Biljana Jurukovski

Arbore people


The Arbore, also known as ‘Erbore’ or ‘Ulde’, is an ethnic group living in Southern Ethiopia, near the expansive Lake Chew Bahir, in the South-Western region of the Omo Valley.

I was taught that in this region, "Ar" denotes "bull" and "bore" means "land", quite literally translating to the “land of the bulls”. With just one sweeping gaze, my peripheral notices the cattle that roam the land undisturbed, serving as the main source of livelihood and a status symbol of wealth, hence the name of the tribe acting as a homage.





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The underlying spiritual and ritual power that permeates the Arbore people is the main differentiating factor between them and other tribes of the Omo Valley. Being in their presence evokes a certain reverence in me.

Upon spending time with the tribe, I quickly learned of the native legend that circulates, imparting that a devil once attacked the tribe, threatening annihilation and their extinction. As evidenced by the elders that shared this tale with me, the Arbore tribe was triumphant, elevating their status in the area. From that moment onwards, it is believed that the Arbore priests have been endowed with exclusive strength. An unspoken power. Subsequently, it has become commonplace for the priests of other tribes to consult Arbore elders when they face adversity. In such instances, Arbore elders offer their expertise, bringing with them gifts. It’s a reciprocal relationship and one that is built upon well-established respect and support.

Due to their recognised spiritual power, which I felt to be palpable in my time spent there, the Arbore tribes have very little conflict with neighbouring Omo Valley tribes who are often not brave enough to attack them or their livestock. This amicable co-existence is also a result of the sharing of natural resources, intertribal marriages, and the knowledge of multiple languages that allows for dialogue between tribes. The way in which they welcomed me into their community, divulging their history and accommodating my keen interest, spoke to the hospitable nature of the tribe.