Many of the tribes in the remote Omo Valley in Southwest Ethiopia live a peaceful and subsistence lifestyle. However, fear and superstition – like the belief in mingi (cursed) children – still exist in the valley.
Below are 7 enlightening facts about the infamous Ethiopian mingi (cursed) children.
1. ‘Mingi’ is the traditional belief among the Omotic speaking Karo and Hamar tribes in southern Ethiopia that children born out of wedlock, or those born with physical abnormalities etc, are impure. They are also believed to exert an evil influence upon others.
2. Some of the tribes believe evil spirits will bring ill fortune (drought, famine, disease and death) to their villages if Mingi children are not killed.
3. There are three types of mingi
- Teeth Mingi
Children that grow their top teeth before their bottom teeth, or if they have chipped a baby tooth are declared mingi.
- Girl Mingi
Babies born out of wedlock are labeled Mingi by tribal elders.
- Woman Mingi
When couples are married but do not have their marriage or pregnancy approved by the elders, their babies could be declared Mingi.
- Twin Mingi
The birth of twins is perceived as a curse and both babies may be declared Mingi.
Being declared Mingi almost always means death of the child.
4. Because tribal elders believe Mingi children’s presence on the land invites evil spirits, they have mandated the killing of all Mingi children. Ways/methods the elders adopt in killing a mingi child include; Stuffing the baby’s mouth with sand, strangulating the baby with a rope, drowning the baby in a river or throwing it into a bush.
5. Though nobody knows how exactly it started, the practice of killing mingi children is ingrained in the Karo culture, and has taken place for generations. Which ultimately makes it okay to conclude that more than 5000 new borns have been killed due to the superstition.
6. In 2008, Karo tribesman Lale Lubuko began rescuing children deemed “mingi.” his 2011 award-winning documentary film ‘Drawn From Water’ narrates Mr. Labuko’s early mingi rescue activities. Together with California filmmaker and photographer John Rowe, Mr. Lubuko founded Labuko’s Omo Child Organization. To date, 37 children ages 1–11 have been rescued.
7. The practice was banned in Karo tribe in 2012, due in large part to the efforts of Lale Lauro and OMO Child. But it’s still practiced secretly in other Omotic communities.