defence of the realm
Musa Choudary; www.somedaysomewhere.com
arrying rifles and an AK-47 men of the Karo tribal group show off body paint and accoutrements whose origins date back centuries. The men live along the Omo river valley in Ethiopoa, around 650km from the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. The Karo currently number around 1,500, but their numbers are diminishing almost by the day. This is partly due to the frequent droughts that plague this part of Africa, but is also a consequence of long-running territorial and tribal disputes with neighbouring ethnic groups such as the Hamer and Bana – which have been made more lethal by the introduction of modern weaponry, such as the AK-47. The tribesmen have just returned from herding cattle along the banks of the Omo river. The paint on their bodies is made from mixing charcoal, red iron ore and ground-down yellow mineral rocks with white clay. The facial decoration mimics the spotted plumage of guinea fowl. Karo women scarify their chests to beautify themselves. The skin is cut with a knife and ash is rubbed in to produce a raised welt. The lower Omo valley is designated a world heritage site by Unesco partly on account of its role as a cradle of humanity – many humanid fossils have been found there.