The festival of the fat man by Dung John Nerat

 The festival of the fat man” that’s a very questionable festival if you ask me. But to the Bodi or Me’en tribe of Ethiopia, it is nothing too strange.

The Bodi tribe or Me’en as they call themselves, are one of the groups living in the Omo-Turkana Basin, in the lowlands of the Omo river, Ethiopia. There are 14 clans of the bodi tribe. They are known agriculturalists who consider their cows an important part of their lives as the cow’s blood and milk is a source of food for them, they also still practice the trade by barter system of trade. And of course, their festival called Kael which is known as the holiday of the fat man. 

This festival is celebrated at the beginning of the year. Their traditional calendar has June as the beginning of every year so the festival occurs every June. Each of the 14 clans of the bodi tribe are to produce a male contestant who is unmarried to represent them in the festival. 

The ceremony is not one to know a man’s strength or abilities but rather, to know how fat they can get. The competition starts 6 months before the ceremony. The chosen single man is to stay in his hut and celibate throughout the period of the competition, and for the period of competition, the contestants are to be on a strict diet consisting of fresh milk, butter and cow’s blood.   

  After the six months of fattening, the contestants are expected to leave their huts and walk to the venue of the ceremony with their bodies covered in white mud and ashes with a headpiece made with beads and feathers.  At the ceremony, there would be hours of walking and dancing in circles around a sacred tree, while being watched by the elders of the community who are the judges of the competition and they will be fed with more milk by the women who also wipe away their sweat. 

The winner of the contest is determined by the man with the largest belly and firmest buttocks and titled a hero for the rest of his life he is the most attractive man to the women in the community. 

 By Dung John Nerat

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