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N 1.4K B 84.5K C 413 E Jan 1, 1997 F Oct 29, 2018
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Editors’ Favourite with Editors’ Note, National Geographic Yourshot, July 2018. Assignment: “Not Just a Face.”
~
Returning the photographer's gaze - sometimes with a proud and knowing smile or an indignant look of resistance and mimicry as the observer becomes the observed. The gaze is returned, the observer othered. Subject owns the gaze for a frozen moment.

This proud, elegant Maasai herder (warrior age-set) paused for a moment to vogue this pose near the crater rim in the Ngorongoro Highlands of northern Tanzania. Adorned with glass-beaded necklaces, medallion and wrist band; an amber bracelet; stretched earlobes with glass-beaded sleeves and copper pendants. High resolution Noritsu Koki QSS digital film scan, shot with a compact semi-automatic Pentax Zoom 35mm point-and-shoot film camera (38~105mm AF), circa 1997.

© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved and protected by international copyright laws. Any use of this work requires my prior written permission. explore#46

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Tags:   Maasai herder warrior proud elegant returning gaze owning gaze Ngorongoro Highlands Tanzania Rift Valley cattle camp cattle beadwork afrique africa african portrait man tribal culture tradition pastoral nomadic tribe ethnic people indigenous jewelry glass-beaded collar stretched earlobes copper pendants clouds street Red sky ~The Magic of Colours~ VIII explore DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism DocumentaryPortrait

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Adorned with a wild boar's tusk, facial chalk markings, decorated goat-skin clothing and an ornamental clay lip-plate. Shot at a communal dance in a Mursi semi-nomadic pastoral settlement on the bank of the Mago River, a tributary that joins the essential Omo River in a remote corner of southwestern Ethiopia.

On the meaning of lip-plates in Mursi culture and society
The Mursi are one of the last groups in Africa where women still wear large wooden or clay plates in their lower lips. Most Mursi women wear lip-plates as an aesthetic symbol of cultural pride and identity, signifying passage to womanhood/adulthood. They are more frequently worn by unmarried or newly wed women and are generally worn when serving men food or during important ritual events (weddings, men's duelling competitions, communal dances, safari photo-ops).

Debunking popular myths
Contrary to popular opinion among travellers and other passing strangers, ethnographers found little or no connection between the size of a woman’s lip-plate and the size of her bridewealth (cattle, guns).

Anthropologists and ethnographers have debunked another popular myth surrounding the lip-plate in this region. They found no evidence that the labret originated as a deliberate attempt to disfigure and make women less attractive to slave traders, yet this myth seems to surface regularly in accounts by professional and amateur photographers, tourists, and bloggers alike.

The Mursi and Mursiland
The Mursi are semi-nomadic farmers and herders who depend on shifting hoe-cultivation (mostly drought-resistant varieties of sorghum) and cattle herding for their livelihood. They number less than ten thousand today.

Most Mursi live in small settlements dispersed across Mursiland, a remote territory of about thirty by eighty kilometres between the Omo and Mago Rivers in southwestern Ethiopia, near the border with South Sudan and northern Kenya.

