Omo Valley, Ethiopia


Omo Valley

A selection of images of the fascinating tribes, traditions, and cultures from a photographic journey to the incredible and beautiful Omo Valley in South Ethiopia.

'If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot' — Eve Arnold

Having grown up as a child of the 80s, my preconception of Ethiopia was one that was shaped by the images and footage presented in the media of the 1983-1985 famine. So when an exciting opportunity to visit the Omo Valley presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity to challenge my own perception of the country and photograph its culturally rich tribes and traditions.

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, located in the highlands bordering the Great Rift Valley, is the country’s commercial and cultural hub. Its National Museum exhibits Ethiopian art, traditional crafts and prehistoric fossils, including replicas of the famous early hominid, “Lucy”.

With our flight from the UK landing at the capital’s airport, our first experience of Ethiopia was the vibrant capital city of Addis Ababa. Here for the first time, we sampled the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, ate the delicious shiro, azifa, mesir wot, and injera dishes, as well as visiting the impressive National Museum and Holy Trinity cathedral.

Whilst in the capital we also made sure to visit the Mercato market, the largest open air market in Africa and an incredible sprawling mass of chaos, colours, and aromas.

Ari Tribe

The Ari people inhabit the area just outside the town of Jinka and are believed to be the oldest and largest Omo Valley Tribe.

It is said that they are the original tribe from which other tribes, including the Mursi, Karo, Hamer originated and their influence extends from the Mago park across the Jinka highlands and even further north.

It was an absolute pleasure getting to visit and meet the people of the Ari tribe. Their hospitality was incredibly warming and they welcomed us into their village with an eagerness to share their traditions and culture with us.

During the entirety of our visit, we were accompanied by several of the children from the tribe who walked holding our hands and laughing as we tried to pronounce their names. A truly special part of our trip.

Hamer Tribe

The Hamer are an African ethnic group that lives in the south of this country, east of the Omo River, near the border with Kenya.

Whilst we were visiting the tribe, we were given an incredible opportunity to spectate a ritual bull jumping ceremony. This ceremony is a rite of passage for young men and must be completed before they are allowed to marry, own cattle, and have children.

On the afternoon of the leap, the man’s female relatives demand to be whipped on their backs as part of the ceremony. Whilst difficult to watch, this part of the ceremony, and the scars on their backs, are their way of showing their love and support for the young man.

And with the blaring sounds of bells and horns in the air, the young man takes a leap usually four or five times across the castrated cattle demonstrating his agility, valor, and strength. And should he complete this feat without falling he will officially become a man within his tribe.

Behind The Scenes

Here is a selection of candid images captured on a camera phone showing a behind-the-scenes view of the trip.

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