Found within the remote Omo Valley, where the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan meet ... you will find the Karo Tribe. Continuing cultural practices that have been in existence for thousands of years, this nomadic people (closely related to the Himba Tribe) have become world renowned for their beauty practices. With a pastoral lifestyle (living as cattle herders), this tribe celebrates its connection and love of nature through self adornment with materials directly from their environment.
Oils, animal fats, ashes, and various colored ground minerals form pastes which cover the hair and body. These unique pastes form the base for several cultural styles. In addition to the use of hand-crafted painted designs, the incorporation of natural foliage, animal plumage (often ostrich feathers), and animal artifacts (such as horns/tusks) are equally as important as well. Through the combination of these artistic mediums, tribe members are able to display and convey: spiritual significance, social status, pride, respect, courage, (usually from an animal kill), level of beauty / attractiveness, and / or ability to attract potential marriage partners.
On occasion, scarification or the act of permanently scratching, etching, burning, branding, or superficially modifying the skin (tattoos typically not included here) with designs are practiced as well. For men, this represents strength, especially when placed on the chest. For women, this signifies sensuality and attractiveness, particularly when designs are placed along their chests and torso ... the scars allowed raise slightly while covered in ash during the healing process.
What is most beautiful, is that these intricate and historic beauty practices are performed by both men and women. Unfortunately, with the growing rise tourism and infiltration from the outside world, these beauty practices by tribes-folk are beginning to move away from being practiced solely as a celebration of culture, but for profit. This has become especially necessary as the current government plans to implement a water dam, which may drastically affect their traditional way of life. This tribe has been featured in the blog "Before the Pass Away." It is my hope that this incredible art and breathtaking adornment practice never does. Click the following link for a more in depth discussion about the Karo Tribe.