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Off the Beaten Path: Tribes of the Omo Valley

Marcos Lira | Ethiopia

Surma woman with lip plug

Vanishing Cultures:

I was privileged to visit the remote tribes of the Omo Valley in 2010. Their remoteness and inaccessibility has enabled the tribes to resist outside influence.

Ethiopia is building a series of hydroelectric dams along the river Omo to develop the country. When completed, it will forever change the lives of the people.

People in the capital, Addis Ababa, told me that the people of the Omo Valley are “uncivilized” and their lack of skills makes it difficult to assimilate them into modern society; however, these tribes have unique rituals that will be lost forever through the effort to develop the land. If these cultures dies, so will part of the country’s identity.

The question that comes to mind is: is the government modernizing its country at the expense of its culture?

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Some of the photos have women with lip plates.

During puberty, women have their bottom teeth removed and their lower lip piereced, stretched, and a plate inserted. This ritual represents beauty and is particularly significant during marriage.

Marcos Lira



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