Sunday, 3 August 2014

John Rowe | The Donga

Photo © John Rowe-All Rights Reserved

For a complete change of pace, here's an Ethiopian feature.

The Donga  (also called Saginay) is the stick-fight practiced by the Suri, a tribe in the Omo Valley. The Suri  adopt stick fighting - which is a traditional way for young men to impress girls. The often bloody fight is a demonstration of bravery, and underscores the men's desire to become cattle warriors.

Generally, stick fighting is practiced so young men can find wives. The ideal time to stick fight is just after it rains, and involves various Suri villages. With 20 to 30 people on each side, the stick fights can be extremely dangerous despite having referees to make sure that rules are followed. It's said that the fights have recently led to fights with guns, in which people have been wounded.

Sometimes when a young man has a dispute over a woman, he challenges his rival to a stick fight. His village joins him by starting the age-old ritual by singing, and carrying their fighting sticks that are carved in the shapes of penises (of course).

The Donga
is a gallery of incredibly compelling monochrome photographs of this ritualistic fight by photographer John Rowe.

John Rowe is a photographer and film maker who first trained at the US Navy School of Photography when he was 18 years old. He's also a successful businessman who has founded and managed companies which develop software and digital media for the entertainment industry.

He has also devoted a tremendous amount of time, energy and financial assistance to humanitarian work in Africa. He is also helping to save babies born in the Omo Valley from the brutal tradition of Mingi. Mingi is a tradition practiced for many generations by tribes of the Omo Valley like the Kara, labels certain children as “cursed.”

For more on John's efforts on this worthwhile cause, drop by PetaPixel's post on the subject.