Konso Cultural Landscape

A UNESCO world heritage site since 2011, the 23km2  Konso cultural landscape is named after it's agriculturist inhabitants, who have moulded their Homeland of semi-arid hills into a productive network of flat terraced fields through the construction and maintenance of centuries-old dry-stone contour walls.it is these walls that maximise soil retention and the collection of precious rain water.The most striking feature of Konso cultural Landscape is its ancient hilltop paleta (terrace walled village)-strange  hobbit-warrens, towered over by generation poles felled from a sacred forest,and studded with curvaceous thatched community house-that arguable rank as the most beautiful traditional African settlements in sum Sahara Africa.The konso are renowned for their Waka grave-markers,anthropomorphic hardwood statues craved to mimic the decreased,and for their communally constructed harda reservoir, which are maintained by very specific social and cultural practice.situated in the far south of ethiopia,Konso is a fascinating destination in it's own right, but more so perhaps when visited in combination with and contrasted against neighbouring south omo,a region that supports of the most staunchly traditional and pastoralist cultures remaining in Africa


On to South Omo

Frequently visited in conjunction with the Konso cultural landscape, South Omo is home to more than a dozen linguistically-cultural groups renowned for their staunch adherence to traditional African customs.The people of South Omo include the Mursi ;the Hamer,whose young men must perform a terrifying bull-jumping ritual as an initiation to adulthood; and the Karo,celebrated for their masterful body painting. The small towns of South Omo are best visited on their specific market days,which usually attract a cultural divers mix of colorfully -adorned villagers from miles around. Also set within South Omo, the undeveloped and little -visited Lower Omo UNESCO World Heritage site protected a region that has yielded a number of important of paleontological sites close to Lake Turkana.
 

Did you know ?

Konso forms part of the culturally divers Southern Nations,Nationalities ,and Poeple' Region (SNNPR) which is home to more tahn 50,indigenous ethnolinguistics groups ,as well as many letters from elsewhere in Ethiopia.

Birdwatchers should make the 125km diversion east Konso to Yabelo,the only place in the world to see two Ultra-localised endemic:

Streseman's bush as  crow and the white-tailed swallow.

An easy way to determine the age of any given Konso village is to count its generation poles,which are erected every 18years to mark the initiation of a new age -set. Dokatu is claimed to be oldest village in Konso with 43 generation poles, indicating an age of more than 750 years.


Konso villages life style

The traditional paleta villages of the Konso emphasise defensive structure.Located on hills or other elevated positions,each village is encircled by up to six dry-stone basalt walls that stand up to 4meters high and are entered only through tow or more ceremonial gates.esch family compound within a village is enclosed by a tall wood -and -stone fence, and most are terraced ,with the ground floor reserved for livestock and crop storage, while the fist floor is a living area for the people. A village is divided into s number of kanta subcommittees,each with it's own Mora (community house ), a strike open-sided thatched construction where elders convene to discuss administrative issues, and young men sleep communally at night ,as guests. The oldest Mora in a village usually stands alongside a small common where an additional olahita (generation poles)is elected every 18years to mark the initiation of new Kata generation-set. In some villages, the exploits of celebrated age-sets have been commemorated by the erection of a stone obelisk a daga-hela ,a custom that makes Konso one of the world's last existing megalithic cultures.


Konso agriculture

Because the Konso village are so compact and sloping, their mixed agriculturist inhabitants grow all their crops in the surrounding hills, where every has it's own designated plot. The Konso countryside typically comprise hard,dry,Rocky slops,so the people have developed an extensive system of dry-stone terracing to prevent erosion and create saddles for agriculture.livestock dung is used as a fertiliser, and crop rotation plays an important role in land managemnet.sorghum, the most important crop, is harvested twice a year, usually at the end of the two rainy seasons,while secondary crops includes maize,beans,sunflower and coffeee.finely ground sorghum flour forms the base of the Konso staple, a dough-ball called Korkorfa,which is cooked dumpling like in a stew .sorghum flour is used to make a gruel-like local beer.Water for crops and livestock is sourced from communally-constructed harda reservoir,circular Stine construction located instead where rain water is easily trapped but can not sink into the ground.


Waka

A notable feature of Konso society is unique wooden waka-grave-makers that are traditional erected at the burial place of an important Konso man of warrior who has killed one or more enemies in a battle ,or dangerous animals such as lion or leopards.

Often referred to by outsiders as totems, the Waka are rather impressionistic statues made from juniper or acacia wood,and they are carved by dedicated sculptors who adorn them with facial features mimicking the person whose grave they will mark. Often ,the defeated enemies.A Waka that falls or is temporarily removed will never be re-erected,since the Konso believe that a man can only be buried once.

For the reason, around 200waka that were confiscated by the local authorities,after being looted by collectors, are now displayed in the Konso Museum on the outskirts of Karat-konso

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