Who are the Suri?

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Hidden among beautiful landscapes and undulating hills in Ethiopia's far southwest is a hidden treasure of African customs and culture. The Suri Tribe is one of the indigenous groups living in the Omo Valley that is less well-known. With their unusual ways of living, body adornments, and customs, this tribe provides a fascinating window into Ethiopia's diverse cultural heritage.


Rich in natural beauty, the Omo Valley is home to green fields, verdant woodlands, and the Omo River, which provides life for the Suri and other local indigenous groups. The Suri, like their neighbours, mostly depend on farming and herding cattle for their livelihood.

Within the tribe, cattle are a symbol of prosperity and status in addition to being a source of food. Cattle are the focal point of many rites and ceremonies and are frequently adorned with vibrant beads and clay.


The Suri people celebrate numerous rituals that signify life milestones. Young Suri men battle with sticks in "donga," or stick-fighting, competitions to demonstrate their bravery and power. Another important occasion is marriage, which is marked by the exchange of animals as a gift. This custom emphasises the value of cattle as an indication of social status and wealth in addition to representing the joining of two households.

Body Adornments

The Suri people are known for their outstanding scarification patterns and ornate body adornments. Scarification is a difficult rite of passage for young men and women in Suri culture. Scarring is considered as a sign of strength, bravery, and maturity. These scars are produced by creating skin incisions and applying substances like ash and clay to encourage raised keloids. These scars frequently take the form of raised patterns and ornamental lines.

Apart from their practise of scarification, the Suri are renowned for using lip plates, especially in the case of women. Lip plates are circular clay or wood discs that are put into a lower lip incision. The distinctive stretched lip appearance is achieved by gradually expanding the plates over time. This custom is seen as a symbol of beauty and a woman's standing in the society.

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