Indigenous Cultures: The Kara Women of Ethiopia

Indigenous cultures represented by this young Karan woman

Indigenous cultures are rare, precious, fragile, and quickly becoming extinct. Is this progress or a form of genocide? Is this the price we pay for planetary technological advancements? What happens when there are no civilizations left who dance to the rhythms of the earth and thrive on a daily, intimate relationship with nature?

A story in the current issue of the Global Oneness Project Magazine, photographed and told by Jane Baldwin (the above and other photos), is about an indigenous culture, the Kara Women of Ethiopia. Her photographs and the interview of her encourage readers to ponder these questions. Ms. Baldwin’s story is about her eight year developing relationship with the Kara women.

indigenous cultures are impacted by the Omo River dam projects
Map of the Omo River with dam projects highlighted in red
They are inhabitants of Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley and the Omo River-Lake Turkana watershed. The areas that they and other groups have inhabited for hundreds of years are threatened by the continuing dam building of the Omo River dam project. This one is Gibe III.

The residents of the river valley have had no say in these projects. The projects clearly do not benefit these agro-pastorialists, the indigenous people who have lived in harmony with their river. They are its victims and will be the casualties again, of this half finished project, Gibe III. The dam will benefit those whose priorities differ drastically from theirs. Their flowing relationship with the Omo River will stop. The lives of about a half a million people will be impacted and their traditional way of life will be affected. The consequences will be a disaster.

These people do not read or write. Marriages have traditionally been arranged although that is changing. The women’s lives are based primarily on child bearing and telling their stories through oral tradition. This is current life of the Kara Women. They are subservient in every way to the patriarchy they live in except for one essential responsibility. They are the keepers of their culture’s stories.

They make up songs that they sing to their children from the time they are babies. This is part of how they pass on their stories. What will become of their lives in the river valley when they crash, head on with Gibe III? They will still have their stories. But they will be bloody nightmares not happy memories.

At right, discover more about the Kara Women and other stories about ART | FOOD | HEALING in today’s issues of Alison*s Art Online Magazine, a feature of Alison*s Blog and published by RebelMouse and paper.li.

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