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Tribal Portraits of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Louisa Seton | Ethiopia

Suri boy
It took 3 days of driving from Addis Ababa to Kibbish to photograph this Suri tribe who reside in the village of Naregeer in the Upper Omo valley, a very remote area of Ethiopia close to the border of South Sudan. This shot was the first shot of the day about 6:30am. I turned to see this boy watching me and balancing on the tree trunk in a field of Sorghum.

I travelled to the Omo valley in Ethiopia when a hydro electric dam the Gibe III was being constructed. It's purpose: to provide electricity for Ethiopia and export it to the neighbouring countries. The dam also sustains large scale commercial plantations cultivated on former tribal land which is leased out to foriegn investors by the government. Tribes who had lived on this land for centuries found them selves displaced and forced to re settle else where.

The social and enviromental impact of the dam is of huge controversy. The traditional way of life of the tribal communities is mostly effected as they depend on the river for survival. I travelled to the Omo to take portraits of these amazing tribes before the balance of their traditional culture becomes diluted by western influence and the ‘progress’ of inevatable change. 

I photographed the Suri, a tribe found in the remote upper Omo region near the Sudanese border and the Mursi and Hamer tribes of the lower Omo who reside in the more accessable south west corner of Ethiopia.

Raised in Nairobi, Kenya surrounded by a rich melting pot of cultural diversity I have always had an avid interest in the traditional tribal way of life. I hope my portraits somehow convey the elegance and strength of these extraordinary people. I am involved in an on going personal project photographing different tribal cultures and ceremonies across the world.

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