The Mursi are divided into clans, or kabi; each clan is made up of a group of people who are believed to be descended from a common ancestor, ie they think they are the descendants of all the wives of the same man.

There is a difference between clan and lineage: lineage in ethnology is a group of people who are able to identify and remember a common ancestor or ascendant; the clan, on the other hand, is made up of a group of people who believe they are all descended from the same ancestor but whose origins are lost in mythology.

In the Mursi society, lineage is patrilineal, this means that it is based on the ties between male individuals and that the inheritance of titles and assets passes exclusively from father to son.

Men who belong to the same clan have a very strong bond of interdependence, for example if a man is sterile the wife can conceive a child with another man of the clan, in this case the father will be the sterile husband and not the biological father.

The Mursi clans are 18:

  • Berneshe
  • Bongosi
  • Bumai
  • Changuli
  • Chermani
  • Galnai
  • Garakuli
  • Gongwi
  • Gumnai
  • Gushumi
  • Isai
  • Juhai
  • Kagisi
  • Komorte
  • Kulgisai
  • Maiyayai
  • Mangwi
  • Ngeriai

Some of these clans are larger and, for this reason, are divided into subclans; the clans that have from two to five subclans are the Komorte, the Juhai, the Garakuli, the Bumai and the Kagisi, moreover all the clans and subclans are again divided into groups.

The members of a certain clan usually live concentrated in a certain area of ​​the territory of the Mursi, but there is no rule in this sense, it is more a custom due to the relationship and collaboration between the members of the clan, but no one forbids some members of a kabi to live in another area of ​​the Mursi territory where there are members of other clans.

Marriage between members of the same clan is forbidden precisely because it is believed that there is a family bond, not only biological but also anthropological; It is possible to marry members of other clans but with some exceptions that depend on the history of the individual clans and the relationships and interactions they have had in the past, for example, marriages between members of the Komorte and Juhai clans are prohibited.

The history of the origin of the various clans, as well as the history of the Mursi, is not known, the only information we have is based on the oral tradition, that however is often reported in the form of stories that may have been altered during time.

For example, the Ngeriai clan is said to descend from the Me'en or Mekan, in fact in a story it is told of a Me'en man who crossed the river and warned the Komorte clan of the Mursi of an imminent attack; this man was accepted into the Komorte clan and later married a Mursi woman; thus the Ngeriai clan was born; in reality there is no historical evidence to substantiate it or to disprove it.

Various hypotheses have been formulated regarding the origins of the individual Mursi clans but there are no certainties; the clan of the Isai is thought to have descended from those who were once the Kwegu, while the Ngerriai and Magaiyai appear to be descended from highland cultivators who spoke homotic languages, finally it is assumed that the Garakuli are descended from the Hamer.

What has been observed is that the Mursi represent a cultural mix between different tribes and traditions.

ethiopia mursi omo valley