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April 26, 2019

The Faces of the Kingdom of The Omo Valley

Photographs By Jalan Sahbá

Eight different tribes have inhabited this southern Ethiopian region for centuries, sharing its land, history and legacies. Italian photographer Jalan Sahbá composes poignant portraits of the indigenous people for whom ancient traditions are still the way of life.

Just above the northern border with Kenya and a breadth’s hair to the east of south Sudan is Ethiopia’s fabled Omo Valley. A land where its generous people seem to belong to humanity’s collective heritage and where one senses the gravity of their fragility and temporality.

Most tribes and communities in the Omo Valley still hold on to tradition, form and ceremony. Headgear and crowns made of shells, flowers, beads, seeds, berries, feathers or found objects are still prevalent, particularly during ceremonies and special occasions.

Life in the Omo Valley plays out as it would in most of East Africa’s rural villages. Community is at its core and farming and herding are the engines that fuel life and its prosperity. Life is simple, repetitive, strenuous and its weight rests predominantly on the women. Undisputedly women have an indomitable strength, a tremendous sense of duty, selflessness and grace. Their value is absolute.

A trained interior designer, Jalan Sahbá — of American and Persian descent — grew up in Verona, Italy. She has headed over 30 international design projects and her works have been featured in several publications around the world. She currently lives in Kenya with her husband and three children.

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