The terrain varies from a volcanic plain dominated by a range of hills and a major watershed to a riverine forest, wooded grasslands and thorny bushland thickets. The climate is harsh and unstable with low rainfall and daily temperatures regularly exceeding 40°C in the shade during the dry season.

~~~
Excellent ethnographic accounts on the meaning of lip-plates in Mursi culture and society include:
• David Turton, "Lip plates and the people who take photographs: uneasy encounters between Mursi and tourists in southern Ethiopia", Anthropology Today, 20:3, 3-8, 2004.
• Shauna Latosky, "Reflections on the lip-plates of Mursi women as a source of stigma and self-esteem", in Ivo Strecker and Jean Lydall (eds.) The perils of face: Essays on cultural contact, respect and self-esteem in southern Ethiopia, Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrika-Forschung, Lit Verlag, Berlin, 2006, pp. 371-386.
"To possess the world in the form of images is, precisely, to re-experience the unreality and remoteness of the the real."
Susan Sontag, On Photography

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Tags:   Mursi mother labret lip-plate lip-disc lip-plug BodyArt body piercing body modification Ethiopia Omo Faces Africa indigenous ethnic tribe people Afrique African jewellery davidschweitzer aesthetics portrait documentary VanishingCultures human interest DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait Street

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Vanishing Cultures Series

Biwa, an esteemed Kara elder and charismatic leader, vogued this near-surreal pose during preparations for an evening communal dance in a small settlement set high on the east bank of Ethiopia's lower Omo River.

Adorned with finger-painted white-chalk body markings and brass earrings. The ivory lip-button and clay hair bun with ostrich feather reflect a "culture of heroism" shared with other tribes in the region, one that glorifies and rewards individual acts of bravery for killing an enemy or a dangerous wild animal.

The dry savanna grasslands and iconic Acacia trees at the fringe of the settlement are indigenous to this remote region. The region is part of Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley that extends south through the Horn of Africa to Kenya and Tanzania. Shot near the end of a long dry season regularly exceeding 40°C in the shade.

"To possess the world in the form of images is, precisely, to re-experience the unreality and remoteness of the the real."
Susan Sontag, On Photography

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Tags:   kara indigenous africa warrior tribe tribal tradition portrait people pastoral painted face paint ostrich feather omo valley nomadic man lip-disc lip-plug hairbun fighter ethnic jewellery ethiopia elder decoration clay chalk brass body afrique african culture custom traditional aesthetics documentary painted face painted body karo brass earrings bodyart faces of Africa facial markings body language ethnic jewelry Blue bodypainting DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait VanishingCultures Street

N 902 B 141.1K C 87 E Feb 1, 1996 F Mar 20, 2016
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© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved and protected by international copyright laws. Any use of this work requires my prior written permission.

A Dani war chief passes through the oval courtyard of a traditional fortress-like compound as he prepares for a ritualized mock battle that is about to take place high in a remote corner of West Papua's central highlands, 1600m/5200ft above sea level - Grand Valley of the Balim River, Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Digital film scan, shot with a Pentax point-and-shoot pocket camera directly under the noonday sun, circa 1996.

Battle Dress
He is adorned with a large decorated bib of nassa (snail) shells, an upturned boar’s tusk nose piece, rare bird-of-paradise plumes and other feathers, a bailer shell chest piece (with smaller shell pieces attached to a tightly woven bush-twine neck band of cowrie shells), an ornamental wristband of finely woven pandanus fibres, arm bands of dog fur, and the iconic long koteka or penis gourd – all part of traditional Dani ornamentation and battle dress. His forehead is smeared with a thick layer of charcoal-blackened pig grease.

Warfare
Many Dani elders in the valley today were once engaged in an elaborate system of ritualized warfare, organized around changing political alliances and large shifting confederations across the Grand Valley. War was embedded in Dani culture as a constant and immediate part of everyday life. Brawls, feuds, and wars would begin with conflicts between individuals that would escalate to prolonged intergroup fighting.

Much of the fighting ended in the 1960's under an enforced Indonesian government pacification programme, although it is likely that certain forms of traditional fighting still occurred in isolated pockets of the region up to the late 1990's. Most fighting is now expressed through mock combat rituals that includes women and children in some of the ritualized running patterns.

Repression and Resistance
The sophisticated Neolithic (late Stone Age) culture and politics of indigenous West Papuans are on the brink of sweeping social change. Accelerated contact with the outside world is inevitable. The road up from the coast up to the highlands and beyond has been under construction for more than two decades and is near completion. Little has been done to prepare indigenous Papuans for the inundation of permanent Asian migrants from other over-populated islands (especially Java) under Indonesia’s official state-sponsored transmigration resettlement programme. Alienation of the land to foreign mining interests, , organized tourism, the advent of cash and alcohol, and expanding state intrusion into indigenous Papuan affairs - all pose a serious challenge to the traditional Papuan way of life and very survival as an independent and culturally distinct indigenous nation.

Indonesian state control in West Papua is particularly reminiscent of earlier times in the Americas and elsewhere when aboriginal peoples were contained through a colonization strategy of political subjugation and cultural assimilation. Indigenous Papuan resistance in the highlands has taken several forms, ranging from mass protests and sporadic hostage-taking to low-level guerrilla warfare and a loosely organized yet persistent political movement for separation and the creation of an independent Papuan state within Indonesia.

At the time of this photoshoot (February 1976), indigenous insurgents of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) had abducted 12 European and Indonesian nationals on a biodiversity research expedition to the highlands in an adjoining tribal region just 70 kilometres away, roughly five days by foot. They were held as hostages in the mountainous forests, moving across ridges and river valleys from one makeshift prison camp to another as members of the International Red Cross tried unsuccessfully to mediate the crisis. The insurgents conducted the raid with bows and arrows and a handful of guns. Indonesian Army Special Forces finally launched a hostage rescue operation with limited success. The controversial South African mercenary group, Executive Outcomes, provided both training and operational advice. Papuan resistance still continues to this day.

First Contact
The indigenous peoples of West Papua migrated from southeast Asia and the Australian continent about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago during the Ice Age when sea levels were lower and distances between islands were shorter. Western "first contact” with West Papua's Grand Valley Dani was established in 1938 during American-led botanical and zoological expeditions to the central highlands, less than sixty years before this photograph was taken.

About 50,000 Dani now live in small compound clusters or settlements scattered across the fertile and densely-populated "Grand Valley" of the Balim River (about 40 miles long by 10 miles wide) in West Papua's central highlands.

~~~
Ethnographic efforts at demystifying Dani Neolithic cultural practices and ritualized warfare in the region are associated with the early ground-breaking 1961 Harvard-Peabody Expedition. They include anthropologist Karl Heider’s accounts in “The Dugum Dani: A Papuan Culture in the Highlands of West New Guinea,” Aldine Publishing (1970) and “Grand Valley Dani: Peaceful Warriors” (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology), Wadsworth Publishing (1996); also filmmaker Robert Gardner’s classic ethnographic documentary, “Dead Birds” (1965); Peter Matthiessen’s “Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in Stone Age New Guinea,” Viking Press (1962.

explore#40

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Tags:   explore Dani warrior courtyard compound valley Balim River West Papua central highlands Irian Jaya Indonesia bird-of-paradise pig pit cooking battle vanishing cultures grand stone age culture tribe ethnography West New Guinea bodyart indigenous street documentary portrait clan warfare ethnic jewelry South Pacific Oceania earth oven cooking pit Melanesia tradition neolithic People DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait film analog

N 920 B 88.7K C 65 E Jan 1, 1972 F Mar 4, 2021
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A Balinese duck tender with traditional wide-brim rain hat under a light monsoon drizzle returns from the paddy fields along a path through the original Monkey Forest near Padang Tegal Village, Ubud, Bali. Digital slide scan, shot with an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic (SMC Pentax Zoom 45~125mm f/4) before modernization and the onslaught of mass tourism began to compromise much of Ubud's original charm, circa 1972. explore#32

© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved and protected by international copyright laws. Any use of this work requires my prior written permission.

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Tags:   Bali duck tender herder Monkey Forest Padang Tegal Ubud Indonesia Southeast Asia rain monsoon lush green wet-season people DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism explore Portrait street film analog asia indigenous Faces travel outdoor DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait


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