I had the distinct privilege of photographing Ngonda, Ntangou and Nkoula of Loumingou Night, a three-piece sister band based in Brooklyn. Nearly a year has passed since our last shoot together; for this session, we decided to showcase body painting techniques inspired by the Omo Valley tribes of southern Ethiopia.
DNA analysis suggests that every person now living on this earth is related to a single woman from the Omo Valley. The region is home to eight tribes, each with distinct tongues, livelihoods, and body painting techniques. That said, many members employ light pigments such as dried clay and fresh native plants worn around the crown of the head, both of which are said to provide protection from outside spirits and double as pest repellent. The sisters gracefully recreated their own looks and interpretations of this ancient ritual for this shoot.
The lower Omo Valley region had remained virtually untouched by modern industry until the Gibe III hydroelectric dam project was implemented in 2006. This has prevented an annual flood – one that was essential to maintain the rich biodiversity of the region – and displaced villagers along the Omo River. An increasing number of these peaceful pastoralists have given up their floral crowns for AK-47s to protect their bodies, land and resources.
A reproduction can only say so much. Still, we wanted to preserve the beauty and quiet empowerment behind this ritual – the adorning of one’s body with native clay and plants for grounding and protection. I could not have asked for a more talented group of women to collaborate on this project with. Enjoy.