The Bodi tribe is an Ethiopian tribe found in the southern part of the country.
With a population of 9000, they reside near the Omo river, occupying about 1900 sq.km.
They are bordered by the Mursi tribe as well. Both tribes though similar in several cultural patterns, clash from time to time.
The Bodi tribe is a group of people who largely depend on their livestock. They are core agriculturalist.
Bodi tribe grow sorghum, maize and coffee, along the banks of Omo river.
Of all their traditional ceremonies, none is more prominent than the “Ka’el” which means “the holiday of the fat men”.
In their traditional calendar, the year starts in June. And in celebration of the new year, the Ka’el tradition is observed. The ceremony measures the body fat of the male contestant and rewards the winner with no more than fame and adulation of the people.
Prior to the new year competition, each of the 14 clans produces an unmarried male contestant.
For 6 months these men take the most weird steps in fattening up. They feed on blood and fresh milk. For the entire 6 month period they do not engage in any physical activity. Already Bodi men are naturally overweight due to their large consumption of honey.
During this time too, they are not allowed to have sexual relations or leave their huts.
Every morning the women bring them milk. The first bowl of blood is usually about 1-2 litres. Some may have a hard time finishing it and end up throwing up.
On the day of the Ka’el ceremony, these fattened men leave their huts for the first time since the competition.
With bodies covered with clay and ashes, they display their physical abilities before elders who serve as judges.
The fat Bodi men spend hours usually under the sun, running around a sacred tree.
The Ethiopian tribe does not slaughter their animals. So, for the festivities, the sacrificial cow is first killed with a sacred stone and then slaughtered. It is their traditional belief that that way the “nourishing” blood is saved for the tribe and not shed.
With the dead animal’s dead intestine, the elders make predictions for the new year.
This marks the end of the ceremony as the winner of the contest is chosen and rewarded with the “Fat man of the year” title.
Blood is a significant requirement in most of Bodi traditions. It is basically one of their main diets; alongside milk, sorghum or maize porridge. Meat is eaten during holidays and festivals such as the ka’el.
In Bodi Tribe, the blood of the animal is collected through a deliberately punctured wound in the animal’s neck. After the blood collection, the wound is patched with clay.
Just like their neighboring Mursi tribe, Bodi men literally do not wear clothes. At most they are seen with strips of cotton on their hips with shaved heads.
It may be unbelievable that such a bizarre tradition is still in practice today but the truth is that it is.
Report says that the inhabitants of the Omo Valley are not welcoming to tourist activities. With no external influence over time, their culture and tradition has remained undiluted.