Karo Language of Ethiopia

Karo Language

Here’s a look at my first attempt at making an infographic. It was a lot of fun and extremely frustrating at times. This one came out alright, but I think in the future they will improve drastically. I had to overcome several shortcomings of not having the paid version of Piktochart – so of course we get the short end of the stick and a limited amount of materials. It is surprisingly difficult to find sources on these guys.

I’m hoping to do a series infographics as a way to profile the various endangered languages/cultures that we wish to explore. As you know, one of LATG’s main goals is to promote awareness of endangered languages as well as support various organizations that are taking steps to document and preserve this heritage. Infographics have this interesting tendency of spreading like wildfire, and I have yet to see any sort of collection profiling individual languages/cultures. So hopefully this takes off! If not it’s still fun.

The Karo

The Karo (or Kara) people are a small tribe of around 1,000 individuals located on the banks of the Ume river in Southern Ethiopia. They subsist primarily on agriculture and more recently fishing. They, like many of their neighbors, practice ritual scarification (as pictured in the graphic). This involves placing the tip of a red-hot knife into the skin and rubbing ash in the burn. This creates a sort of welt. These designs can be quite intricate and are seen both as beautiful among women and intimidating among men. The Karo also paint their bodies using a white chalk in an equally intricate (if somewhat less painful) way.

The Karo language in Ethiopia should not be confused with the Karo language of Papua New Guinea. I promise you they’re totally unrelated.


Ge’ez script is used by many Omotic languages as well as Amharic – by far the most widespread language, and the official language of Ethiopia. Amharic is spoken by about 25 million people. It does not appear that the Karo themselves have a written tradition.

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