Bana Tribe

Bana men are renowned for their elaborate hair dressing

The Bana ((Banna, Bena, or Benna) are pastoral and semi nomadic people (c24,000) living in the harsh environment of the lower Omo Valley. There are several theories regarding their origins, although they are racially mixed with the Bushmen hunters who originally inhabited the region, they do not have any Bushmen features. Some agree that they are clearly a mixture of the Caucasian and Negroid races whilst others state they are related to the Hamer tribe. Come and see for yourself.

The Bana herds mainly consist of cattle, although there are some sheep and goats. Most Bana plant fields of sorghum at the beginning of the rainy season before leaving on their annual nomadic journey. Some households also plant sesame and beans. In dry seasons honey collection is the major economic activity of the Bana people.

The Bana live in family units and their homes are arranged in a circle, with the cattle brought into the centre each night. The houses are constructed with flexible poles set in the ground in a circular pattern, which are then bent upward, joining at the top and tied. They are covered with thatch during the dry season and canvas mats during the rainy season and are a great example of how the tribe adapts to its harsh environment.

One striking characteristic of the Bana men is that they indulge in elaborate hair-dressing. They wear a clay “cap” that is painted and decorated with feathers and other ornaments. A well-dressed man will wear a toga-like cloth and carry a spear and a stool. Women also commonly wear colourful toga-like garments.

The Bana practice many elements of their traditional religion and believe that natural objects (rocks, trees, etc.) have spirits. They also believe in jinnis, or spirits that are capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people.
In Bana, there are at least 27 words for the subtle variations of colours and textures of a cattle! And each man has three names: a human, a goat and a cow name.