Segments in this Video

Mursi Watch Themselves on TV (01:25)


The Mursi gather to watch television for the first time. They watch film of their own people documented over 10 years. The film they watch was completed in 1974.

Mursi Chronicle (02:09)

Men of the Mursi return from war with a neighboring tribe. The decision to go to war was made like all other decision--in open, public debate.

Conflict over Boundaries (04:49)

The Mursi's geographical position creates a number of problems. The Bodi, neighbors to the north, are at war with the Mursi. The Bodi lay claim to the Mara and Kuduma, and they demand that the Mursi retreat and move south.

Interrupted Lives (03:15)

For the Mursi at Mara, the war has interrupted daily routines. Cattle have been moved to safety, and the people have scattered. Public opinion is valued. A wise man of the Mursi describes how peace will come between the Mursi and Bodi.

Public Debate on Peace and War (03:29)

Highly structured debates are the mean through which the Mursi make all important tribal decisions. The Mursi chief negotiator reports the Bodi peace proposal to his people. He uses a rich and complex variation of everyday language when he addresses the group.

Purpose of Debate (05:35)

Having delivered his news from the enemy, the negotiator calls for more comments and proposals. The goal is to mobilize the group behind one particular policy, to maximize support for a particular line of action. The debate begins.

Consensus (01:36)

As the debate nears its end, there is a sense of which direction the Mursi will go, but they will not cast a vote. It is through talking that consensus is reached and the men make a decision.

New Attacks/New Debate (03:39)

The negotiator discovers that the Bodi have removed two of his houses. Bad news from the south reveals that the Bodi have attacked the cattle compound. A group gathers for debate to decide how to deal with the new problem. We learn the importance of the Mursi priest.

Opposing Views (05:31)

The Mursi must decide where the cattle would be the safest. One speaker favors leaving the cattle in the south. An opposing speaker proposes bring the cattle up from the south where the men can be near their own cattle. The priest sums up the debate.

Cattle and Men: Social Relationships (02:51)

The Mursi cattle are back with their owners. The relationship between men and cattle gives meaning and shape to Mursi society. Cattle express and symbolize social relationships. Cattle are essential for a man to get a bride.

Reading Goat Entrails (02:27)

In an effort to understand their future, the Mursi rely on the reading and interpretation of goat entrails. The readings of two sets of entrails yield disappointing and worrying news to the Mursi.

Symbolic Rituals (04:27)

Mursi men from all over Mursi country gather for a ceremony called "Spearing the priest." Viewers see the ceremony as it unfolds and learn the meaning of the symbolic actions.

Different Kinds of Speakers (03:59)

The debate that follows the ceremony is an occasion for people to unify around the priest. The first speaker was with the cattle in the south for three months. The second is an elder who chastises the younger men for not taking action against the Bodi.

Criticism of the Young Men (02:56)

The speaker who delivers the most scathing criticism of the younger men is the respected wise man of the Mursi. He tells them that they should have learned from their elders. The priest's job is to heal and unify the men.

Mursi Success (01:40)

A year later, in 1975, the Mursi occupation of Mara was finally confirmed.

Credits: The Mursi—In Search of Cool Ground I—The Mursi Trilogy: Disappearing World (00:54)

Credits: The Mursi—In Search of Cool Ground I—The Mursi Trilogy: Disappearing World

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The Mursi—In Search of Cool Ground I—The Mursi Trilogy: Disappearing World

Part of the Series : Disappearing World
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This first of three films begins an 11-year chronicle—from 1974 to 1985—of life among the Mursi. As a tribe of 5,000 cattle herders in a remote region of southwestern Ethiopia, the Mursi have a remarkable, leaderless democratic system of self-government. Filmed when war with a neighboring tribe was threatening, this program follows the council's debates and records the dramatic ending of the conflict. Part of the series Disappearing World. (52 minutes)

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL49241

ISBN: 978-1-62290-560-7

Copyright date: ©1974

Closed Captioned

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