Deep in the heart of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, where the earth is being torn apart by up to 10 centimeters a year, all sorts of natural mineral pigments lay exposed — a veritable painter’s palette waiting to be tapped by a creative eye. Add in the natural flora of the jungle, with its vibrant green leaves, colorful flowers, and uniquely shaped grasses, and the only thing missing is a canvas.
To the Surma and Mursi tribes of the Omo River, there is no better canvas than the dark, beautiful skin of a body.
Every morning the ritual begins anew: mothers paint babies, adults and children paint each other (or themselves), with fresh flowers and leaves to complement the design in an expression of rare and stunning beauty. Without architecture or crafts, the ongoing tradition of ever changing, ever evolving creativity is deeply valued by the tribe as their primary sense of identity, expression and esteem.