Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mursi Woman, Mago National Park, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

She stands with the sky as a background.

She is a woman belonging to the Mursi Tribe of Ethiopia, living in the Lower Omo Valley of Southern Ethiopia. According to the most recent estimates, their population is near 10,000.

This community is pastoralist in nature but prefer a sedentary life. Most from this community are illiterate and speak the language of their tribe. While some have converted to Christianity, most practice Animism, a belief that spirits exist in animals, plants and inanimate objects.

At an early age, the girls from this tribe begin the process of wearing lip plates, as well as plates in the ears. Contrary to some myths, the reason for such is esthetic, for the purposes of beauty and to attract a future husband. At the same time as the lip expansion, the lower front teeth are removed, thus enhancing the beauty sought after by the women in this community.

When we first arrived in the Lower Omo Valley, folks told us that this tribe would be the most aggressive. However, after four days of photography, they have proven to me that they are anything but aggressive. They allow us to photograph with little resistance and an easy approach to negotiation.

At times, the women do show a bit of aggression as they try to sell their goods, like good business people everywhere my mind accepts. They do however smile when joked with and accept a bit of humor in return.

This is possibly the most difficult place to reach during my time in Ethiopia so far. The mountains of the national park are difficult to climb with even a four-wheel vehicle, almost forcing us to stop on the third day when the truck broke down on the way back to the town.

That story will be reserved for another time.