Saturday, March 20, 2010

Young Hamer Woman, Early in the Morning, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

On the same morning that we photography the Tsemay Tribe, a few Hamer woman walk by and decide to mingle with us. This young woman is one of them. While men stand by to her right, she starts off nervous and then explodes into a most vibrant smile.

The Hamer People are mostly Sunni Muslim, mixed with Animism. While there are over 45,000 in their community, this represents only 1/10 of 1% of the Ethiopian population. They are pastoralists and value cattle highly, including the use of cattle for many important ceremonies.

According to most sources, only a handful of individuals from this community have ever completed secondary education, with very few that can read and write. This results in extremely low representation and an almost invisible presence.

Where this tribe and others like them find a presence is in the tourism industry. While many Ethiopians turn to industrial societies, the Hamer and others like them live as their parents and grandparents before them. Their traditional lifestyles are highlighted by the tourism industry of Ethiopia, allowing them and other tribes from the Lower Omo Valley to earn a certain living from the tourists that flock to this part of Ethiopia.

As they collect food and materials from the market, they barely give notice to the tourists all around them. When tourists approach them for a picture however, their familiarity with tourism enables them to negotiate a price for the exchange. In addition to other means of making a living, they quench the thirst of the tourists for imagery by allowing them a picture in exchange for an agreed upon payment.