Ethnic Dorze people of Ethiopia performing traditional dance

and ritual ceremony at the village Chencha, in Ethiopia. Dorze people are a small Omotic-speaking ethnic group belonging to the larger Afro-Asiatic language family living in the Gamo Highlands of the southern region of Ethiopia.

They have an estimated population of about 30,000 people living mainly in the villages near the cities of Chencha and Arba Minch, in the Semien Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (formerly in the Gamu-Gofa province). Their residence stretches from the Omo River banks to the highlands over Lake Abaya. Cerulli simply calls Dorze as “the people of Gamo.” According to her the Dorze are culturally and linguistically homogeneous with their neighbour peole. But other anthropologists and linguists have attempted to show the Dorze have gradually changed their identity. According to such sources this was because of the infusion with the Amharic stock.
It is asserted that some of the Dorze people have migrated to Addis Ababa and other regions.Historically, they were once much feared warriors but now the Dorze men folk have settled down to farming or engage in weaving in which has become a unique thing associated with them.

The Gamo highlands rise to an average elevation of 9000 feet to the west of the Rift Valley. The Dorze occupy the Eastern edge of the highland above Lake Abaya, about 2600m above sea level. Currently this area is part of the Semein Omo of the Southern Nation Nationalities Regional State.
The Dorze bordered with the people who inhabit the Gamo highland in the east with Otchollo people who live on the top of the hill of the Gamo highland. In the north of Dorze the people of Dita who were their rivals and enemies in the last nineteenth century.
To the west they bordered with the Sala people to whom land many Dorze migrated and lived as weavers. On the south the Dorze bordered with the Amaro.

Dorze people speak an Omotic language also known as Dorze. Dorze is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken in the Gamo Gofa Zone of Ethiopia. Alemayehu Abebe reports that while performing preliminary fieldwork in 1992, he found 14 kebeles in Chencha woreda with Dorze speakers.

The history of Dorze is not much documented. However, all the available anthropological and linguistic sources avers strongly that the Dorze had lived in the areas of Gamo highland in Ethiopia`s Omo Valley, “the Cradle of Mankind” for many centuries before the conquest of Menelik II in late nineteenth century.
Straube argued that the culture of Dorze said to be a blend of the culture of two different groups. The first group consisted of the twenty three clans who have claimed that they have lived permanently in the Dorze home land or come from the neighbouring Ometo speaking areas. The other group which consisted of the three clans who claimed to be migrated from the Northern part of the Ethiopian Empire during the “First” Christian Amhara penetration which was aid to have happened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Among the Dorze, the traditions of migration and claiming of origin from the north is also wide spread.

BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah

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