Meet the Tribe With Ostrich Feet

Andrei Tapalaga
A family belonging to the Vadoma tribe displaying their feet.Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Members of the Vadoma tribe reside in the Kayemba region in the north of Zimbabwe, Africa. They have become quite popular as almost everyone in the tribe seems to suffer from something called ostrich foot syndrome”, however the scientific name for this condition is called “Ectrodactyly”. This is caused by a genetic condition that has affected their people for many generations. 

This condition is quite unusual as it has been constantly passed on from generation to generation and this is most likely because the Vadoma people do not mate with people outside of the tribe. The Vadoma people however embrace this condition. Their cultural belief is that due to this condition, they are superior to other people, not only from a physical aspect but also spiritually. 

Commonly nicknamed “ostrich people”, members of the Vadoma tribe say that this condition gives them an edge when hunting for food. They are the last known non-agricultural society in Zimbabwe, meaning that all of their food resources are mainly from hunting as well as gathering what nature has to offer. 

Like most remote tribes from Africa, the Vadoma people live under the chieftainship of chief Chapoto who shares the knowledge of their culture, although is afraid as many members have left in the last century for a better lifestyle. Some people from Zimbabwe harass the tribe, therefore they prefer to stay outside of contact with any other people outside of their tribe.
Vadoma people are not allowed to marry outside their tribeFace2FaceAfrica

The tribe is threatened by the Zimbabwean government which wants to criminalize the unauthorized killing of wild animals, forcing the Vadoma people to move elsewhere in order to live their lifestyle of hunting for food. 

The chief has mentioned that the government in taking into consideration the tribe: “It has been a long process but they have slowly understood the implications of them continuing to hunt and we always engage them from time to time, to show them the good side of a settled life and I think it is a situation we are winning.” (Quote by Chief Chapoto

It is difficult for the tribe to get rid of this condition because they are forbidden to marry outside of their tribe. This law within the tribe was actually set in order to stop other tribes from gaining this condition as it would take the uniqueness of the Vadoma people away.  

There is the scientific belief that the body feature of the Vadoma tribesmen is a result of the mutation of chromosome number seven. Yet, the cultural belief in the tribe is that their DNA had been mixed a long time ago with their bird-like ancestors which led to them having ostrich feet. Despite their unusual condition, they seem to be living a happy life. 

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