Meet Your Neighbors.
So every one of us on this planet is carbon-based and needs the exact same atmosphere with the exact same biological processes and chemical compounds as the next guy.
And look at the variations! Whoa!
Since we are traveling together on this ship in tight quarters, let's get to know each other.
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OMO VALLEY TRIBES -THE VANISHING CULTURES OF ETHIOPIA
The Omo River Valley in Ethiopia (declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1980) was known to Europeans since the 17th century, but only in the last decade have foreigners begun travelling in this region. Bordering with Kenya and Sudan, far from any city, it is a lost world, a region traversed only by a few bad quality roads, passable only in the dry season. Here live some 15 semi-nomadic tribes, the largest comprising of approximately 70,000 people and the smallest no more than 1,000, a total of about 200,000. To this day, the Omo Valley is rich in traditional culture and human history. Remains of early humans dating back nearly four million years have been found here, evidencing an almost continuous human presence. The most astonishing thing about these people is their beauty. Both boys and girls have magnificent physiques -- slender and unusually supple. Lack of material culture is compensated by the exceptional ornamental and symbolic wealth of their decorated bodies. They adorn themselves to manifest their status and tribal identity, not only as an expression of beauty, but also as a demonstration of messages and signals. They do this through scarification, paintings, ornamentation and hair styles. Omo tribesmen have adopted the practice of demanding money for "each" picture taken, another way for the community to share resources. The only piece of modern technology widespread among the tribes is the automatic weapon. The ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Somalia, have created trade in Russian Kalashnikovs and European G-3 rifles. The tribes are fighting over the diminishing resources they need to run their herds: water, and land. Visiting this remote area and experiencing their culture was a trip-of-a-lifetime. Staying at two different camps over two weeks, I was able to meet the Surma (also called Suri) tribe, the Kara (Karo), the Nyangatom (Bume) and the Hamer (Hamar). The Surma (about 4,000) are pastoralists and have elevated the custom of body painting to an amazing art form. The additional application of local plants, fruits and feathers enhances the effect. The women adorn their bodies by inserting a clay plate into their lower lips, and body scarification created with acacia thorns and (now) razor blades. Nudity is commonplace. The men are expert in a form of stick-fighting called Donga and pride themselves on the battle scars they carry. The lives of the Surma tribesmen revolve around cattle. Cows (and goats) are some of the most prized possessions, and men spent a lot of time with them. They very rarely eat the meat of their cow; they breed them for their milk and their blood, which they both drink. The Kara tribe is the smallest ethnic group of the Omo valley, with less than 2,000 members left, living in the eastern side of Omo, practicing flood retreat cultivation and a traditional pastoralist lifestyle. They paint their body and decorate their face (in the lower lip) with flowers, leaves and feathers. Kara people reside in conical huts. Their neighbors, the Nyangatom tribe (on the other side of Omo river), are their main enemies. The Nyangatom (approx. 14,000) are some of the most feared warriors in the Omo Valley. They were the first to use automatic weapons which they obtained from Sudan. Their lives revolve around their herds of zebu cattle and raising crops. Women wear heavy necklaces - a single woman will wear colorful beads, while a married one only neutral colors. Their long skirts -from goatskins are richly decorated, signaling their social status. The Hamer occupy a mountainous region in the eastern part of the Lower Omo Valley. They have integrated with many of their neighbours and currently make up the biggest Omotic language group in the region (approx. 15,000). Women are very beautiful and their goatskin skirts are almost always decorated with coloured glass beads. Men put clay and honey on their tight curls and they are able to stick small feathers on it. The Bull Jumping ceremony is the way to determine whether a young Hamer male is ready to make the social jump from youth to adulthood, and to undertake the responsibilities of raising a family. While the young men are running over the back of a dozen cows standing side by side, Hamer women accompany them: they jump and sing in circles, blowing their trumpets and whistles, while they volunteer to be whipped until bleeding, to show their courage and their commitment to a relative. My special thanks to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris and my gratitude to Steve Turner, the best tour leader, founder of Origins Safaris. Due to his special contacts with tribal groups we gained access and insight into these marvels. MUSIC: THE TOKENS: The Lion sleeps tonight. ANGELIQUE KIDJO: Afirica, MIRIAM MAKEBA: Suliram, Malaika, Pata Pata, Nonqongqo, Oxgam, MIRIAM MAKEBA- LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO-PAUL SIMON: N'Kosi Sileleli Africa