abducted by the Yanomamö in the Venezuelan rain forest in the 1930s, recounted one of their raids:

“‘Meanwhile from all sides the women continued to arrive with their children, whom the other Karawetari had captured…. Then the men began to kill the children; little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but they caught them, and threw them on the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet, they beat them against the trees and rocks…. All the women wept.’”

i can’t help but think that such peoples are gratified — on average — by committing such violent acts in a way (or ways) that other peoples simply are not. pinker talked at some length in Better Angels about how western soldiers have difficulties firing their weapons directly at enemy combatants [edit: or civilians - see comment below]. they’re repulsed by it. some peoples — like the pokomo and the yanomamo — don’t seem to be. at least not so much.

different evolutionary histories would be my guess (obviously!).

what is a joke is the way these things are written up in the msm:

Neighbors Kill Neighbors as Kenyan Vote Stirs Old Feuds

neighbors kill neighbors? gimme a break! this guy makes it sound like mr. jones went a little nuts one day and strangled mr. smith while they were chatting over the picket fence separating their front yards. westerners really need to start getting a grip on reality — and stop imagining that other people are just like us — if we’re ever going to understand what’s going on in the world at all!

(note: comments do not require an email. orma village sans picket fences.)

somali bantus.

i started thinking about them the other day (week) when jayman mentioned all of the somali “refugees” in lewiston, maine. (whyyy?) i know that a lot(?)/most(?) of the somali refugees here in the u.s. are somali bantus — and i remembered reading somewhere that they are the descendants of bantu slaves brought to somalia at some time or another (turns out that was the nineteenth century). but i started wondering about their family/kinship/marriage structures and all that, so i looked ‘em up.

the somali somalis refer to the bantu somalis as jareer or “hard hair.” they’re also known as the gosha, which relates to the areas in somalia where they live. it’s estimated that ca. 50,000 bantu slaves were brought to somalia between 1800-1890 [pg. 45], and they hailed from a handful of different ethnic groups from tanzania, mozambique and malawi — so right there, the somali bantu are like african-americans in that they are not all from one ethnic group (i.e. they’re unrelated to some degree).

almost as soon as they arrived in somalia, some of the bantu slaves escaped and sought out a living in the bush — the bush in somalia being two river valleys — the shebelle and jubba river valleys. the earliest escapees formed villages based on ethnicity, i.e. whether they were yao or zingua or whatever. later escapees and, even later, freed slaves (slavery was legally abolished by the italians around 1900) formed villages based on the somali clans to which they had been in servitude. so the later villages were a mix of bantu peoples (yao or zingua or whatever). [pgs. 45-46]

so, did the somali bantu “mix it up” once they lived in multi-ethnic villages? of course not! [pgs. 53-54]:

“How the Gosha see themselves is quite different from this external perception of the Gosha as somehow a clan of their own. They see themselves as a group of people of very different origins living and working together in one geographical area….

“While most people of the Gosha are products of subjugated ancestors (and some of the oldest Gosha were themselves slaves), these ancestors came from different regional areas…. [S]lave children and free descendents of slaves retained a knowledge of the distinction between being of East African (Yao, Nyasa, etc.) and being of Oromo heritage [another non-somali ethnic group in somalia]. Somali clans could have slaves of both Oromo heritage and East African heritage, used for different purposes. Once these slaves attained their freedom, they and their children could then be affiliated to the same Somali clan, despite their separate areas of origin. In this way, villages formed along Somali clan lines in the Jubba Valley could contain people of both Oromo and East African heritage, who claimed affiliation to the same Somali clan. Within a village, while working together and cooperating on village matters, people of different ancestries tend to live separately, and marry endogamously, although this is changing….

“For Gosha individuals, their sense of who they are is quite complex, with many social and cultural components. At base is their knowledge of their ancestry — Oromo, reer Shabelle [yet another group], or other East African groups….”

and, more specifically about the somali bantus’ marriage practices (they have a preference for cousin marriage) [pgs. 84, 105 & 148]:

“Within a village, while working together and cooperating on village matters, people of different ancestries often lived separately and married endogamously (due to a preference for parallel or cross-cousin marriage) in the late 1980s….

As noted above, marriages were often (but certainly not always) arranged between members of the same clan and same ancestry due to the preference for cousin marriage. Thus we see an ongoing recognition — however muted in daily praxis and sentiment — of ancestral identities by Loc villagers….

