In the modern world, slim and fit might be desirable, but that's not the case with the Bodi tribe. The most fantasized men are those with fat bellies. The fatter you are, the more handsome and desirable you are.
Ethiopia is home to many different cultures which have been preserved beautifully and it managed to survive even through westernization. One out of these is The Bodi tribe which resides along the Lower Omo valley river, Southern Ethiopia. Bodi people engage in agriculture, own livestock and to this day, they still use the barter system instead of currency. They don’t allow tourists to enter their region so that their culture and traditions stay undisturbed. They are neighbors to another Ethiopian tribe known as “Mursi”. They are pastoral people and cows are of utmost importance to them, as cow milk and cow blood are an important source of food for Bodi people. Instead of killing their cows for the blood, they make a hole in one of the veins, get the blood out and close the vein back with some clay.
Annual Ka'el Ceremony : Bodi Tribe
Tribal people are known for their unique and bizarre ceremonies. Bodi tribe also holds one such ceremony every new year and according to the Gregorian calendar, their new year starts in June. They mark the new year celebrations with “Ka’el Ceremony” also known as “The ceremony of fat men”. This ceremony is like a western World Beauty Pageant for men, where the fattest one wins the competition. This ceremony is limited to the Bodi tribe. To prepare for this protocol, the participants are usually made to live in a hut for a period of six months, away from other villagers. They are not allowed to come out of their huts or have sex during that period and are only allowed to drink raw blood and fresh cows’ milk in huge quantities. Married men cannot participate in this competition. The milk and blood are brought to them inside the hut by girls and women of the tribe.
These men have to drink around 2 liters of blood and milk every day at sunrise, while they can drink more throughout the day. They are no superhumans, sometimes they end up vomiting the blood and milk due to the huge quantity they are expected to drink every day. Due to restricted movement, the fat accumulates near their belly areas easily and they achieve their prime target to get fat.
On the day of the competition, they cover themselves with ashes and clay, all prepared to show their acrobatic skills. As a part of the competition, they are made to race around the sacred trees for hours together. While performing this activity they are assisted by women and keenly monitored by judges. After this, a cow is killed with a sacred stone and its intestines are ripped out to predict what the new year holds for the tribe. After this, a winner is chosen and crowned as the fattest man of the year. After the competition packs up, the Kael competitors dance around the village and take prolonged breaks to sit and enjoy some more milk and yogurt. A few weeks after the competition, competitors get back to their normal routines, eat sparingly and start making efforts to lose all the fat that they accumulated for the competition. These men not just win the title, but also the respect and admiration of women and other tribe members for life.
According to a French photographer, Eric Lafforgue, who spent some time with the Bodi tribe some years back, told the Daily Mail that “Some Kael competitors are so big and fat that they cannot walk anymore “. This Ethiopian Tribe was originally known as ” Me’en Tribe” until their neighbors gave them a nickname, Bodi. According to some photographers, Bodi people don’t care what the outside world thinks about them and their perception of beauty. This is how their ancestors have lived their lives and they will follow on with their sacred culture and traditions.