About Konso (ኾንስታ)

The Konso, also known as the Xonsita (ኾንስታ), are a Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central Ethiopia.

History

According to Hallpike (1972), Konso family traditions indicate that they are a composite people, both physically and culturally, with members originally hailing from all the surrounding areas.

In terms of physical appearance, the Konso tend to be small and wiry, with high cheekbones and pointed chins. Skin color ranges from reddish-brown to almost black, but is dark brown on average. Some individuals more closely resemble the Oromo, possessing thin lips and greater stature; others have a distinctly more ‘Africoid’ phenotype and are much shorter. According to Hallpike (1972), the latter somatic characteristics are more marked amongst Konso women. George Murdock (1959) attributes the pronounced ‘negroid’ influence on the Konso in general to early inter-mixture with the agricultural pre-Nilotes, who entered the Ethiopian highlands about 5000 years ago.

Distribution

The Konso mainly reside in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, south of Lake Chamo in the Sagan River bend. Many are concentrated in the Konso special woreda. Their territory is adjacent to Omotic, Sidama and Oromo communities.

Konso typically live in large towns, each governed by a council of elders. A few can also be found in parts of northern Kenya.

Language

The Konso speak the Konso language (also known as Affa Xonso) as a mother tongue. It belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.

Konso is divided into four dialects: Kholme, Durro, Fasha, and Karatti. It shares a close lexical similarity with Dirashe, and is today transcribed using the Ethiopic script.

Autosomal DNA

The Konso’s autosomal DNA has been examined in a comprehensive study by Tishkoff et al. (2009) on the genetic affiliations of various populations in Africa. According to the researchers, the Konso showed significant Afro-Asiatic affinities. They also shared some ties with neighbouring Nilo-Saharan and Bantu speakers in the Great Lakes region due to considerable genetic exchanges with these communities over the past 5000 or so years.


Demographics

According to the 2007 Ethiopian national census, the Konso numbered 363,000 individuals, of whom 18,150 or 5% are urban dwellers. Over 87% live in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region.

Konso people attending a community meeting held in Konso, Karat. December 2015

Konso people attending a community meeting held in Konso, Karat. December 2015.