Slim might be in elsewhere but for Ethiopia’s Bodi or Me’en people, bigger is always better. The tribe, which lives in a remote corner of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, is home to an unusual ritual which sees young men gorge on cow’s blood and milk in a bid to be crowned the fattest man.
Six months after starting the regime, the men emerge to show off their newly engorged physiques and for a winner to be chosen. The champion fat man is then feted as a hero for the rest of his life.
Now the little known rite is the subject of incredible photos taken by French shutterbug Eric Lafforgue – who spent time with the Bodi while travelling through south-western Ethiopia during the run up to the Bodi New Year or Ka’el ceremony.
The contest begins six months before the ceremony. Every family is allowed to present an unmarried man for the challenge, who, after being chosen, retires to his hut and must not move or have sex for the duration.
Food comes in the form of a cow’s blood and milk mixture, served regularly to the men by women from the village. ‘The cows are sacred to the Bodi tribe so they are not killed,’ explains Lafforgue. ‘The blood is taken by making a hole in a vein with a spear or an axe, and after that, they close it with clay.’
Because of the scorching temperatures, the men have to drink the two-litre bowl of blood and milk quickly before it coagulates but as Lafforgue reveals, not everyone can handle drinking so much at speed.
‘The fat men drink milk and blood all day long,’ he says. ‘The first bowl of blood is drunk at sunrise. The place is invaded by flies. The man must drink it quickly before it coagulates but some cannot drink everything and vomit it.’
On the day itself, the men cover their bodies with clay and ashes and walk to the spot of the ceremony.