Human scare crows

Friends sharing a drink

A Dorze home

a young worker

The OMO VALLEYx.......The Lonely Planet says the lower Omo Valley is almost unique in the world in that so many different people inhabit such a tiny area. Historians believe that the south served for a millennia as a kind of cultural crossroads where quite different ethnic people met as they migrated from the north, south, east, and west. The peoples of the lower Omo Valley are considered among the most fascinating on the African continent.

Ethiopia had the best mud and thatch homes that I'd seen anywhere in Africa. Along the way, most homes were round with wood or mud plastered sides or completely dome shaped with thatch. Although practical, hardly any ugly tin roofs were seen. We left paved roads to head up a mountain gravel path to the village of Chencha. And, as luck would have it, it was the local market day. The Dorze people were so colorful. It was a delight to walk through the marketplace. The people at the market were certainly in a loosened up mood. It appeared clearly that a lot of different kinds of alcohol flowed freely throughout the day. I took a photo of two women sharing a gourd, a sign of good friendship.

The Dorze homes were the biggest of any African huts I'd ever seen. The beehive shaped dwellings were made from woven bamboo and thatch from bamboo leaves. Although electricity and windows would have been a plus, they were clean and spacious. I visited one at least 15 yards tall. The interior was divided into master bedroom, kids' room, kitchen, and - yes - a stable. Maybe that was why they made them so airy?

The town of Konso was at the entrance to the Omo Valley. It wasn't at all what I expected. On one hand, it was small and underdeveloped. But, on the other hand, it was way more developed than I expected as the entrance to the Omo Valley. Twenty years ago people wore animal skins. No more. Konso men didn't wear anything traditional as far as I could tell. As so often happened around the world, the women maintained the traditional ways. Konso women wore skirts that looked double layered. One ruffled skirt stopped at the hips. The second layer went to mid-calf. Favorite style was white cloth with a multi-colored trim. How the Konso women wore their blouses depended on the amount of work to be done, and the Konso people were hard workers! Many of the mountains in the region had been terraced. If the women weren't working too hard, they wore their blouses the regular way. But, it they worked up a sweat carrying enormous loads on their backs, they frequently just pulled the blouse over their heads letting them (and anything else) hang down the front.

There were several tribes in the valley. I tried to take lots of portraits from each. However, my favorites had to be the Hamar and the Mursi people. I'll focus on them, but I do have to throw in a few other portraits.

Copyright 2001 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.