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Karo Tribe – Life and Landscapes

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The Karo tribe live along the eastern banks of the Omo River. Their culture is agricultural and they practice flood-retreat cultivation along the banks of the river growing sorghum, maize, beans and tobacco.

As the crop ripens the women and older children spend much of their time acting as human scarecrows using slings to catapult mud balls at raiding birds and monkeys.

At harvest time the Karo dance in the moonlight. After everyone has eaten their fill the young men enter a clearing in the forest and start to sing and leap in a circle. Every young man has his own particular song. The songs are sung in turn and each young man has his chance to dance. After a short while, the girls and young women join them in the clearing and again, in turn, they choose a young man to dance with. Gradually more and more villagers arrive and join in the circle as it expands until the clearing is filled with people, rhythmic song and dance. The party continues until dawn.

The Karo still practice ritual infanticide known as Mingi. This practice is reserved for children born out of wedlock and babies born with teeth as they are considered to be cursed.

Body painting is popular using broad strokes made with the fingers and some elders and warriors wear intricately made clay headpieces into which an ostrich feather is inserted. Scarification is practiced particularly on the stomachs of the women.  Lines of scars are created on a young girl by her mother or grandmother to make small incisions into which ash is rubbed to create raised scar.

These photographs are part of The End of Days – The Last of the Omo Valley Tribes series.