The man with the biggest belly is acknowledged and praised at a festival held annually by the Bodi tribe in southern Ethiopia. The lads embark on a strenuous six-month fattening trip in order to get ready for this major event.
Obesity and large stomachs are typically viewed as modern-day curses that not only have a detrimental effect on health but are also generally inesthetic. Yet, huge bellies in men are regarded as impressive, if not handsome, in a remote region of southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. A festival called Ka’el is held annually by the Bodi, a tribe of farmers and cattle herders, to honour their love of huge bellies, during which the guy with the largest belly is named “fat man of the year” and accorded honour.
However, the men must consume a fattening diet of cow’s milk or yoghurt, raw blood, and honey for several months before the celebration in order to achieve this honour.
The Bodi tribe’s men start their fattening process up to six months before Ka’el by essentially quitting all physical exercise and chowing down on the highest-calorie meals they can get, which are typically fresh blood and cow milk. Because the Bodi regards cows as sacred and has over 80 synonyms in their language to describe them, they do not kill them for human consumption. Instead, they use a spear to pierce a vein, collect some blood, and then clay the wound closed.
The guys spend their time in their huts being fed by their wives and refrain from nearly any physical activity while on their fatty diet. The men must swallow multiple bowls of milk and blood throughout the day if they wish to have a chance during Ka’el, with the first bowl, which contains roughly 1 to 2 litres, being served before sunrise. Several of them struggle to keep down the protein-rich mixture and find themselves violently throwing up.
Although the Bodi tribe’s men are typically fit and thin, some of them become so obese that they are unable to move during the fattening process for Ka’el. But they are prepared to make that sacrifice in order to win the tribe’s respect.
The males dress in clay and ashes on the day of the Ka’el Festival, which typically takes place in June or July, and display their chubby bellies in front of everyone. The winner of the contest is dubbed “fat man of the year” by the tribesmen who choose the contestant with the largest bulging stomach. During a few weeks following the event, the men’s tummies return to normal size.
The only award for triumphing in the fattening competition is recognition and respect, but because this is such a high honour for the Bodi, winners are frequently regarded as local heroes for the rest of their life.