The Karo or Kara is a small tribe with an estimated population between 1,000 and 3,000. They are closely related to the Kwegu tribe. They live along the east banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia and practice flood retreat cultivation. The crops that are grown by them are sorghum, maize and beans. Only small cattle are kept because of the tsetse flies. These flies are large and consume the blood of vertebrate animals.
Like many of the tribes in the Omo, they paint their bodies and faces with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. The chalk is mixed with yellow rock, red iron ore and charoal to make its colour. Face masks are worn at times and they have clay hair buns with feathers in them. Red clay mixed with butter is put into their hair and clothing is made from animal skin. The women scar their chest believing it makes them beautiful.
The men’s scars represent an enemy or dangerous animal killed. They also wear clay hair buns which symbol a kill. A man in the tribe can have as many wives as he wants, but must be able to afford them. Most men will only marry two or three.
Kara people reside in conical huts. Every Karo family owns two houses: the Ono, the principal living room of the family, and the Gappa, the centre of several household activities.
All images © Jimmy Nelson