Sunday, December 30, 2012

Young Girl, Corn, Konso Tribe, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

She sat down on a small stool provided to us by the community. Perhaps over sixty people were standing less than four meters to her right, and twenty or so to her left. Their shadows would sometimes enter the frame, giving us pause until we could reorganize the scene once again.

Chaos it was since this was one of our first villages together, and the sound was almost deafening. The fact that the spoken language was unusable to me anyway made the situation more workable. In order to help the children feel comfortable and at ease, hand gestures would be used along with a smile. Running around to organize the scene like a fool helped a bit also, even though organization was the last effect of my actions.

In the end we made wonderful portraits in an open space, a place to which the community took us when asked about such an area. In this village the spaces are so tight that one needs to be careful about walking into sharp, hard and seemingly chaotic branches that make up the houses and fences. All of the children were running past me so quickly while I walked at a snail's pace to make sure my eyes remain intact. It was incredible, the energy.

The space was beautiful, open to the rising sun and with trees all around. The community shared with us a stool on which the people would sit for their portraits. One by one they came, some voluntarily and some at my request, some more shy than others.

She was sweet, and thought that we'd want to make a portrait of her without the goods that she was carrying. To her surprise we wanted both and this made her smile the entire time. Environmental portraits are usually outside of my work, but had been included more so in the past. I am now returning to this approach and will do more of these portraits in the near future.

When every person was finished with the portrait, I walked over to them to help them up and to also shake their hands. In this way their skin touched my skin, and when I do so in India or in Cuba that energy will be transferred to yet another developing experience. When I tell the children this in almost every single case they smile.

According to Wikipedia:

The Konso mainly reside in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, south of Lake Chamo in the Sagan River bend.
Although there are today marked differences in customs between the Konso and their Oromo neighbors, Konso society has also retained some commonalities with traditional Oromo culture. The latter include the gadaa generation-grading system of social organization, similar high priests and a cult of phallicism.
Konso society is largely agricultural and involves the irrigation and terracing of mountain slopes. Staple crops include sorghum and corn, with cash crops including cotton and coffee. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised for food and milk.
Polygyny is an accepted practice among the Konso.
Group members also erect carvings (wagas), which are created in memory of a dead man who has killed an enemy or animal. The statues are often arranged in groups, with statues representing the man, his wives, and his adversaries present.
In terms of creed, the Konso practice a traditional religion centered on the worship of Waaq/Wakh. In the related Oromo culture, Waaq denotes the single god of the early pre-Abrahamic, montheistic faith believed to have been adhered to by Cushitic groups.

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Halim Ina Photography