“Following the preference for cousin marriage, Xalima arranged for her youngest daughter to marry the son of her Laysan brother, which in this case produced another generation of cross-clan marriage….”

oh, i almost forgot — their fundamental extended-family groups are matrilineal, so in that way, the somali bantus are not like somali somalis (or other muslim groups like arabs or afghanis). the matrilineal system is a much more traditional, african system.

so the bantu somalis are not one group of people AND they’ve been maintaining their genetic differences for many generations now — right up until at least the 1980s. we’re not importing one group of somali “refugees” — we’re importing a whole slew of groups who, being inbred, probably don’t get along all that well with each other. this really is a recipe for disaster. *facepalm*

btw – after fleeing somalia, a lot of the somali bantus wanted to return “home” to tanzania — and a lot apparently did. and are still doing so. that sounds like a great idea to me! i’m sure they would be much happier there and would fit in better than they seem to be doing in america (and elsewhere in the west).

(note: comments do not require an email. and now for something completely different…)

so, obama has sent some military advisors or something to uganda to help tptb there to put down the barbaric but-they’re-not-alone-in-that-part-of-the-world lord’s resistance army.

don’t be fooled by the name: lord’s resistance army indeed! they should really be called the acholi people’s resistance army ’cause that’s all they are — an army made up of one of the, of course, several ethnic groups in uganda, i.e. the acholi. and what are their goals? more power for the acholi naturally!

what’s kinda funny, tho, is that the acholi people are a branch of the luo people. now why does that sound familiar…?

(note: comments do not require an email. speaking of uganda….)

…(of ethiopia) have/had a weird relationship with food. [*insert famine joke here*]

the following passages are from “Socialization and social control in Ethiopia” written by a guy who spent a total of fourteen years in ethiopia starting in 1965 up to, i think, the 1990s. he’s talking here about traditional, countryside amhara. there have been changes (as a result of things like modernization, urbanization, war, famine, etc.) to a lot of this in modern times.

pgs. 40-1:

“Restraint is (or was in the not so distant past) as strictly enforced or enjoined with respect to food and drink as to premarital sex. As a warning example, people are reminded that Adam and Eve were ‘defeated’ by food when they ate of the forbidden fruit. As the devil tempted Christ to convert stones into bread, so he comes also today, tempting people to eat to excess (‘much’). Heavy eating and drinking is ‘sinful’. Children are taught that they should eat and drink in moderation, and not enjoy their food ‘too much’. Food ought not to be ‘too’ attractive or appetizing, because food builds up the body (‘the flesh’ – with its biblical connotation as the seat of sin and lust, etc.) but damages or destroys the soul. Love of food and drink is ‘bad’. Frugality is valued. However hungry they are, children are taught to leave some food on the plate — it is ill-mannered to eat all one’s food, either because the leftovers are fed to servants and other poor people, or — in some households — it is left (symbolically) for a protecting house-spirit called away.

“Those who keep all the fasts prescribed or recommended by the Ethiopian Orthodox church will fast most days of the year**; but even those who honour only the ‘compulsory’ fasts*** will observe quite a great number of fasting days each year. Fasting food can be healthy — most of the vegetables the Amhara eat they consume during fasting seasons — although it is (purposely) prepared rather unattractively during these times….**** The church recommends (but does not insist) that fasting should start at the age of seven.

“** Fasting consists of abstaining from animal products and sex, and to eat nothing till the afternoon. One is expected to combine this with more intensive praying and church attendance.
“*** Many non-religious people also observe these fasts as an expression of Ethiopian or Amhara ‘nationalism’. It is as much a cultural as a religious act or phenomenon to many people.
“**** There is for example no butter or animal fat/oil in the food, and no milk is used in bread, etc.”

is all this fasting and hyper-respect for food some reaction to centuries of famines? don’t eat too much ’cause you don’t want to waste too much food?

you’d think not eating enough/properly wouldn’t be too good for you — and the author thinks it hasn’t been good for the amhara:

pg. 57:

