Over the past few decades, a considerable number of studies have been made on the people living around the Omo river in Southwest Ethiopia. However the study of the Banna ethnic group, which lives in the woodland area of the east bank of the Omo, has not been attempted since Ad. Jensen conducted his 40 day research in the 1950s.
In this article, I consider some aspects of the relations between the Banna and the Ari through analysis of the oral histories of the bitas
, the chiefs of the Banna.
The Banna has two chief-lineages, each of which has its own territory: the West, which is divided into three sub-chief (kogo-bita
) territories, and the East, divided into five.
According to the histories, two Banna chief-lineages seemed to have origins from those of the Ari, a northern neighbouring ethnic group, and both belong to the Gata clan. Banna society is organized into “moieties”, called Binnas and Galabu, and each moiety consists of several clans. On the one hand, the Gata is a representative clan of Binnas from which chiefs come and is one of Banna's largest clans. On the other hand, the Gasi, another large clan, is thought to be at the core of the Galabu moiety. As a result, the Binnas moiety is recognized as the chiefs' moiety, and the Galabu moiety can be thought of as a descendant of proto-Banna or people originating from various sources.
When analysing lineage histories that say the bitas
immigrated from the Ani to the Banna, we should not ignore details which emphasizes many traits of Ari origin. For example, the founder of the chiefs' lineages, interestingly named Wuloa both in the West and East, brought coffee, iron goods, and pots. All of these items are regarded by Banna people as being Ari technologies. Wuloa of East Banna demanded sheep, not goat, as a sacrifice animal when performing rituals. For the Banna people, sacrificing sheep is an Ari style ritual, contrary to their use of goats.
This coincides with the interesting point that people of the Galabu moiety say that the Binnas is of Ari descent, and that only Galabu are pure Banna.
In conclusion, I should point out (1) we can understand chiefs' histories as identity-shift stories from Ari to Banna, (2) we can understand the Binnas-Galabu “dualism” as a structure between the chief-related clan group and non-related clan group, and (3) we can find a kind of indigenous typology in their narratives classifying some attributes to the Banna, and others to the Ari.