The Orma of Kenya
The Orma are remnants of the once powerful "Galla nation" of Ethiopia and northern Kenya. In the late nineteenth century, wars with neighboring tribes forced the Orma to migrate south. Some moved to the rich delta area of the lower Tana River, and others settled west of the river.
The Orma also go by the name "Galla," which is widely used in Ethiopia. They do not call themselves this, however, since it is considered to be derogatory.
Herding cattle is their basic means of survival. Their distinct breed of the white, long-horned zebu cattle are among the finest in Africa. Zebu are used as a "bride price" and are slaughtered at weddings and funerals.
What are their lives like?
Meat is the main food of the Orma, supplemented with milk or cow's blood. They also eat maize, rice, beans, and drink tea. The arid Tana region is not favorable for growing produce; therefore, they have few vegetables in their diet. Any produce they obtain must be bought from another tribe. This is not an easy task since the shortage of watering holes often leads to bloody clashes between tribes.
The Orma live in round, wood-framed huts built by the women. The huts are covered with woven mats and grass. When the family migrates with the herds, the homes must be dismantled and put on pack animals, along with the household goods. A larger version of these huts is built for those who live in permanent villages.
An Orma man typically has only one wife, even though polygamy is allowed. Special ceremonies are performed at the birth of children. Babies are dedicated seven days after they are born. A woman stays secluded for forty days after giving birth. Then, a feast is held with the other women in the village and the baby is dedicated a second time. If the child is the couple's first, the parents take on the child's name, preceded by aba (father) or hada (mother).
Orma funerals are also interesting events. The family members sometimes inflict wounds on themselves, scratching their cheeks and bodies to indicate grief.
Among the Orma, the line of descent is traced patrilineally, or through the males. Masculinity in attitudes, rituals, and symbolism is customary. Such things as bravery and warrior ethics are also stressed. Riding, spear throwing, and fighting are admirable skills among the men, and those who have killed dangerous animals or human enemies are honored.
What are their beliefs?
The original religion of the Orma included belief in a creator God associated with the sky. They recognized the existence of many spirits and associated them with various locations in nature such as mountain tops, trees, groves, rivers, and wells. These beliefs have now apparently been combined with their Islamic beliefs.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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