Ethiopia’s Dangerous Donga Fighting Ritual Where Men Compete In Little To No Clothing To Get A Wife

The Donga stick fighting. Image via YouTube/New Atlantis Tribes


Traditions and customs are typically unique to a particular society or community. They provide members of the community with a unique background and story. Customs provides security, routine, and continuity to young people in the community. In Ethiopia, the Suri and Surma tribes practice a number of rituals and traditions that are well-known throughout Africa.

Surmas (or Suri) people live on the west bank of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia. They have had to fight since the beginning of time to defend their cattle and territory, especially from their deadly enemies, the Nyangatoms. During Sudan’s civil war, the neighborhood was inundated with AK-47s, and raids became increasingly bloody. Surmas must now demonstrate their bravery, virility, and power more than ever in this environment of ongoing insecurity, and Donga is one of the few opportunities to do so.

The “Donga,” or stick fight, is common among warriors and has traditionally been used by men to gain the favor of women and secure a wife. They wrestle in little to no clothing, and deadly collisions occur on occasion. In this article, I will walk you through the steps of the Donga tradition.

Donga stick fights occur following harvests, and the Surmas keep track of the days by making knots on long stalks of grass or jags on tree trunks designated for that purpose. The Donga will take on the eighth day of the month if the bark of the tree is sliced with eight jags, for example, because each knot or jag represents a single day.

Some Suri participate in the Blood Supper tradition by drinking the fresh blood of their cattle before a Donga. It entails inserting a short, razor-sharp arrow into the carotid artery of a cow and causing it to bleed nearly two liters of blood. Because blood coagulates quickly, the warrior must consume the entire contents at once. Cow blood, according to Surma, is high in vitamins that help fighters stay in shape.

The warriors wash their bodies before dressing for battle while crossing a river. They adorn themselves by applying clay to the warriors’ bodies with their fingertips. They hope to attract women’s attention by dressing up and decorating themselves in order to demonstrate their attractiveness and virility.

The most beautiful girls in the neighborhood flock to donga matches in an attempt to be chosen by the champions. Instead of marrying, the goal is to flirt. The necklaces of the victors are worn around the necks of young women. Scarification is regarded as an important indicator of attractiveness in Surma culture.

“Who’s going to stand up to me?” When fighters parade onto the Donga field carrying the strongest guy, this song and dance are performed. To demonstrate their bravery, most warriors fight naked, with no armor at all. The head and neck are the most delicate parts of the body.

A fighter can challenge anyone to a duel and strike any part of the body. There is only one rule that prohibits hitting a man while he is down. If a boxer is injured, he will not be compensated. His family must be compensated in the event that he dies, which does happen on occasion. A girl or 20 cows will usually suffice. Nobody shows their pain; instead, they show their bloody wounds or bleeding skin.

The fighters who win the fights point their phallic sticks at the women they want to date afterward. If she wears a necklace around the stick, the girl is willing to date him. This is where the new couple’s new relationship will begin.

The majority of the participants are single men. A group of girls waiting outside the stadium choose which of them will ask the winner’s hand in marriage before carrying him away on a pole platform. Participating in a stick fight is considered more important than winning.

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