Before They Pass Away: A Photographer Races After Vanishing Tribes

By Jane Hwang - 2014-01-07T15:48:54Z

Photograph by Jimmy Nelson BV courtesy teNeues

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The Mursi of Ethiopia

The nomadic Mursi, who number about 4,000, live in the lower Omo Valley, not far from the Kenyan border. In 1980, the valley became a Unesco World Heritage site for having yielded some of the oldest known human fossil fragments, as well as tools dating back more than two million years.

According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report, the eight distinct groups who rely on the Omo River for crop cultivation and water for animals during the annual July-September flooding, are threatened by Gibe III, a hydroelectric dam project on the river, and plans for large-scale irrigated agriculture. As of October 2013, 75% of the dam had been completed. The dam, part of the Ethiopian government’s ambitious plan for economic development, will be the tallest in Africa.

Left: Mr. Sea, Hilao Moyizo Village, Omo Valley, July 2011