Thursday, 13 February 2014

Omo Valley, Ethiopia

We worry about money, power, status, the way the world perceives us. While we spend all of our energy succumbing to these, there’s people like you and me that are living parallel lives, except in a place where there’s miles of nothingness. The Omo Valley in Ethiopia, home to tribes like Mursi, Hamer, Benna has been one of the most surreal places I have had the fortune of experiencing.

Driving through dirt roads for hours, going deeper into the vastness of the wilderness in Ethiopia, the feelings moving through my body cannot be explained. Never before in my life have I seen a group of people so detached from what you and I call civilization. Yet, while I looked at them through the lens, the intensity of their gazes and the force of existence that they were emitting was almost unnatural.

We didn’t speak the same language, but when they welcomed me into their homes, uttering words would only disturb the calming sound of barren lands.
Photographing the Mursi tribe was the most challenging, temperamentally they seemed heated, with the advent of tourism they have learnt they can make money in exchange of letting people photograph them. With their constant badgering, it was hard to focus on a subject as long as I would have liked to, additionally, every time the flash went off, they believed the stark light was sucking up their blood. It was evident the discomfort it was causing them; the more flashed that went off, the angrier they got. The fact that they were carrying AK-47s further caused me to be intimidated, but our driver and tour guide managed to put me at ease when he pulled out a semi-automatic weapon himself and escorted us away.

While the entire trip was magical, there are some stories that stand out more than the others. The night I saw a young boy perform his rite of passage is one of them. Seeing him jump over the backs of these bulls was an extraordinary display of talent. Before he took the leap, the nervousness hung thick in the air; but it didn’t last long as the women of the tribe inebriated by now, broke into loud, manic chants and cheers to encourage and welcome the boy into manhood.

Our tour guide incidentally belonged to the Benna tribe, and I can safely say, being amongst them was the most peaceful I have felt in a very long time. 

The content they lived with was almost contagious, I remember sitting out and just looking up at the vast stretches of nothingness, when a plane flew overhead. 
The people on the plane had no idea what is right under them, this whole new world where humans exist, in their most raw form. They were the most beautiful people I have laid eyes on, some of them were bare naked, some had adorned themselves with beads, some had painted themselves with ash, yet they all had a sense of regality to them.

And that raw beauty in it’s most natural form is what I want to show the world through my photographs. The people of Omo Valley compelled me to reassess the way I looked at life, rather retold me of what is important. We get too caught up in the rat race called life, Ethiopia reminded me that money is not important to be happy, what matters is the hunt for our own happy place where we see beauty in all things.