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Ethiopian tribe engage in bloody stick combat with the last man standing winning a BRIDE

Jan 08, 2021
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Fighting for their wives: The Ethiopian tribe who engage in bloody stick combat mass brawls – with the last man standing winning a BRIDE

  • The Suri people take part in traditional stick fighting, known as Donga, as a rite of passage for young men
  • The winner commands great prestige in the tribe but the fight is often dangerous and can even lead to death
  • The practice was outlawed by the Ethiopian government in 1994 but tribes still take part in the ceremonies 

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An Ethiopian tribe has taken part in a ceremonial duel where men beat each other with sticks in order to win a bride.

The often violent and bloody display among the self-sufficient Suri people in the south of the African nation serves as a rite of passage for young men.

The winner is conferred great prestige and the Donga fights are often very competitive, occasionally leading to severe injury and death, with battle scars worn as a mark of pride.

An Ethiopian tribe has taken part in a ceremonial duel where men beat each other with sticks in order to win a bride

An Ethiopian tribe has taken part in a ceremonial duel where men beat each other with sticks in order to win a bride

An Ethiopian tribe has taken part in a ceremonial duel where men beat each other with sticks in order to win a bride

The often violent and bloody display among the self-sufficient Suri people in the south of the African nation serves as a rite of passage for young men

The often violent and bloody display among the self-sufficient Suri people in the south of the African nation serves as a rite of passage for young men

The often violent and bloody display among the self-sufficient Suri people in the south of the African nation serves as a rite of passage for young men

The winner is conferred great prestige and the Donga fights are often very competitive, occasionally leading to severe injury and death

The winner is conferred great prestige and the Donga fights are often very competitive, occasionally leading to severe injury and death

The winner is conferred great prestige and the Donga fights are often very competitive, occasionally leading to severe injury and death

The men normally compete with little or no clothing and are watched on by their fellow tribespeople

The men normally compete with little or no clothing and are watched on by their fellow tribespeople

The men normally compete with little or no clothing and are watched on by their fellow tribespeople

In the Omo Valley, the men are seen wearing homemade helmets, thrusting the long sticks into each other’s bodies.

As well as proving themselves to the women, the fights are designed to trained the young men for future violence in the turbulent region.

Neighbouring tribes such as the Nyangatom often engage in battles with the Suri people. 

A referee is in place during the stick fights but it remains a dangerous sport, particularly since the tribespeople seized guns in recent years, which are occasionally fired from the sidelines. 

As well as proving themselves to the women, the fights are designed to trained the young men for future violence in the turbulent region

As well as proving themselves to the women, the fights are designed to trained the young men for future violence in the turbulent region

As well as proving themselves to the women, the fights are designed to trained the young men for future violence in the turbulent region

A referee is in place during the stick fights but it remains a dangerous sport, and battle scars are often shown off with pride

A referee is in place during the stick fights but it remains a dangerous sport, and battle scars are often shown off with pride

A referee is in place during the stick fights but it remains a dangerous sport, and battle scars are often shown off with pride

In the Omo Valley, the men are seen wearing homemade helmets, thrusting the long sticks into each other's bodies

In the Omo Valley, the men are seen wearing homemade helmets, thrusting the long sticks into each other's bodies

In the Omo Valley, the men are seen wearing homemade helmets, thrusting the long sticks into each other’s bodies

Neighbouring tribes such as the Nyangatom often engage in battles with the Suri people and the Donga fights help train the young men

Neighbouring tribes such as the Nyangatom often engage in battles with the Suri people and the Donga fights help train the young men

Neighbouring tribes such as the Nyangatom often engage in battles with the Suri people and the Donga fights help train the young men

The Ethiopian government outlawed stick fighting in 1994 but they continue to be a part of tribal life.  

Photographer Xavier Gil Tabios, 62, from Barcelona, travelled to the Omo Valley to watch the traditional display.

Tourists are often unwelcome and tribes have previously said they find it offensive to be photographed without permission.

The Ethiopian government outlawed stick fighting in 1994 but they continue to be a part of tribal life

The Ethiopian government outlawed stick fighting in 1994 but they continue to be a part of tribal life

The Ethiopian government outlawed stick fighting in 1994 but they continue to be a part of tribal life

Photographer Xavier Gil Tabios, 62, from Barcelona, travelled to the Omo Valley to watch the traditional display

Photographer Xavier Gil Tabios, 62, from Barcelona, travelled to the Omo Valley to watch the traditional display

Photographer Xavier Gil Tabios, 62, from Barcelona, travelled to the Omo Valley to watch the traditional display

Warriors always fight naked to prove that they're tough and don't need armour - although it is strictly prohibited to hit a contestant when he is on the ground

Warriors always fight naked to prove that they're tough and don't need armour - although it is strictly prohibited to hit a contestant when he is on the ground

Warriors always fight naked to prove that they’re tough and don’t need armour – although it is strictly prohibited to hit a contestant when he is on the ground

Tourists are often unwelcome and tribes have previously said they find it offensive to be photographed without permission

Tourists are often unwelcome and tribes have previously said they find it offensive to be photographed without permission

Tourists are often unwelcome and tribes have previously said they find it offensive to be photographed without permission

But Tabios spent a week with the Suri people and watched on as the young men competed in a Donga fight.

He said: ‘They fight to demonstrate masculinity, for personal revenge, and to win a wife.

‘The participants fight two by two until one winner emerges from the tournament.

A woman cries as she watches the violent battles unfold, with the whole village watching on the sometimes distressing scenes

A woman cries as she watches the violent battles unfold, with the whole village watching on the sometimes distressing scenes

A woman cries as she watches the violent battles unfold, with the whole village watching on the sometimes distressing scenes

There are concerns that as the southern Ethiopian area becomes more connected with the outside world tribes like the Suri will lose their cultural heritage

There are concerns that as the southern Ethiopian area becomes more connected with the outside world tribes like the Suri will lose their cultural heritage

There are concerns that as the southern Ethiopian area becomes more connected with the outside world tribes like the Suri will lose their cultural heritage

Tabios spent a week with the Suri people and watched on as the young men competed in a Donga fight

Tabios spent a week with the Suri people and watched on as the young men competed in a Donga fight

Tabios spent a week with the Suri people and watched on as the young men competed in a Donga fight

‘It can be an inhospitable place. You have to negotiate economically to access a celebration like this and you’re always making sure that the violence doesn’t get out of control.

‘In the end, we had to abruptly leave as another clan arrived with guns looking for trouble. 

‘It’s a complicated area but I’d still urge people to try this unique unrepeatable experience.’ 

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