Saturday, January 25, 2014

Where the Dorze Live, Play, & Work.


A small group of Dorze men and children entertaining us and they were entertaining indeed!

After our leisurely lunch at the Arba Minch Tourist Hotel, we were back on the road, heading towards a nearby Dorze village. We were accompanied by yet another local guide but this one was a member of the village. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name.


Main house on the right.  On the left, the honeymoon cottage where newlyweds live until their home is built.

Our tour took place in his family's compound. He started by explaining the exterior architecture of the buildings. He said that elephants once roamed the region and the thatched roof is shaped to remind people of the head of an elephant. Indeed, if you use your imagination you can see the two eyes and the hump of the top of the trunk.


There were three houses. To the right was a small home which apparently used to be much larger but because of termite action, the structure, which is estimated to be about 65 years old, has *shrunk* over time. To the left is the honeymoon cottage which newlyweds get to stay in for three months while they wait for their permanent home to be built in the common. In the center is the home of the family patriarch. There was already another tourist group inside so we headed off to see the false banana plants and the making of kocho which is the bread made from the fermented pulp of the false banana plant. 

The false banana plant (Ensete ventricosum) is a member of the banana family but I don't believe the fruit is eaten here, just the fiber from the core of the leaf stem.  One of our guides told us an easy way to distinguish *true* from *false* banana is that the latter's leaf stems are red in color.  I don't know how accurate this information is especially given that the women in the video looks to be stripping fiber from a green stem.

Our guide's sister demonstrated how pulp is extracted from the spines of the banana leaf. The pulp is then wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment for several days. The fermented pulp is mixed with water to make porridge or else to make a soft dough which is then patted out onto a banana leaf make the bread. The bread is known as kocho and it has a slightly sour taste to it. The raw kocho dough is covered with another banana leaf and then placed atop the metal disk to cook for several minutes.

Using a rod of bamboo to strip the pulp from the leaf stem.

The pulp.  Hmmm.....does not look appetizing.

The pulp is wrapped in banana leaves and allowed to ferment.

Flash forward several days later.  The fermented dough is roughly chopped to aid in kneading.

A bit of water is added and the dough is kneaded for a few minutes.

The kneaded dough is then placed on a banana leaf and flattened out.

The dough is, covered with another leaf,  placed atop a metal pan and cooked over the fire. 

It just takes a few minutes to cook the dough but it does need to turned over part way into the cooking process.

After the kocho demonstration, we went back to the main house and sat inside. Our guide went on to explain who lives in the house - parents, young children and animals. He pointed out the cookware and the butter. He answered questions. It was a quick visit.

Our guide.  The balls of butter, wrapped in banana leaves that have long dried out, are hanging from the ceiling.
Except for the occasional stool, most homes have no furniture. So, everything is either piled up on the ground or hung up.
The gourds are used for storage as well for holding water.


Hand bags made from animal hide.

A homemade version of a musical instrument known as a krar.  The a small icon of Jesus
was a bit of a surprise to see.  This is a Christian home whereas the Dorze are predominantly Muslim.

Back outside, we met up with another of our guide's sisters. She was spinning cotton which is a lot harder to do than she made it look.

Other buildings in the village compound.  The numbers, painted on the doors, made me wonder whether or not these were rooms for rent.  I can see an intrepid backpacker spending the night here.  It's a nice village as far as African villages go.

Cute, miniature Dorze homes.  Bird houses perhaps?

Next, it was on to sample the kocho that we had seen being made. It was still warm and there was a small plate of honey and hot sauce to dip our pieces in. I went with the hot sauce. It's not my cup of tea eaten raw but it's not bad as an accompaniment to kitfo which is the way that I had it first in Addis.

After we ate, we watched a bit of music and dance performance put on by the villagers - mainly the kids with one of the men doing the singing and helping to provide the beat. It was entertaining.

The young boys were performing a traditional dance. The animal skins recall the warrior days of the Dorze.

The band and the singer.


The adorable peanut gallery.  They would occasionally clap to the beat but for the most part, just sat and looked cute.  Nothing more needed from them :-)

According to our guide, the typical ceremonial dance of the Dorze men is to hold up a shield and spear and hop around on one leg. For the women, they rotate their hips in a rather seductive manner.   All along the road, on our drive from Arba Minch, boys would be performing both types of *dances* in hopes that tourists would tip them.  They were entertaining but none of our three cars stopped.  I'm guessing some people must tip them otherwise, they wouldn't continue to do this.

I digress.  Back to the Dorze village.  Although the children were doing a wonderful job with the dancing, one of drivers, Danny, decided to join in and show them how it should really be done :-)  Lots of laughter when he got into the act and let me tell you, that man knows how to move and shake!  At first I wasn't sure if it was him but his sunglasses gave him away.


A-movin' an a-shakin'.  I think Danny would have danced all day long if he could.  It was nice see him having fun!

From the village compound, we went next to a Dorze weaving cooperative. In this part of the world, it's the men who do all the weaving. We entered into a large room where several looms had been set up and men were busy at work. The looms were all constructed from tree limbs, boards and cording; leather straps were used for foot pedals. Even the shuttles were all hand hewned. It may have all looked crude but the end product was anything but. The men were creating some wonderful textiles. One elderly man in particular caught my attention. The cloth and pattern that he was weaving were so fine it could have only come from someone with decades of experience. For some reason, I thought only something as delicate as what was laying on this man's loom could come from a woman's hands but he proved me wrong. I'm glad to be wrong. Walking among the men, I spotted three wearing eyeglasses. So far, they are the only three villagers that I have seen wearing glasses. It's good to know they can afford them as I'm sure eyewear is expensive in this part of Ethiopia....presuming eyewear is even available.

Crude handmade looms operated with string and bare feet.  Amazing!

No patterns are used.  The room is filled with the rhythmic sounds of the wooden shuttles being moved back and forth.

The thread is cotton and the colors are vibrant.

It was almost hypnotic watching the men work.  Simple, yet very eye appealing patterns and colors.

These two men were weaving very fine cloths.  Just look at the number of warp threads!

This elderly man was weaving a section using metallic thread.  Such delicate work.

After our visit to the Dorze weaving cooperative, we dropped off our local guide and headed back to the hotel.
A view of either Lake Abaya or Lake Chamo, on our way back to the hotel.

Always time for a quick stop to take photos.  I'm very bad at taking landscape photos so I just snap one and call it a day.

View of God's Gate from our hotel's terrace.  Lake Abaya on the left, Lake Chamo on the right

Back at the hotel, it wasn't quite dinner time yet so I did a bit of laundry and while I could still sit outside, some writing on this posting. Dinner was at the same place where we ate lunch. After dinner, I did more laundry and some packing before calling it a night. Tomorrow is another busy day and I want to make sure I get a good night's rest so it will be an early night's out for me. Before that though, I have to take a shower and there is no hot water.....it will be a brisk and short shower :-)

Goodnight from Arba Minch!