Konso is a tribe which inhabits the area of basalt hills about 85 km to the south from Arba Minch. They speak a Cushitic language. Konso live in villages usually located on a top of a hill and surrounded by […]
Konso is a tribe which inhabits the area of basalt hills about 85 km to the south from Arba Minch. They speak a Cushitic language. Konso live in villages usually located on a top of a hill and surrounded by a 2 m stone wall. Konso are famous all over Ethiopia for their advanced methods of land cultivation, ehich include irrigation and building of terraces. Also very famous are the Konso’s waqa – carved wooden monuments erected on the graves.
KONSO CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55km2 arid properties of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities. The site also features anthropomorphic wooden statues – grouped to represent respected members of their communities and particularly heroic events – which are an exceptional living testimony to funerary traditions that are on the verge of disappearing. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.
The Konso Cultural Landscape is characterized by extensive dry stone terraces bearing witness to the persistent human struggle to use and harness the hard, dry and rocky environment. The terraces retain the soil from erosion, collect a maximum of water, discharge the excess, and create terraced fields that are used for agriculture. The terraces are the main features of the Konso landscape and the hills are contoured with the dry stone walls, which at places reach up to 5 meters in height.
The walled towns and settlements (paletas) of the Konso Cultural Landscape are located on high plains or hill summits selected for their strategic and defensive advantage. These towns are circled by between one and six rounds of dry stone defensive walls, built of locally available rock. The cultural spaces inside the walled towns, called moras, retain an important and central role in the life of the Konso. Some walled towns have as many as 17 moras. The tradition of erecting generation marking stones called daga-hela, quarried, transported and erected through a ritual process, makes the Konso one of the last megalithic people.
The traditional forests are used as burial places for ritual leaders and for medicinal purposes. Wooden anthropomorphic statues (waka) carved out of a hard wood and mimicking the deceased, are erected as grave markers. Water reservoirs (harda) located in or near these forests, are communally built and are, like the terraces, maintained by very specific communal social and cultural practices.
The Konso Cultural Landscape integrates spectacularly executed dry stone terrace works, which are still actively used by the Konso people, who created them. They bear testimony to the enormous efforts required to use the otherwise hostile environment in an area that covers over 230 square km, an effort which stands as an example of major human achievement. The association between these stone terraces and the fortified towns in their midst are features of an exceptional cultural landscape, which also bears testimony toa living tradition of stele erection. The Konso erect stone steles to commemorate and mark the transfer of responsibility from the older generation to the younger. Konso are among the last stele-erecting people and thus their continuous practice presents an exceptional testimony to an ongoing cultural tradition.
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