Tuesday, March 16, 2010

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



Unlike advertisements praising Ethiopia's thirteen months of sunshine, my time seems plagued by clouds and a general lack of sunshine during the early and late hours of the days, traditional times for my photography.

As a result, we spend almost six days near the Mursi Tribe attempting to photograph three small villages. The driver and guide are tired and weary of the driving, making the decision halfway through to camp near the Mursi villages for easier access.

The Mursi Tribes are a nomadic people, cattle herders traditionally. Most estimates put their population at less than 7,500. They are located in the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia, surrounded by the mountains of the Mago National Park, one of the most isolated regions of the country.

They have their own language also called Mursi and follow a religion that is classified as Animism. While some do speak a second language, the overwhelming majority speak their own language only and have an illiteracy rate of 97%.

The women are famous for wearing lip discs made of clay by the women themselves.

During our day, we witness the women sitting and making these discs, at different stages of production. They use a sharp tool to place patterns into the discs and then place the discs into the sand for curing.

Now and then, they walk up to me and place a disc in front of me to see. As a reaction, my hand takes the disc and then the realization that they have walked away expecting payment sinks in. Most of the time, they do take the discs back with a smile.

Today, four discs are purchased by me, four different sizes and four different patterns.