Sunday, March 7, 2010

Arbore Boy, One Very Hot Day, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

On our second day in this part of the Lower Omo Valley, my body begins to feel weak. The sun has shown me its strength during the first few days in Ethiopia and the food its bacteria. We arrive at this village early, about two in the afternoon, and decide to sit under a tree with the villagers, answering their questions and following through with the negotiations.

As the sun begins its motion down, the photography begins. It makes sense to me to set the equipment up under the shade of a home. The subjects are asked to stand about five meters away, in front of their homes. The images are made from a distance and include the homes in the background, a shift from my typical form of photography.

This pleases me even though the decision to do so reflects my inability to do otherwise.

We begin with the boys, then the girls, the men and the women.

The Arbore Tribe exist as agropastoralists, with cattle seen as their most important possession. While tourism is important to them as well, growing maize and sorghum through an intricate irrigation system supports their existence, in addition to their livestock. Their knowledge of botanical species is also well known, as is their skill in painting their faces and bodies.

Many of the girls wear helmets made from a type of gourd, as well as an intricate arrangement of beads around their necks. They are also known for wearing a black cloth to cover their heads, a cloth that is used on our second visit to make portraits of the girls without any other evidence of their identity showing.

They live near Chew Bahir, with their population hovering around 4,000.

We make images today for about two hours and then head back to the place that has brought a sense of sickness to my body. My hope is that time will heal me and that the photography will continue. We do return to this tribe later in the month to make a second set of images, well rested and in a better state of mind.

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