BY Deborah Dzifa Makafui, 2:00pm October 27, 2022,

The dangerous Donga fighting ritual of Ethiopia 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 specific to a society or community. They give community members a unique background and story. Young people in the community benefit from the security, routine, and continuity that customs offer. The Suri and Surma tribes in Ethiopia practice a number of rituals and traditions that are noteworthy throughout Africa. 

On the west bank of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia, the Surmas (or Suri) people reside. Since the beginning of time, they have had to battle to defend their cattle and territory, especially from their deadly enemies, the Nyangatoms. The neighborhood was inundated with AK-47s during the Sudanese civil war, and raids have gotten bloodier over time. Surmas must now more than ever demonstrate their bravery, virility, and power in this environment of ongoing insecurity, and Donga is one of the only opportunities to maintain their famed fighting prowess. 

The “Donga,” or stick fight, is a common sight among warriors and has historically been used by men to win the favor of women and secure a wife. They wrestle while wearing little to no clothing, and deadly collisions occasionally happen. I will walk you through the Donga tradition’s steps in this article. 

After the harvests, donga stick fights take place, 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. If the bark of the tree is sliced with eight jags, for example, the Donga will take on the eighth day of the month since each knot or jag represents a single day. 

Some Suri participate in the Blood supper tradition by drinking their cattle’s fresh blood prior to a Donga. It involves inserting a short, razor-sharp arrow into the cow’s carotid artery to cause it to hemorrhage nearly two liters of blood. The blood coagulates swiftly, therefore the warrior must consume the entire contents in one go. According to Surma, cow blood is rich in vitamins that help keep fighters in shape. 

Before dressing their bodies for battle, the warriors pause while crossing a river to wash. They adorn themselves by applying clay with their fingertips to the warriors’ bodies. By dressing up and decorating themselves, they hope to attract the attention of women by showcasing their attractiveness and virility. 

The most attractive girls in the neighborhood flock to donga bouts in an effort to be selected by the champions. Instead of getting married, the goal is to flirt. The victors’ necklaces are worn around the necks of young women. In Surma culture, scarification is seen as a significant indicator of attractiveness. 

“Who’s going to fight me’’? is sung and danced when fighters parade onto the Donga field carrying the strongest guy. Most warriors fight entirely nude to display their bravery, using no armor at all. The most delicate areas of the body are the head and neck. 

A fighter is free to challenge anyone to a duel and can strike any area of the body. There is only one rule that makes hitting a man when he is down absolutely prohibited. A boxer won’t receive any recompense if he is harmed. His family needs to be compensated in the event that he passes away, which does occur occasionally. Typically, a girl or 20 cows will do. Nobody displays their suffering; on the contrary, they display their bloody wounds or bleeding skin. 

The fighters who win the fights point their phallic sticks in the direction of the women they want to date afterward. The girl is willing to date him if she wears a necklace around the stick. The new couple’s fresh relationship will begin with this. 

The majority of players are single men. A group of girls waiting outside the stadium select among themselves which one will ask the winner’s hand in marriage before carrying him away on a platform of poles. Participating in a stick fight is regarded as more significant than succeeding.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 27, 2022


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