“The ‘delay’ of marriage and child-bearing is, ironically, coinciding with earlier maturing. Food has by the traditional Amhara not been highly regarded as a ‘good’ (however tasty their food is) — it has rather been seen as a necessity, and it has been widely considered as an inducement to worldliness and sin. Nutrition has (perhaps partly therefore) been poor (which does not mean that Amhara women are poor cooks — quite the contrary). In spite of much fertile land, food production is at a low level, and many eat too little or survive on an unhealthy diet (however tasty it may be). This may explain why Amhara rarely develop good body proportions and why ‘ageing’ sets in early. Poor diets have also had noticeably detrimental effects on the mental and intellectual development of many.”

here’s some more curious food-related behaviors:

pg. 93:

“When a boy or a man and a girl or a woman marry, they eat together and continue to do so throughout life. But the children do not eat with the parents till they are (nearly) ready for marriage, although in towns it is now becoming usual that the whole family eat together, and slowly this is becoming customary also in the countryside. The typical situation used, however, to be (and partly still is) that the children took turns to hold a burning torch or light for the parents to see by when they ate at night, while they (the children) kept their eyes on the wall: they were not allowed to watch their parents eating.** Otherwise, during daytime or when not holding a light for their parents, they were not present when adults were eating, although they could occasionally be called and fed mouthfuls from the hands of their parents or other adults. After the parents had eaten — and also taken the best and most nourishing parts of the food — the children would eat the leftovers after them (and servants or poor people would be given the leftovers after them). Some children normally ate (and some still eat) their food with the servants. Meals were usually taken in silence: it was counted as irreverent to talk (let alone chatter or ‘keep the conversation going’) during a meal.

“** In earlier times, rulers and high nobles would never be observed eating. Even at banquets they would be screened off from the common view while eating.”

pg. 95:

“At around 12 or 13 years of age, boys in the countryside wander about more widely than before, and they start to eat what they can find in nature: fruits, roots, tubers, plants of various kinds growing wild, and they may be so sated with this that they start skipping meals at home. They are ‘in the field’ in this way both for play and as shepherds.”

(note: comments do not require an email. ethiopian food.)

ihtg pointed out (thnx, ihtg!) that ethiopian jews have very strong exogamous mating patterns (except for mating outside of their ethnic group, presumably). he mentioned the ‘zamad’, which is the beta israel term for extended family. when looking for a marriage partner for their children, ethiopian jews would exclude anyone within the zamad related to them going back seven generations! that means marriage between sixth-cousins and anyone closer was not really (heh) kosher. from “Surviving salvation: the Ethiopian Jewish family in transition” [pg. 59]:

“For the Beta Israel, in contrast, social life was organized around the flexible and often-overlapping concepts of the extended family (zamad) and household (beta sa’ab). Zamad is a term whose precise meaning varies according to the circumstances and, in particular, according to what it is being contrasted. Thus, zamad is most frequently used to refer to an entire extended family (as opposed to strangers), but it was also used to distinguish blood relations (yesaga zamad) from in-laws (amachenat). When searching for a spouse for a son or daughter, parents would automatically exclude anyone in their zamad counting back seven generations. Thus to marry even a third cousin would be considered a form of incest! Since sons traditionally settled in the same village as their parents when they married, many local communities consisted of one or several extended families. Membership in a large and powerful zamad provided both practical benefits and social standing. Members of a zamad were expected to support each other in time of need. Within the borders of the zamad little attention was paid to the ‘real’ relationship between members. Thus, according to circumstance, grandparents, uncles, or older siblings might be a child’s ‘parents.’ A person’s ‘children’ might easily include nieces, nephews, stepchildresn, and younger siblings. His or her biological sons and daughters might be teens before they realized that some of their ‘brothers and sisters’ were in fact cousins!”

so, the beta israel are very outbred within their extended family (zamad). it’s not clear to me who a preferred marriage partner might be — someone from one’s own zamad, just beyond sixth cousin? or someone from another zamad? and if it’s someone from another zamad, is it someone from another zamad from the same village? inquiring minds want to know!

still, the beta israel are so outbred within their zamad that keeping track of who’s your sibling or who’s your first-cousin or even who’s your fifth-cousin is not really important because all of them are off-limits as far as marriage goes. they don’t need to keep track of their father’s brother’s daughter or mother’s brother’s daughter the way the arabs do, ’cause neither of those individuals are marriable. kind-of like how the germans, before the arrival of christianity, had specific words for the different types of cousins, but once they could no longer marry most of their cousins, the term ‘cousin’ was then universally applied to all of them. (these germans included anglo-saxons, too, of course.)

