National Geographic : 2010 Mar
• crops. For rain they thank Wangala Bankimaro. Hamar women, their hair rolled into gleam- ing red-dyed braids, tell me Wangala commands the respect of even the Ethiopian government, which rules from a distant capital. Hamar men, ri es looped over their shoulders, say Wangala's curse is feared more than bullets. Bullets can miss. e curse guarantees death. When I meet Wangala in his hut, he is just back from a rain ceremony. It has been a suc- cess. Rain will come, he says, shi ing his weight on the grain sack. Brass coils wind around his wrists. He wears a T-shirt, white shorts, and sandals made from old tires. I've never met a king before; I am not sure how to behave. In the dim, smoky hut, one of the king's wives boils co ee over a hearth. I ask the king why, if he can summon rain, he has not done it earlier to avoid the looming drought. He looks at me with the expression of a man humoring his guest. " e people did not come to me," he says. " ey did not make sacri ces to ask for rain." Rules. An error of protocol. Like straying into crocodile territory. Slowly, as the Ethiopian government has extended its in uence and its legal code into tribal life, federal o cials have worked to win Wangala's support. When they need him, they send a truck to pick him up---no small feat in this distant, asphalt-free region. One gov- ernment plan aims to abolish what have been termed "harmful traditional practices." ese include, ironically, the very things most tourists come to see: the ritual whipping of women or the stick ghts or the cattle-jumping ceremony. e list of targeted practices includes female circumcision (which is not practiced by the Hamar but is common throughout Ethiopia) and something called mingi killing. Mingi is a kind of very bad luck. In southern Ethiopia many tribes believe it is a bad omen if children are born deformed, if their top teeth erupt before their bottom teeth, or if they are born out of wedlock. Tradition dictates such children must be killed before mingi spreads. I met a Kara woman who Despite recent peace deals between Omo tribes, most remain well armed and proud of their fierceness, as revealed in scars running down the center of this Nyangatom man's chest. The scars, and others on his shoulder, offer a warning: He has killed at least two enemies from other tribes.