Surma People and sociology

Categories: FamilyPeopleSociology

Suri people have a cattle-centered culture, the wealth of a family is measured by the number of animals owned. Usually the animals are not eaten unless a big ceremony takes place. The animals are used for milk and blood which they both drink. Sometimes Suri warriors are preparing a mixture of cattle blood and milk for a ceremonial rite called ‘cow bleeding’.

Suri women are seen as the dominant gender within the culture, and seem to rule the roost and have a lot of say in daily activities.

Furthermore, they also wear lip plates ascending in size dependant on their role and how well known they are. For instance, the bigger the plate the more well known and affluential they are towards the culture. The girl’s lower lip is cut when she reaches the age 15 or 16, and then pierced by her mother or another woman of her settlement and a simple wooden plug is inserted. The cut is held open by the wooden plug until the wound heals.

After that the plug is replaced by a bigger one. Nowadays the girls in some Surma settlements decide for themselves whether to wear a lip plate or not. However, wearing a lip plate is still an expression of social adulthood and self-esteem for a Suri woman and demonstrates respect for the men.

The Suri tribe is used to conflict, like for example the constant conflict with the neighboring Nyangatom tribe over land and cattle. The Suri culture demands that the men are trained as warriors as well as cattle herders.

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Stick-fighting events take place to train boys and young men and also to allow them to meet women. As a result the Ethiopian government banned the stick fights, which now have to take place secretly and without presence of tourist

In Tulgit and Kibish you find many children by the riverbank waiting for photos in the afternoon. The usage of flowers for decoration is a wonderful
habit of the children. The kids decorate themselves with flowers, blossoms and green plants they can find everywhere around the villages. However, as nice as it looks, the decoration with the flowers is not an old tradition, you cannot see this kind of decoration in remote Suri villages. The kids, also the boys, are doing it for photos and for getting a little money. But anyway: it is beautiful and funny. Especially the boys are very creative, they climb any tree they find and make bizarre faces or funny poses just to attract the tourists for a photo

They raise cattle and farm when the land is fertile. Cattle are important to the Suri, as it is a status. In order for a man to marry women in Surma (Suri ) tribe, he must own at least 60 cattle and Cattle are given to the family of the woman in exchange for marriage.

Like the other Omo Valley tribes and Massia, the Surma will use the milk and blood from the cow. During the dry season, the people will drink blood instead of milk. Blood can be drained from a cow once a month. This is done by making a small incision in its neck . Their villages normally range in size from 40 to 1,000 people, but a few may reach 2,500 people. Village life is largely communal, sharing the produce of the cattle. Though their chiefs (styled komaro) may wear the fur crown of a pagan priest-king, they are merely the most respected elder in a village and they can be removed. Few Surma are familiar with Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and their literacy level is very low.

In the words of G.P. Murdock: “The family is a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It contains adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.”

Comparing Murdocks nuclear family to the research I believe that the main things to consider is that there is no economic unit regarding husbands and wives, there is no sharing of the residence between husbands and wives, only the women within their supporting kinship groups lived with children and any relationship affection from the man was taboo and resister by the kinship
group. To expand, the two main reasons as to why Murdock’s theory is not correct is;

1) The nuclear family is not “universal”.
A number of societies have very different domestic arrangements to those he describes. Take K Gough’s research into the The Surma people. In terms of Murdock’s definition, this society does not possess a family since fathers do not share a “common residence”. Matrifocal, female-headed families are also an exception, not to mention Gay families who do not conform to Murdock’s definition because they do not contain adults of both sexes.

2) The family is not necessarily functional for all family members. Murdock ignores the “dark side” of the family; domestic abuse, violence and sexual abuse,

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Surma People and sociology. (2016, Apr 16). Retrieved from

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