Kwama people


Kwama / Komo Ganza / Gwama

The Kwama (also called Gwama and Komo), are a Nilo-Saharan-speaking community living in the Sudanese-Ethiopian borderland, mainly in the Mao-Komo special woreda of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in Ethiopia.

They belong, culturally and linguistically, to the Koman groups, which include neighboring communities such as the Uduk, Koma, and Opuuo. 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 live together. The Kwama are often called "Mao" by other groups, especially by the Oromo

Kwama people

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 further to the south and in Sudan. These other "Kwama" are usually known by anthropologists as Koma or Komo (Theis 1995). 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.


Population & Ecosystem

2.600 Komo Ganza live in the forested plains of the Blue Nile Province of Sudan. They also live in South Sudan and in Ethiopia.

Economy & Society

The Komo Ganza are shepherds and farmers. They raise cattle, sheep, and goats. Their crops include sorghum, maize, sesame, okra, peppers, cotton, and tobacco. They engage in some hunting and fishing, and also do some trading with other nearby peoples. The men hunt, fish, and do most of the herding and milking, while the women help the men with farm labour. The women also collect honey from the hives in the bush.

Komo Ganza marriages take place by the exchange of sisters from one village to the next. Marriage between close relatives is forbidden. The groom is not required to perform a bride-service (working for the bride's family before a marriage can take place), and a bride-price is uncommon. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) exists, but only a few of the wealthiest Komo Ganza have more than one wife.

Each village (or small group of villages) has a headman who inherits his office and exercises limited authority. He is considered "the Father of the Land." Although families clear and cultivate the fields, individual families do not own the land. Instead, the land collectively belongs to the entire village, under the leadership of the headman. The headman also keeps in his possession the symbolic insignia of the Komo Ganza, such as strings of beads, spears, and village drums.

"Rain-makers" (men who conduct rituals in order to bring much needed rain) also inherit their positions and may sometimes serve as village headmen. In addition, each village has a religious expert who specializes in magic and is subject to inspiration from spirits.

They grow crops such as tomatoes,  corn, onions, carrots, cabbages and raddish. Their Staple food is Sorghum with which they make beer and they make cassava porridge,  they gather fish and honey, Sorghum beer is poured from a large pot and straws are used for drinking.



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 (mostly duiker and warthog), 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. Polygyny is widespread. They have ritual specialists and rainmakers (sid mumun and sid bish), who perform divination and healing ceremonies in huts called swal shwomo. These often have a characteristic bee-hive shape, which is very typical of this ethnic group. For that reason, the Kwama refer to their traditional houses as swal kwama, "swal" meaning "house". Vinigi Grotanelli describes some of them in his study of the Mao (Grottanelli 1940).

Culture & Religion

Most Komo Ganza follow their traditional ethnic religion. This religion teaches the worship of a supreme god who is considered the creator of all things, and the worship of the spirits of dead ancestors. Divination (the use of supernatural powers), magic, and rain-making are also a part of the traditional religion.

In their Culture they play musical instruments such as flute, rattles and they eat chicken it is said they can play their instruments until the morning,  a load of work is done by any farmer of the community,  he will prepare a traditional drink known as ” tella” and he will Invite his fellow farmers to his house later on. 

Traditionally,  they have opened shops for their own traditional coffee and tea and they built their own artefacts so that others of Kwama heritage can visit and will not lose their rich cultures.  

They also have written poems in Gwama languages passed down throughout generations and According to Mohammed Mussa he wrote a poem bringing his People back to their roots to bring the language, culture and develop it, he also said People can listen to their language,  listen to each other, respect each other, It is better not to lose the Culture . 

Their artwork Include Sword and Spears and there is a Culture ceremony intended to cure women this lasts up to 7 days a group of women play instruments such as flute, rattles and they perform different kinds of dances for the ceremony. 

Kwama literary tradition is Oral tradition rather than written variety of Stories, myths and proverbs,  they used Ivory, Silver, Copper, Carvings, leatherworks to produce carved wooden masks, figures and sculptures.