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Great Tribes

Great Tribes presents a phenomenal programme about tribal gatherings around the world. One way or another we are all part of a tribe and unite together in celebration to commemorate thedifferent stages in life, whether it be a birth, coming of age, illness, marriage or death. These ceremonies are full of rituals and mystery and are often linked to old tribal beliefs and traditions. Our presenters travel the globe to uncover some great tribes and their ‘rites of passage’.

Initiation ceremonies mark the time when young men and women move to the next stage of life and assume more adult responsibilities. They undergo a series of rituals preparing them for their new role. Presenters are invited to painful ceremonies conducted by the Satere Maue tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest; whereas the less sadistic Ni Vanuatu people of the South Pacific have been practising a very unusual airborne initiation rites for centuries, vine jumping – the original bungee jumping. Ian Wright sees one of Madagascar’s most bizarre pastimes, zebu wrestling where young boys fight off ferocious zebu cattle in honour of them coming of age.

Courtship is another reason to celebrate. Holly Morris meets the Wodaabe tribe in North Central Africa, who have one of the most unique courtship ceremonies when handsome men decorate themselves and dance in front of a panel of female judges.

After courting comes marriage, a much loved celebration the world over. From Bedouin nomadic weddings in Jordan and brides and grooms dancing ritualistic steps in the Cote D’Ivoire to the more sombre wedding occasion of Nimba tribe in the Himalayas and ram fighting on wedding nights in Uzbekistan.

Death Rituals are the last transitional right. Introducing some one to the world of spirits. The Ga tribe of Ghana, believe that people that people should be buried in a style reflecting there lives. For example a man who worked as a mason has a coffin in the form of a giant trowel. For theToraja people in the Indonesian island of SulawasiShilpa Mehta learns that buffalo, the most highly prized animal, plays an essential role in their death rituals.

In Beninvoodoo plays an integral role; worshipers make animal sacrifices to honour the voodoo spirit. Blood is daubed on to the feet of those who want a special favour from the gods; the most extraordinary part of the ceremony is the possession of dancers and the beating of drums to create the rhythm that allows the worshipers to enter into a trance.

Justine Shapiro ends our tribal ceremonies with the Miao hill tribe in South West China and she finds out how they keep parts of their ancestors very close, by wearing their ancestors’ hair wrapped around ox horns, which represent their strength.

Places Mentioned - Benin, Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Uzbekistan

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