In an area around Chari Mountain in Ethiopia, near a town called Dimeka, there exists an interesting, preservative group of people called the Banya people. The Banya people are majorly agricultural people however, they also practice beekeeping, gathering, hunting and pastoralism.
The Banya, also called Benna/Banna or Benna are a major tourist attraction in Ethiopia. People visit from far and wide to come and learn about the culture and customs that the Banya have kept and preserved for centuries. Statistics have shown that they are approximately 45,000 Banya people. Most of them are Muslims and they have a King of their own distinguishing them from other tribes in the region.
They live in camps and each camp is made up of people from the same bloodline. Young men from the community have the responsibility of guarding the camps and hunting for their families. Women are restricted to normal housekeeping chores. Before the Banna boys come of age and are allowed to marry and have children of their own, they must go through some rituals, one of them being a cattle-jumping ceremony where each one of them is expected to leap across 15 cows. Once that is achieved, a celebration is done and they start looking for a suitable young woman to marry.
Like most African communities, the Banya are allowed to have more than one wife depending on their wealth status as bride price is paid for every single woman mostly using cattle, or using other items that symbolize wealth. Inheritance of wives is also customary among the Banya. If a man dies, his younger brother inherits all his property, wives and children.
One main factor that make the Banya people a great attraction is the aspect of their young men walking on splits. By definition, walking stilts are “poles equipped with steps for the feet to stand on and straps to attach them to the legs for the purpose of walking while elevated above normal height.” Stilts have been in their community for a long time, used for domestic uses, for agricultural purposes and to ease walking through swampy grounds. Stilts also help the young men protect themselves from being attacked by wild animals during their hunting escapades. Today, if you walk around the region where they reside, you will find that young boys still find walking with stilts a fun thing to do. Especially if they are short and are looking to make themselves appear taller than their mates.
They have amazing hair containing beads held together with butter and pins. The butter keeps their hair supple and protects against heat damage. They have also perfected the art of painting their bodies and faces using soil and stones. The next time you are around the Savannah or highland region of Ethiopia, be sure to have your hand or face painted.