Intrepid traveler Michele Zousmer based in California packed up her camera gear and joined an Epic Photo Tours expedition to the Omo Valley, Ethiopia in December 2015. Totally captivated by the outgoing people, unique lifestyle and cultural practices, she was mesmerised by this travel/photographic experience. She describes her experience below:
These painted, pierced, body adorned, lip plate wearing people represent the Hamer, Arbore, Kara and Ari tribes. The tribal people that reside in the Omo River Valley in the far southwest of Ethiopia may be some of the most unique on the African continent.
They are known for their cultural practices, which are based on ancient beliefs, as well as their interaction with the physical environment. They adhere to the lifestyle of their ancestors, living in the same harsh, unforgiving landscape.
The Omo River is the lifeline for these tribes. They rely on the natural flood cycles of the river for the sustainable practice of floods – recession farming, fishing and livestock grazing. Like the generations before them they plant sorghum, maize and beans in the riverside soils after the yearly flood. They rely on the moisture and nutrient-rich sediment the Omo deposits each year to nourish their crops, and this is their sustenance.
Hominid fossils have been found all along the river banks and the earliest existence of mankind is believed to have started here. Scientist believe that the river was an artery of life and because of the fossils found there, it has been declared a World Heritage Site. The people of the Omo have learned to adapt to their challenging environment in order to survive for this long.
The Ethiopian government, in its desire to generate economic growth, development and revenue, has allowed the construction of the massive Gibe III hydroelectric dam, which will be the largest in Africa. A source of much debate, discussion revolves around the possible damage it will cause to the ecosystem, animals and local tribal communities.
I can not adequately convey to you how much I am taken by these beautiful, proud and traditional people. I am truly concerned about their welfare. I hope my images express what my heart feels.
Epic Photo Tours will be returning in January 2017 with Africa Geographic’s Photographer of the Year Travel/Scenic category winner, Trevor Cole, at the helm.