The Kachipo people live in the mountainous area to the eastern part of Boma town in the south eastern South Sudan and they extend of the Upper Nile Province that borders Ethiopia, where their tribal headquarters is at Koma..
Kachipo can be considered as a South Sudan part of Suri people.
Their population is around 30,000 people and their area is situated between latitiude 6' - 7.8' N and longitude 34.5' - 35' E, an area of approximately 3,000 sq km. with a little extension towards the east inside the Ethiopian border, which means that there are Ethiopian Kachipo but under a different name.
Administratively, they occupy Meoun Payam of Pibor County. The Suri relate linguistically, culturally and in appearance to the Tirma (Ethiopia). They however acknowledge no blood affinity with any other tribe in the area.
The Kachipo live in a mountainous area in three major hills on the eastern side of the Boma city and mountain.
Its aesthetic is very similar to that of its Suri neighbors in Ethiopia.
Men. They have their ears pierced, resulting in a big hole that extends the ear downwards. Some leave them open as they are and others block the opening with a light round-shaped wood.
Young Kachipo show hairstyles of great complexity and beauty. When the hair of the head is shaved, a little hair is left somewhere while the rest is bald. Around the neck there is a small string which extends a small wood that looks like an amulet but is actually a whistle, which is used mainly by the youth.
They carry either sticks, spears or bows and arrows. Clothes are not commonly found but when one has a sheet, he wraps himself with it, tieing it around his waist and on one of his shoulders. The same sheet is also used as a cover when the time for that comes.
Women. Currently only old women have labial perforations for the placement of dishes. The plate is accepted by the Kachipo though with or without it. A Kachipo girl has her lower lip pierced to make a space that can get the small finger of the hand in. A thin wood or cane or grass is put in it to deny it the chance to close. When it heals and softens, another wood a little bigger than the first is replaced and so on and so forth until at the end the lip is so wide that it takes a bigger light wooden plate in the size that simply cover the face.
The plate is a sign of maturity in the beginning and that the girl can now have a husband or be approached. It is there then all the time thereafter. The woman can only take it out of her lip if she wants to use her mouth for either drinking, eating or talking.
The ladies leave their hair in the Afro style or shave sometimes and at times they anoint it with the oil of a poisonous tree. Ladies wear the deer skins, tied to the waist and the rest to the shoulder. But if the skin is short, it can be tied either around the waist, leaving her naked from the upper part, or otherwise wrap herself with another. This upper one serves different purposes other than covering her breast but for either carrying her baby in it, for collection of the greens from the garden or forest or for keeping the cobs of maize and grain to take outside from her room. .
Both women and men have beautiful scarifications with geometric shapes, with motifs of their daily life: animals, weapons like their beloved kalasnikov, etc.
Cicatrisation is common but is not universal. It is performed according to taste, but is usually not extensive. The deliberate creation of keloids is not practised.
The Kachipo live in settled groups on the hills. Kachipos distributed in small huts hidden in the forest.The family has around six people, ie the parents and three or four children. But in the homestead there is also another room which is made for the grandparents, ie grandfather or grandmother or both if they are still alive. There is a small house for the chickens which the wild cats and foxes endanger.
Marriage among the Kachipo is performed, like in many other groups, among people who have no blood relations. The bridegroom collects and pays dowry in form of gold dusts and nuggets, tobacco, goats and sheep. Divorce among the Kachipo is said to be difficult.
Marriage is either proper or through blood fine. The fine is by giving your sister or cousin to the family of the deceased to marry.
The Kachipo country is hilly with deep valleys. The climate is mild with heavy rainfall. The Kachipo are predominantly sedentary, agrarian community with the economy built on agriculture. The rich fertile soil results in a remarkable size and quantity of crops. Crops planted are millet, maize, cabbage, marrow, beans, yams, tobacco and coffee. They keep goats and sheep. They also hunt large game and collect honey during the dry season. They pan gold in the streams and make pots. They engage in trade with the Jiye, the Murle and the Ethiopian highlanders in tobacco and pots (Jiye and Murle), lion and leopard skins, giraffe tails, honey and ivory, rifles and ammunitions (Amhara and Shangalla)
The Kachipo believe that they originally lived on the banks of the Nile, in the country now inhabited by the Bor Dinka. It is said that they then migrated eastwards towards the Akobo. From here, the Meyun clan broke off from the main body of the tribe, coming south to Boma, and subsequently taking up their abode at Meyun. The rest of the tribe crossed the border, making their way southwards, and finally settling at Koma. The Suri have been continually harassed at Koma by the Amhara, Ghimira, Tirma, and other tribes. This forced large numbers of Suri to join the Meoun clan at Meyun in about 1890. They were shortly afterwards settled on Boma plateau in about 1925.
The Kachipo speak a language that is close to Tirma in Ethiopia.
After the harvest or on the occasion of a celebration, they practice the Donga like their neighbors Suris. In a clearing of the forest there are several villages coming from the mountains, it starts with a dance of the women who later retire, giving way to the two armed fighters with their dongas (sticks). Each fighter represents his clan. They are usually rapid fights that end when one of them is hit in such a way that he loses consciousness and the victor is taken and acclaimed by his clan.
The Kachipo dance is performed by separately by each sex ,with the other forming a ring round the dancers. The men dance to the tune of the drums. The women on the other hand, dance to their own singing and the sound made by their hand slapping their skin ‘skirts’ with the palms of their hands.
The practice of piercing and stretching the lower lip is universal amongst the women, and is performed at puberty or a little before or after. It is considered a sign of beauty, and the bride price payable is proportionately greater. The practice is said to have been learned from the south – may be from the Kikuyu – or the Maasai.
The Kachipo practice age-set system, which are fighting sets. Each of the fighting sets is held in considerable respect by those junior to it. If this is not shown, the offending set is severely beaten by their seniors. Initiation ceremonies are held at intervals of about 10 years. They are held on village basis but all ceremonies take place on one day. In each village a sheep is suffocated to death, and its dung is smeared on the bodies of the initiates.
The ‘Gonarabi’, the spiritual head of the Jufa clan and recognized as temporal head of the Suri, lives at Koma. The clans have sub-chiefs whose realm is not administrative but spiritual. The clan chiefs are recognised through symbols or emblems namely an ivory horn, blown in times of sickness; a drum beaten to announce death; and a set of fire-sticks for producing fire on certain occasions e.g. beginning of the hunting season. The duties of the temporal chiefs consist of leading their villages in times of war and peace, judging cases, etc.
The Kachipo and Suri believe in the existence of a supreme being – God. They also believe in the existence of spirits and undertake prayers and sacrifices to God and spirits either directly through a medium in times of personal and community calamity. The Suri have only one rainmaker, and the office is hereditary. Should his services be required, chips from a certain tree are masticated, and the resulting juice is mixed with clay and smeared over a man’s body. Rain may be expected to fall. The same effect may be obtained locally by dipping a stick of the same tree in water and throwing the latter upwards.