Kwama people

Kwama people

The Kwama, also called Gwama and Komo, are a Nilo-Saharan-speaking community living in the Sudanese-Ethiopian borderland, mainly in the Mao and Komo Special Wereda (Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia). They belong, culturally and linguistically, to the Komuz and Koman groups, which include neighboring communities, such as the Gumuz, Uduk, Koma, Opuuo, etc. Although they traditionally occupied a larger territory, they have been forced to move to marginal, lowland areas by the Oromo from the 18th century onwards. In some villages Kwama, Oromo and Berta people live together. The Kwama are often called "Mao" by other groups, especially by the Oromo. The people who live in the southern area and near the Sudanese borderland often call themselves "Gwama" and use the term "Kwama" to refer to those living in the north and far from the borderland. In recent years, many people belonging to this ethnic group have been resettled by the Ethiopian state in order to provide them with clinics and schools.


The Kwama are swidden cultivators. Their staple food is sorghum, with which they make beer (called "shwe" or "shul" depending on the dialect) and porridge ("pwash" or "fash"). They also hunt, fish, and gather honey. They drink sorghum beer communally with drinking straws from a large pot. Marriage was traditionally by sister exchange, although this custom is now receding. The Kwama are divided into clans, some of which are also divided into sub-clans. It is not allowed to marry a woman or a man from one's own clan. Poliginy is widespread. They have ritual specialists ("sidimumun" or "isbish"), who perform divination and healing ceremonies in huts called "swal kwama" ("house of the kwama").


Corfield, F.D. (1938): The Koma. "Sudan Notes and Records" 21: 123-165.

Grottanelli, V.L. (1947): Burial among the Koma of Western Abyssinia. "Primitive Man" 20(4): 71-84

Theis, J. (1995): "Nach der Razzia. Ethnographie und Geschichte der Koma." Trickster.


Rosetta project []

Ethnologue []

Gwama language []

Komuz languages

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