The bigger, the better is the slogan for this ancient tribe. Meet the African tribe who have a fat man contest.
The Bodi or Me’en people, settled in the remote lower part of the Omo valley river of Southern Ethiopia, are a semi-nomadic tribe of mainly livestock farmers and agriculturalists who revere their cattle. They are a proud tribe who have been able to preserve their ancient cultures despite the modern world and civilisation. The mysterious tribe still engage in barter trade system.
One of the mind-boggling traditions that still persist is the Fat Man contest during the Ka’el ceremony where every family is expected to produce a man to compete to be the fattest man of the year.
On the day of the Kaél ceremony, the Bodi’s new year’s celebration, the contest commences with the men parading men their newly engorged physiques and for a winner to be chosen. On the day itself, the men cover their bodies with clay and ashes before emerging from their huts for the walk to the spot where the ceremony will take place.
What happens in the contest?
French photographer Eric Lafforgue – who spent time with the Bodi while travelling through south-western Ethiopia spoke to the Daily Mail:
“The cows are sacred to the Bodi tribe so they are not killed. The blood is taken by making a hole in a vein with a spear or an axe, and after that, they close it with clay. Because of the scorching temperatures, the men have to drink the two-litre bowl of blood and milk quickly before it coagulates but not everyone can handle drinking so much at speed.
“The fat men drink milk and blood all day long. The first bowl of blood is drunk at sunrise. The place is invaded by flies. The man must drink it quickly before it coagulates but some cannot drink everything and vomit it.
“Some fat men are so big that they cannot walk anymore. One asked me if he could use my car to go to the ceremony area. Once in the car, he started to drink milk and blood again because he said he wanted to keep trying to be the fattest until the very last moment.”
When the fattest man has been chosen, the ceremony ends with the slaughter of a cow using a huge sacred stone and the blood of the cow is inspected by the village elders to see whether the future will be a bright one or not.
Though the stomachs don’t last long after that, the champion fat man gets his pageantry prize of lifelong admiration from the Bodi tribe.
A few weeks later, the next generation of competitively fat Bodi men are chosen and the cycle continues.
Sadly, the formerly untouched people of Bodi are under threat from the Ethiopian government who want to resettle 300,000 people from all over the country on their lands.
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