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Disappearing World
Africa, Sub-Saharan
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The Kwegu [electronic resource]

Along the banks of the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia, an almost feudal relationship plays out between the 500-strong Kwegu, a small group of hunters and cultivators, and the Mursi, who number 5,000. Every Kwegu offers ferrying, honey-gathering, and metalworking services to his Mursi patron. In exchange, the Mursi offers security - defending his Kwegu from attack by other members of the stronger tribe - and the all-important cattle, without which, in the complex tribal bride-price rituals, no Kwegu marriage can take place nor Kwegu children thus be born. Unfortunately for both Mursi and Kwegu, their mutually profitable relationship cannot last much longer. With birth rates falling among the already depleted Kwegu, and once-taboo intermarriages becoming more accepted, the Kwegu ar [...]

The Mursi [electronic resource]

The Mursi are a tribe living in southwestern Ethiopia, along the Omo River. They are constantly at war about grazing rights with a neighboring tribe, the Bodi - and the most interesting feature of their way of life is the open public debate through which they settle their most important problems, including that of the war. As we learn from the filmmakers, "They never shout each other down, never interrupt, always allow every man to have his say - [there is] no chairman, no vote.

The Rendille [electronic resource]: Disappearing World

Each morning and evening, the Rendille elders in north Kenya pray together - their prayer centered on their camels. In this driest part of Africa's semidesert, the Rendille grow no crops. They keep sheep and goats but depend largely on their camels, the only domestic animals that can convert thorn bushes into milk and meat. As the herds quickly exhaust the vegetation in an area, they must be taken wherever there is sufficient grazing - even 200 miles away. This arduous job can only be done by young, fit men with no domestic ties - so each male Rendille youth must serve 14 years as a warrior herdsman before he can settle down. The Rendille are experiencing the worst drought in nearly a century; having survived droughts before, they are confident they will again. But there is another p [...]

Asante Market Women [electronic resource]

The Kumasi Central Market in Ghana is alive with noise and color: the noise of women's voices raised in barter, the color of their clothes and the bright produce they trade. The few men to be seen are laborers and secretaries, as here women rule supreme. In the home it is a different matter. Heirs to a great warrior tradition, the Asante have a society based on polygamous marriage in which women are subservient to men in all things domestic. While it is a matrilineal society in that a man's wealth is passed onto his sister's children, inheritance traditions allow for a widow to be evicted by her husband's family, forcing her to work to support her own children. But things are changing slowly. Asante women's supremacy in the marketplace is based on the real need for economic independe [...]

The Mursi [electronic resource]: Nitha

For the first time in 30 years, the Nitha ceremony which gives adulthood to an entire generation is performed by the Mursi of southwestern Ethiopia, amid fears that this may be the last. The continuing attacks on the tribe by the Bume and other neighboring enemies using automatic weapons and the constant threat of drought and famine all undermine the existence of the Mursi.