The second round of pictures from our tour of the Omo region.
The Karo people are known for their elaborate body painting. As far as I could determine, the people in my photos are using traditional decoration patterns done with chalk and ochre; however, pre-tourism Karo only painted themselves for special occasions, and children would not be decorated. There were also some people whom I did not photograph who were using non-traditional colors and accessories meant to appeal to visiting photographers. There are about 1,000 people in the tribe. The river in the background of some of these pictures is the Omo.
This is the market for the Hamar people that is held in the town of Dimeka. We ate lunch, then looked around and bargained for a few items. Afterwards we stopped in a coffee shop for some little cups of Ethiopian coffee.
Key Afer market
This large market attracts buyers and sellers from several different Lower Omo tribes including the Hamar, Ari, Tsemaye, and Bana. We visited the animal corral, shared a gourd full of home brew in a t’ella bet, and negotiated for some Hamar jewelry and clothing.
You will have seen pictures of the Mursi before; the women of this tribe wear large wooden or ceramic lip plates that have made them the subject of thousands of photos. This is a group whose culture is especially under pressure from many sides. They are semi-nomadic but now live in a national park. The land they traditionally use for cultivation and pasturing is being irrigated for sugar cane, and young Mursi men are recruited to work for wages at the sugar factory. We were told no photos when we arrived at the village, but the chief changed his mind after some of the women and children met us. It is very clear that the photo business affects the way the Mursi interact with tourists – almost as if they are competing to see who can create the most outrageous ornaments out of gourds, horns, and seashells for camera-crazy foreigners. This made me uncomfortable but I took pictures of them with these items because this is how the Mursi live now.
The Konso are a large tribe of settled agriculturalists whose terraced towns and farmlands are a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. The organization of the place reflects a particularly complex social structure. A Konso man led us on a tour of his town. The Konso make stone stele (I read that they are the last tribe in Africa to still do this) that are an important part of the age cohort ceremonies, and they also carve wooden figures to honor the dead and to commemorate famous deeds.