Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Young Girl, Daasanech Community, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

Just like her sister in Cuba in the previous post, she is surrounded by her younger sisters and in a safe place amongst her community. Every hour or so during the busy days a truck carrying tourists stops in the town next to her tiny village. A narrow river divides them from the rest of this area's population. Some tourists reach them from Kenya on the other side of the river, and some cross the river from Ethiopia to reach them. We were part of the latter group.

Upon crossing the river we walked perhaps ten minutes to reach them. We first negotiated with the elders prior to our photography, then rested a bit with some videography before beginning with the photography. It was cloudy so we experimented a bit with some images on the ground. As the sun rose from behind the clouds the girls allowed us to make their portraits standing up.

Although communication through spoken word was impossible for me, the translators needing even their own translator, communication through facial expressions was more than sufficient. Like my friends in Cuba, this young woman reacted as kindly to my gestures. She smiled when teased and never made it seem difficult, nor out of place.

According to Wikipedia:

'The Daasanach are a primarily agropastoral people; they grow sorghum, maize, pumpkins and beans when the Omo river and its delta floods. Otherwise the Daasanach rely on their goats and cattle which give them milk, and are slaughtered in the dry season for meat and hides. Sorghum is cooked with water into a porridge eaten with a stew. Corn is usually roasted, and sorghum is fermented into beer. The Daasanach who herd cattle live in dome-shaped houses made from a frame of branches, covered with hides and woven boxes (which are used to carry possessions on donkeys when the Daasanach migrate). The huts have a hearth, with mats covering the floor used for sleeping. The Dies, or lower class, are people who have lost their cattle and their way of living. They live on the shores of Lake Turkana hunting crocodiles and fishing. Although their status is low because of their lack of cattle, the Dies help the herders with crocodile meat and fish in return for meat.'
'Women are circumcised by removing the clitoris so the form of circumcision is less extreme than some as it leaves room for babies to be born. Women who are not circumcised are called animals or boys and cannot get married or wear clothes. Women wear a pleated cowskin skirt and necklaces and bracelets, they are usually are married off at 17 while men are at 20. Boys are circumcised. Men wear only a checkered cloth around their waist.'

During the session I became quite exhausted and asked to rest for a bit. A few days after this session we would visit a rural hospital and would recuperate nicely. For the time being however we decided to end the photography early and made our way to the truck and back to the shack we would call home for the night. Seizures and fever would be my friends for the evening, and the sound of truckers with their female companions outside as my sonic entertainment.

A few pain/sleeping pills were taken in the hope that the night would end early for me, at least before the mosquitos found their way through the devastated netting. As far as I was concerned, they could feast as they wish as long as I was asleep. In the end they made their way inside,  began their party and then stayed for the night before I found myself asleep. All in all, the young woman above and her friends made this night insignificant. In the future I will hopefully return to this community, with proper mosquito netting in hand.

For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography


  1. A beautiful, happy young woman, full of energy and full of HERself. I truly hope that she has NOT been circumcised. If she has been circumcised, I still wish for her a life full of love, and good work, and happy children. Her warmly defiant smile suggests to me that this hope is definitely a possibility.

  2. You see the world as it really is Nora, and for such have my appreciation. We share the same hopes, the same dreams. In the near future we shall collaborate and when we do so the children will celebrate. She certainly is defiant!