Saturday, January 6, 2018

Examples Of Face Paint And/Or Body Scarification In Various Southern Ethiopian Ethnic Groups

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases a video of a tour of various ethnic groups in southern Ethiopia's Omo Valley. The tour was conducted by a "country caravan" that included a truck with a piano.

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series about traditional and contemporary tattoos and scarification, and traditional and contemporary African face and body painting. As such, I've included some time notations about certain portions of this video.

WARNING*: Some topless women are shown in some portions of this video. Also, a portion of this video shows women being whipped during a ritual ceremony and a naked man jumping the bulls as part of a ritual ceremony.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

Thanks to all those who are featured in this post and all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.
Click for a closely related pancocojams post entitled "Ritual Scarification & Temporary Face Painting Among The Hamar People Of Ethiopia".

This post isn't meant to represent all of the different types of face painting or body painting that is worn by people in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Nor does this post imply that people from these ethnic groups always wear face or body paint.

The video's narration is in French. Since I only speak English I have no idea what was said and whether it was culturally appropriate.

*One reason why I include WARNING notices in this and other pancocojams posts is to alert adults in public or private schools or other institutions who might want to use this post as supplemental educational material, but are prohibited from or reluctant to use material that contains content that is considered problematic for children and youth in their particular culture/s.

Use pancocojams' internal search engine or click the "traditional and contemporary African face and body painting" tag below to find other pancocojams post on this subject.

Up Close With the Tribes of Ethiopia’s Imperiled Omo Valley

Both dams and overtourism threaten the Omo Valley. But a sustainable
travel initiative offers an intimate experience with local peoples.


This southwestern corner of Ethiopia is home to seven primary tribes who coexist with varying degrees of peace. The land is largely dry savanna, with the Omo River cutting a nearly 475-mile-long swath down to Lake Turkana on the Kenya border. The discovery of human remains dating back nearly 2.5 million years prompted Unesco to dub the Lower Valley a World Heritage site in 1980.

Continue reading the main story
But today the Omo is a region on the precipice. The Ethiopian government has recently completed the third of five proposed dams upriver. The dams threaten to alter the lives of the communities that have inhabited this valley for millennium and depend on the river’s moods for survival"...
This article provides commentary about the following ethnic groups:
This article also includes a photo with this caption:
"Scarification — small, raised scars created by rubbing charcoal in deliberately administered cuts, causing the skin to welt in intricate patterns — is common among tribes in the Omo Valley, including the Daasanach (a tribesman is pictured here)." Credit Andy Haslam for The New York Times

One of the commenters wrote "I hope the photographer paid his dues to the people photographed for this article, most villagers expect some 'tip' for taking a picture."

Here are two comments from that article's discussion thread:
Maja Wichhart Donzo Boulder, CO November 4, 2017
"Your account of your time spent in Ethiopia is so beautifully done. However, I can't help but feel bitter after reading it. It seems like the Omo are being left behind, praying for the river to rise and their crops to prosper. It makes me sad to think that all they can do is pray when there are intrusive dams upstream that are destroying their livelihood."

Gigi San Luis Obispo November 2, 2017
"The nearest outpost of civilization, the town of Jinka, is currently a 2-3 day drive from Addis. There, some local tribespeople, esp Aari, have integrated into the larger community. But thanks to Chinese development, an airport and giant sugar factory are going up and will ensure more ferengi s ( foreigners) coming to this beautiful but remote region. Will see how many of these folks go into the tribal lands, and if or how their cultures will change in response. Don't miss the South Omo museum in Jinka or the videos of the tribal rituals. Hard to watch through the lens of the West and hard -fought women's rights."

From 17 striking portraits of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley tribes
20 May 2016; Updated 24 May 2016

Tim Draper
"Renowned the world over for its decorated tribes, the Omo Valley is a stop on many a tourist route in Ethiopia. But visits to the area can cross ethical boundaries, and few tourists are allowed the pleasure of a genuine experience with local people. Here, Rough Guides photographer Tim Draper tells us about his experience photographing some of southern Ethiopia’s most fascinating tribes.

As a travel photographer I desperately wanted to capture creative and authentic portraits in the Omo Valley, whilst hoping to avoid the negative experiences told in tourists tales of ‘zoo-like’ excursions.

After spending almost a week researching tour companies in Addis I carefully chose my driver, and together we planned our trip around the Omo villages.

We stayed overnight in most villages, camping or sleeping in huts. It was a good way to get to know the tribes, spending long afternoons with them while tourists came and went, barely getting out of their vehicles before they were whisked away.

If you don’t want a zoo-like experience in Omo, you’d do well to keep your camera in your pocket for a little while longer, try to connect with the people on a deeper level than that of a fifteen-minute whistle-stop photo opportunity.

I took my pictures methodically and slowly, with good humour and in a relaxed atmosphere. After all, good travel portraits – like good travel experiences – require time, care and trust.
The first photograph in this article is a closeup of two children from the Arbore ethnic group with red paint with white dots around their eyes.

SHOWCASE VIDEO: ETHIOPIE Au coeur de la Vallée de l'Omo

Jean Pierre Tixier, Published on Jul 29, 2016

Découverte et Rencontre des ethnies du sud de l’Éthiopie, dans la vallée de l'Omo, avec Marc VELLA et son piano accompagné de la "caravane amoureuse". Un voyage hors du temps qui a permis d'échanger et de partager des moments inoubliables avec ces populations combien attachantes que sont les Hamer, les Mursi, les Karo, les Dorzé, les Konso
Google translation from French to English:
Discovery and meeting of the ethnic groups of southern Ethiopia, in the Omo Valley, with Marc VELLA and his piano accompanied by the "caravane amoureuse". A trip out of time which allowed to exchange and share unforgettable moments with these endearing populations that are Hamer, Mursi, Karo, Dorzé, Konso ....

Here are my notes about this video, with special attention to scenes of face painting and/or scarification:

13:24 people wearing face and chest paint (Karo ethnic group?)

12:08-13:01 children and adults wearing white face paint. I’m not sure which ethnic group this is

13:42 -14-19 - people with dots on their face

14:40-15:50 WARNING topless women

18:11-18:29 women being whipped before the ritual bull jumping ceremony

18:58 – Hamer men with facial paint

19:23 one Hamer man with facial paint standing in a row of men

WARNING: 19:31 to 19:47 man naked jumping the bulls

22:31 woman with face paint also with large lip plate [The Mursi ethnic group]

22:47 back of lip plate has painted geometric designs ; some people shown with white paint on their face and chest

23:19 woman with black face paint

24:56 woman with white face paint

25:14 young girl with white face paint around her eyes

25:42 -26-08 topless women moving in a counterclockwise circle and then standing talking some with face paint and some with scarification on their upper arms

33:34 young boy with faded paint on his forehead and around his face

35:50 Designs on this woman’s scarf are very similar to some facial designs

42:01 scene of Marc Vella playing piano surrounded by various Black people most of whom are wearing white paint on their faces and chest

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