Tough, untamed, independent and with a flair for tribal avant garde, the rare Dassanch are a people with a proud heritage and close community.

The Daasanach are a semi-nomadic tribe numbering approximately 50,000 whose clans stretch across Sudan, Kenya and Southern Ethiopia.

Politically, the Daasanach don’t feel they belong to either country and prefer to self-govern by their own customs and interpretation of land borders.

In the past, the tribe was able to roam from place to place more freely as pastorialists, but in recent times there is also a dependence on agriculture. Like many tribes of the Omo Valley, the Daasanach depend on the annual flood cycle of the Omo River to nurture their crops.

The Daasanach are known for their fighting prowess and are feared by many neighboring groups, such as the Gabbra and Turkana. Raids to obtain more cattle are celebrated, and Daasanach warriors are proud of the number of enemy they have killed. Their unique culture is valued, and the Daasanach are reluctant to adopt outside technology. Irrigation systems to aid in agriculture were introduced to this area by American missionaries in the 1960′s, but these systems have been disregarded since the end of colonialism.

The Daasanach tribe have a tough life. Living just north of Kenya’s Lake Turkana, these cattle herders have been losing their ancestral lands, and their livestock due to disease and drought, forcing some of them to hunt crocodiles and fish in the river for survival. But cattle mean more than just food, this is a key status symbol, and those who have no cattle are looked down on.

Also, this tribe is not defined by ethnicity. There is no on single predominant ethnic group, but there are eight main clans, each of them has its own responsibility towards the rest of the tribe. Any person can be admitted into the Daasanech, but with one condition: both men and women must be circumcised to join the tribe.

Their dress leans towards the extravagant, described as ‘tribal avant garde’ to say the least. The women wear long cow skin dresses and multicolored beaded necklaces.

An interesting fashion trend amongst the Dassanach is their headgear. Nothing can compare to their original and unusual hats both men and women sport. The Daasanach people use the strangest materials to make wigs and caps - some made with buckets of dried small flowers and branches, and the others consisting of bowls decorated with shells and white feathers and bottlecaps collected from discarded coke and beer bottles.

Certainly an unusual, beautiful and creative people.

About The Author

Afritorial

Neva is a storyteller and media strategist with a background in PR, film, advertising and digital marketing who is passionate about technology, new media and the endless possibilities of the social and mobile sphere. Read more about her on our 'About Us' page.

3 Responses

  1. cynthia

    Your photos are gorgeous, of a beautiful people! I love the phrase “tribal avant garde.” Just stumbled across the concept of “bottle cap wigs” while googling to create some magnets or charms; which led me to learn about the Daasanach for the first time. I’m so gonna try this concept for a tribal belly dance turban – have never seen anythng like this. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Afritorial
      Neva Mwiti

      Hi Cynthia,
      Thanks for your comment … we have been truly inspired by the creativity of the Daasanech people ..
      Hope your project goes well … keep us posted on your progress.
      The Afritorial.com Team

      Reply
  2. Nebright

    this pictures are soo good..and the stories…never have i seen one website with so much about african

    Reply

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