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Photographer's Note

I wanted to post this photo (which is not necessarly good) of a Mursi woman more for the story and awareness rather than the esthetics of the photo.

So here’s my experience with the Mursi tribe (this small part of a larger tribe at least).

I’ve been fascinated by the Mursi tribe since I was a kid so when I made it to Ethiopia, it was on top of my list to go visit a Mursi village. To get there, you have to go through the Mago National Park and drive through for a while until you get to a checkpoint (not really a checkpoint but a sort of national guards hut/barrier). It is in the regulation that tourists have to be escorted by a park guard when ‘visiting’ the Mursis.
Slowly you get to a deforested part of the park where you have small Mursi villages (max 10 huts each). In the car you are briefed that to take photos you have specific amounts to pay. I can’t remember the amounts exactly but it’s on the lines of:
1 – An adult (3 Birr – local currency-)
2 – A child (1 Birr each if in group)
3 – A mother and her child (4-5 Birr)
I found this quite intriguing to be given a menu of prices but so far thought nothing of it.

Once you park in the village (it was early we were the only tourists there still), the men gather and your local guide will have to pay a village entrance fee to the chief of the tribe. After which you get closer to the hut area (where from far we could see women in action –cooking, taking care of the kids,…- and children around playing) everything stops, and you can hear a pin drop. All the women and children stopped what they were doing, stood up in a line and waited.

We didn’t understand what was going on and were very uncomfortable and bemused, our guide said: ‘Pick! Pick one for photo.’ pointing at the women and children. Basically the tribe members stand up to be picked for a photo hence receive money. We all had the same reaction, ‘can we walk around a bit, have a translator to learn more about this tribe? Not only the photo!’ but no, this is what was expected of us ONLY that.

At this stage, we felt in a human zoo and what passed through my mind was ‘What have we reduced some humans to? From proud hunters to a touristic attraction, like animals in a zoo.’ I stopped thinking as I could feel the tribe was getting impatient so I pointed at a woman, she got closer to the hut, posed, I took my photo, paid her and she left. We did not want to hang around any longer and left.

They all looked really out of it; when I asked our guide later he did mention that this part of the bigger tribe had understood the interest tourists had for them thus they moved down from the hills to the plains to be of easier access to tourists and now live only of the money received from photos (which was also confirmed from our guide, usually goes to alcohol afterwards).

The night before, in Jinka (a wonderful village we stayed at) a teenage boy stopped me in the street and asked me if we were going to see the Mursis; when I confirmed he just said he wanted to warn us as he had heard they had been ‘aggressive’ (his words not mine!) lately so we had better take soap and razor blades (to do their hair) with us to distribute. Again I asked around afterwards and it was confirmed Mursis are used to receiving ‘things’ from tourists passing. And it is the case, once you get there, they will point at anything you have to give (I ended up negotiating –nicely though no aggressivity- giving away my mosquito-repellent bracelet rather than my silver bracelet to an old tribe member).

My points here; I am talking about the Mursi members in the Mago park, not the others as some are still in the hills living peacefully, and am also not saying the Mursis are bad, no, it is probably not entirely their fault but also tourism –a specific kind of tourism, that I will never put myself through again!-.

So if you do go to Ethiopia and plan to see the Mursis, be aware, this is how it usually goes same applies for the Arbore tribe which we refused going to see. Do something else instead, we asked our driver to stop in a small village we passed on the way back, we walked around we were warmly welcomed by the villagers who invited us to their huts, see how they make coffee, injara (local bread) and no money for photo exchange (like most places, the kids all JUMP infront of your camera with a big smile!) so do adults but with a bit more shyness which is just as sweet.

If you had the same/different experience with the Mursis or another tribe please let me know.

Ilducabianco, samson, macondo, fransswanepoel, worldcitizen marcou esta nota como útil

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Heba AH (Hebsi) (23)
  • Genre: Pessoas
  • Medium: Cor
  • Date Taken: 2008-01-01
  • Categories: Momento Decisivo
  • Exposição: f/2.8, 1/320 segundos
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Versão da Foto: Versão Original
  • Date Submitted: 2010-10-04 1:12
Viewed: 5103
Points: 6
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