In Ethiopia, as is true around the world, each indigenous tribe has its unique sense of adornment. Some tribes are into the paint with which they decorate their skin. Others wear plants on their heads and colorful beadwork. Often, the way they accessorize reflects their surroundings and the relationships they have with nature, the cosmos, other tribes, mythology, and long-held traditions and rituals.
The Mursi wear these horns and to me their accessories seemed fierce, especially when the headwear included bones and metal objects. Scarification is also common among the men, and lip plates are worn by the women. It is often artistic, but it has the aura of strength or power—or subservience, ownership and effort. The Mursi are a nomadic tribe and live primarily in isolated regions of Ethiopia between mountains and the Omo River and close to the border with South Sudan.
A friend of mine recently suggested the Mursi have a liberated sense of accessorizing that has nothing to do with tourists. In the years after I spent time with the tribe—visiting their community when they were less known and rarely fell under Western eyes—tourists have flocked to see them largely due to their external features. With this image, I encourage you to appreciate it all: the artfully crafted paint, the weight and solidity of the accessories, but also the softness of this young man’s skin and eyes and his relaxed, calm posture. The Mursi are not a monolith, seems to me to be the point I am making. Each and every tribal member is a fellow sentient being, finding expression and purpose on planet Earth.