Women in the Omo Valley

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On my journey as an international travel photographer, I found myself in the Key Afer market, held weekly, located in the deep south of the Omo Valley. This market is formed by all the tribes of the Omo region; but dominated mostly by the Hamer and the Banna tribes – who are actually cousins and brothers.

All of the locals walked for hours to get here to buy, barter, gossip, laugh, drink and see the newborn goats.

As I wandered my eyes connected with a woman carrying a chicken. She was striking; she was wearing a beautiful colored skin, ornate necklace and metal bangles around her wrist and ankles. Her hair was a crown of dread lock braids covered in ocher – a dye made from earth’s clay and butter.

She caught my eye over the course of the morning in various locations. I wondered what she was doing, and every time I looked at her she gazed back at me. Through a sense mutual curiosity and wonderment, we as women were checking each other out. I felt as if our civilizations were colliding.

I beckoned my translator and we asked her what she was up to; she replied "business". The Hamer make their living as successful cattle herders and farmers.

She clearly had work to do. A job to be accomplished. No frills, all-business. She gave me a few minutes of her time. We shared a quiet moment of mutual respect she smiled, rearranged her beads and went off into the market.

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The joy of exploring and photographing cultures as a part of the photography adventure tours is seeing how people’s dress reflects their culture and their communities. In a Hamer tribal village outside of Turmi, girls wore a tapestry of beads that helped express their traditions.

These lovely girls whose name I won't even try to spell or couldn't really pronounce had a wide range of beads and shells on. What I really loved was their sense of symmetry and design.  The yellows and reds displayed in a continuous sequence were really expressive; it was as if the exotic flowers and lush vegetation surrounding the girls inspired them.

I learned that these were the only beads that they had and the bracelets they were wearing are the ones that they would wear throughout their life. The girls took great pride in showing me their creation. 

Most of the women wear flamboyant accessories and brilliant head decorations to become a walking body of art.  As a celebration of themselves they paint each other’s bodies and make bold decisions about their skins. This is their way showing their status to other members of the tribe.

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The bond between a parent and his or her child is one of the strongest connections in nature.

As I was walking around the village outside of the Buska Lodge in Turmi, Ethiopia, I saw this women and child.  The mother was adorned in a simple skin with shells and an ankle bracelet.  The baby was wearing a bracelet and waistband.  What really caught my eye was the strength of their arms intertwined.

Their arms were strongly interlocked.  You could almost feel the strong bond between them.  I felt as if I was intruding on a quiet moment as I captured them walking away from their village.  Thoughts entered my head, where was she heading; did she just need a moment of peace with her little one? Did I steal a glimpse of a calm moment in her otherwise chaotic day at the market?

I got a glimpse of life’s simplicity in its rawest form Motherhood.

The Lower Omo Valley is located towards Ethiopia's south end; the Omo represents the seat of the nation's civilization.  Using the river as a water source, a number of native tribes reside in isolation, in a place that is still raw, natural and timeless, away from the influence of modern development. In this short clip you will see glimpses of a variety of tribal women at work. The women are in charge of household chores such as: brewing beer, cooking, buying and selling spices, making butter, cutting and carrying water and looking after the children.