so, i decided to look around to see if i could find out anything about the mating patterns of other groups of ethiopians — i recalled seeing something about this prohibition against sixth cousin marriage, or something like that, somewhere else (i think it was here on wikipedia).

first of all, there are several different ethnic groups in ethiopia, of course: oromo, amhara, tagray, etc. — some are cushitic, others semitic, others nilotic — many are christians, some are muslims.

but look what i found out about some of them [pg. 406]:

“In the central highland societies of Amhara, Tagray, several Gurage groups, but also among the Omotic-speaking Dizi in the south-west, clans do not exist and people trace descent along bilateral lines. Both the above types rest on ideas of lineal kinship through descent from a father’s line, a mother’s line or through both, but bilateral tracing or ambilineality excludes clanship. Males and females can inherit through both their mother’s and father’s line, but actualization of the rights of the claims is strongly situational.

“In ambilineal societies, the nuclear family tends to be the most important unit, although in the rural areas this unit is often at least two-generational. Among the Amhara, wife and husband kept their rights of possession in property brought into the marriage, making for a relatively equal, or at least independent, and somewhat competitive relation between spouses. As clans are absent to define the kin circle outside of which one has to marry, bilateral or ambilineal societies use a generational rule of distance, e.g., the well-known one among Amhara (and taken over by many other groups) that one may not marry ‘within seven generations’ reckoned from ego upwards, i.e., no descendant from a common great-great-great-grandparent on either mother’s or father’s side. Such a group of descendants from an apical male (wanna abbat) is often called bet (‘house’) among the Amhara or anda among Tegrenna-speakers.”

“bet” like beta israel? prolly.

listen to what amhara and tagray societies are like!:

“The bilateral kinship system in the case of the Amhara, and probably even more so the Tagray, has led to a highly individualistic ethos where kin bonds are subject to high variability and negotiation. As among clan group members, there are no automatically solidary kin group units in this society. Tagray kinship in particular is marked by a strongly contractual, ‘political’ character. Locality and neighbourhood are more important than kin-based households. Ambilineal societies have thus given rise to an extraordinary social dynamism, generating individual competition (thus perhaps contributing to the meritorious complex in Ethiopia) but also to a high conflict potential on the level of households.

neato! except for the conflict part. doesn’t sound all that foreign (if you’re a europoid), eh? and, of course, it’s not the bilateral kinship system that’s led to the “highly individualistic ethos” but, rather, all the oubreeding.

there’s more:

“Among the Dizi of south-west Ethiopia, a people living in the midst of lineage societies like Me’en, Benc, and Suri, there is neither clan organization nor lineage thinking. They trace bilateral lines on both side, and in this they resemble northern Semitic-speaking societies, which whom they indeed claimed historical affinity…. Dizi exogamy rules are based on generational distance reckoning (the ‘seven generation’ rule), as among the Amhara and Tagray.

other groups in ethiopia are not as exogamous as the amhara, tagray or dizi, and they appear to be more clannish. the oromo, for instance [pg. 405]:

“The Oromo, the most numerous and diversified people in Ethiopia, are historically a segmentary, patrilineal clan society, based on named clans. The genealogical principle is strong…. Migrations and socio-economic change have led to local adaptations of the system. These societies are, however, still strongly patriarchal, and polygamy is frequent. There is no clear rule of clan exogamy among Oromo; instead there is (or was) a rule of not marrying within the hidda groups of close relatives, reckoned five generations back.

five generations back means a prohibition against marrying anyone closer than fourth-cousins. that’s closer endogamy, then, than the amhara, etc., who won’t marry sixth cousins or closer (as a general rule). it also sounds like the oromo might favor marrying within the clan, just beyond fourth-cousins. polygamy, too, also narrows the degrees of genetic relatedness within a group of people.

ethiopia sounds like an interesting place with regard to mating patterns — there are many different groups with a variety of different mating traditions, unlike western europe which just sorta has two broad patterns — in the north, don’t marry your cousins — in the south, don’t marry your cousins either, but we’ll let you get away with marrying your cousins more than they do in the north.

will have to learn more about ethiopia!

(note: comments do not require an email. crazy amharans!)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers