Konso Cultural Landscape
Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55 square km arid property of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities.
The site also features anthropomorphic wooden statues – grouped to represent respected members of their communities and particularly heroic events – which are an exceptional living testimony to funerary traditions that are on the verge of disappearing. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.
The cultural properties including the traditional stone wall towns (Paletea), ward system (kanta), Mora (cultural space), the generation pole (Olayta), the dry stone terracing practices (Kabata), the burial marker (Waka) and other living cultural practices are reasons for the precipitation of the Konso cultural landscape to be listed on UNESCO world heritage sites list. All the necessary requirements have completed including, field studies, data collections, nomination file/document and management plan of the Konso Cultural Landscape.
Terrace: The Konso have adapted a terrace agricultural system and the core Konso area is haracterized by extensive dry stone terraces.Theses terrace retain the soil from erosion and create terrace saddles that are used for agriculture. The terraces are the main features of the Konso landscape and the hills are contoured by the dry stone terraces that could reach at some places up to 5m high. The terraces retention walls are built with heavier blocks at the base. The saddles that are prepared for agriculture are between four and eight meters wide at most places
The walled town (Paleta): The Konso live in dry stone walled towns (Paleta) located on high hills selected for their strategic and defensive advantage. The Knoso villages remarkable for the beauty and simplicity of its workmanship, constructed entirely from natural materials, cultivated or constructed from the surroundings. The village is ringed by dry stonewalls, at least a meter thick and three meters high.
Mora: Cultural space of Konso located at the center of the main central enclosure and at different locations with in the walls, and sometimes outside the walls. Paths from all gates lead to these Moras. The individual walled town (Paleta) has up to 17 Moras, which are connected to one other by footpaths. The Moras retain an important and central role in the life of the Konso. They usually have one or two-story grass thatched houses, called Pafta. The Mora comprise an open sided sitting area beneath a huge thatched roof with a heavy wooden ceiling and above the ceiling there is therefore an ;ittic’ the ground floor of the Mora is expertly paved to form a public area where the men gather to govern the village life. It is also a place for recreation, the youth may gather here to play chat and relax during the day when they are not working. The attic of the Mora meanwhile is where all the adult men are obliged to slip at night. They have a responsibility to protect the villages from various an expected incidences such as fire and any other attack.
Reckoned by enthusiasts to be one of Africa’s premier locations for White Water River rafting, its early fury takes it through gorges hundreds of meters deep and over fish, crocodile and hippo.
On the final leg of its journey south to Turkana, the Omo forms the border between Kefa and Gamo Gofa provinces.
It’s here that Ethiopia’s largest nature sanctuary, the Omo National park is located, with belts of forest, hot springs and extensive wilderness.
On the fringes of the national parks, the lower Omo valley is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups—not only the Bume and the Karo, but also the geleb, the Bodi, the Mursi and the Surma, the Erbore and the Hamer, to name but a few. Lifestyles are as varied as the people themselves. The Mursi and Surma, who mix basic subsistence cultivation with small-scale cattle-herding, lead lives of harsh simplicity, uncluttered by the pressures and anxieties of the modern world outside.
Mursi and Surma are renowned for the strange custom followed by their women who, on reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular clay discs inserted. The larger the disc the more desirable the wearer!
The Mursi warriors still follow the custom of carving deep crescent-shaped incision in their arms to show the number of enemies they have killed in battle.
The Surma and Karo utilize various clays and vegetable dyes to trace amazing patterns on one another’s faces, chests, arms and legs. Hamer women wear their hair in dense ringlets smeared with mud and ghee. If they are lucky to find some strips of shiny metal, they add one or two to their hairstyle. Most trendy are the aluminum plate hanging from their foreheads. Jewellery tends to be simple but string- colourful necklaces, chunky metal wrists and armlets, shiny nails appended to skirts, multiple earrings and so on. Karo and Geleb sclpt their hair with mud into extravagant shapes, topped off with a redochred mud “cap” to hold an ostrich feather or two. Goatskins are plentiful and most women wear leather skirts, often embroidered with colourful beadwork or cut into long strips.
Peoples & Cultures
Ethiopia has a fast-growing population of more than 105 million, speaking over 81 different languages (and many more dialects), with numerous unique ethnic groups, beliefs, and traditions. Ethiopia’s population is highly diverse with different languages and racial groups. Most of its people speak a Semitic or Cushitic language which are both part of the Afro-asiatic language family. The Oromo and Amhara people are by far the most populous; each makes up almost a third of the population.
Outside of the cities, most Ethiopians work in agriculture – usually as small-scale farmers. Daily life revolves around the seasons, and many of Ethiopia’s festivals and dances refer to the harvest and tending of the fields. Cattle and goats are common – visitors on long car journeys will quickly get used to waiting patiently for the herds and their owners to pass!
Rural villages are arranged into attractive family compounds – with huts for sleeping, livestock, and storage contained within fences or walls. Some compounds also contain a garden, with fruit trees, crops, and ornamental plants providing shade, sustenance, and decoration.
One of the most widely practiced Ethiopian customs is the coffee ceremony. Beans are freshly roasted and ground, and the dark, potent drink is brewed on a small charcoal stove, while burning frankincense fills the air. The coffee is served in a small ceramic cup and a small sprig of the herb rue, known locally as Adam’s Health ( Tena Adam), may be added for extra flavor.