Karo Tribe, Kolcho Village

Friday, December 19, 2014
Kolcho, Omo Valley, Ethiopia
The many sounds of the night filled the air including the Colobus monkeys and the dawning of another day greeted me as I walked up the small rise behind the campsite to capture the sunrise.

Porridge and pancakes for breakfast.



Was the 90 minute off road trip to the Karo village worth it for such a short encounter? A definite "YES". Well I have been on worst roads and with careful negotiation of the many pot holes and corrugation it was no problem. I wonder if a grader every makes it this far. Doubt it.

We passed a lorry coming away loaded to the gunwales with bales of cotton.

Stopped by one of the many termite mounds.

A turtle was crossing the road so we just had to stop. It was far away from the water so I wonder how it survives but obviously it does.

On reaching Kolcho is one of three Karo villages, I was quite amazed at the green vista of the Omo River arching in a beautiful horseshoe below us. I was expecting a muddy slow moving river snaking its way across the plains.

The Karo tribe, consisting of about 1,500 people and is the smallest ethnic group in the Omo Valley of South-western Ethiopia.

Told not to take any photos so we waited till after the introduction to this village under the shade of a large tree. It was hot!

The villagers stood around us. I am sure that a few understood what was being said. The Karo people are noted for their painted dotted body paint.

On the eastern bank of the Omo River they practice flood retreat cultivation growing sorghum, maize and beans. Their conical houses – Ono = principal living room with the necessary thatched roof to keep the blazing sun off them plus the Gappa being the centre of household activities.

Karo men and women decorate their faces and bodies with paint made from chalk and ochre to increase their attractiveness to the opposite sex.

Nowadays, tourists pay US$20 per car as an entry fee to the village, and a picture of a warrior costs birrs. This type of income, requiring little effort, discourages young men to grow crops or tend livestock as their elders did.

Unlike the Mursi, the Karo never practiced stick-fighting. But many of the village's young men have adopted this activity because visitors pay up to US$60 to see a fight. The scars on their arms and the rest of their body is the price they pay for those dollars.

Afterwards it was free for all with the photo taking. Again I went to another compound from the others and as expected some villagers followed. With hand gestures, choose the groups of two or three that I wanted to capture. Mainly family groups and today wanted to try and capture a range of ages. The others lined up and tried to get my attention for me to take their images. With hand gestures and smiles, asked them to move out of frame plus after reviewing yesterday's efforts tried to ensure I had no sky plus used a hut roof as a background. Locked the camera at f 5.6 this time plus set my exposure comp at + 1/3 to factor in their dark faces.

Got into the habit of confirming the price 5, 10, 15 ... and with my 5 birrs in one pocket and the 10's in another, it was easy to satisfy the subjects' financial compensation. Yes, it felt like a factory at times and very quickly my day's "clicking" allocation emptied out of my 2 pockets. Yes, I make no secret that I wish I had more birrs as this will be a "oncer" in my life. It felt like a National Geographic but in real life and in 3D. I wished that I was able to have an unrestricted session so that I could focus on the likes of their hair braiding, facial decorations, jewellery and dress.









By now I needed some liquid so it was an opportune time to rehydrate back by the 4x4.

Two crocs were sighted on the far river bank and then I remembered that I had my Canon Powershot with its long lens.

Photo time but with an AK47 that one of local men had.



Back to Turmi along the same bumpy road and once back at the campsite, a couple of cold 300 ml Cokes quenched my thirst.

Spaghetti with the obligatory cabbage and carrots for lunch.

Under the shelter of our dining room roof out of the blazing hot sun, sat and enjoyed the hot air blowing in off the dry river bed, listening to the bleating of the goats and donkeys braying. The butterflies were fluttering around, bird song: Bruce’s green pigeon, black-headed oriole & grey-headed bush shrike being apparently the most common colourful birds found here, above in the fig trees, while at times the sound of the cattle with the bells around their necks clanging away and goats chumped away at the undergrowth broke the silence. Little children running around the dry dusty river beds on their oversize back yard.

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