Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mursi Man, Mago National Park, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

He sits under the tree, silent the entire time, while others negotiate on his behalf. The confidence this man displays is without parallel in my experience. He and his tribe are the reason men are photographed more so on this trip.

He belongs to the Mursi Community, lives in the Mago National Park of Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley. As noted in a previous post, his community's population is estimated at 10,000.

They are pastoralists 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.

While others step forth quickly to have their portraits made in exchange for a humble living, this man prefers to watch. Only when called on by me several times does he, with a smile, come forth for his portrait. He has seen hundreds of tourists and has seen this before, but humors me with his time.

Direction he does without, preferring to change poses every other negative or so. His expressions are those of an old friend, one that knows me and has met me before. My hope is that we meet again, very soon.