Companies are acquiring the Karo's fertile tribal land to grow cash crops like cotton and the environmentally destructive palm oil. mediadrumimages/JimZuckerman/

By Alexander Greensmith


MEET THE tribe that DROWNS disabled BABIES because they believe them to be CURSED.

Photos show young boys of the Karo tribe smiling covered top to toe in multi-patterned warrior paint. However the adults find less time to smile, as they pose behind their land that is being destroyed by the government for industrial development.

Men carry rifles that were gifted to them by European visitors across the last 50 years, and have been passed through generations like family heirlooms to scare off enemies. One elder woman even uses a drinks straw as jewellery.

Guns are treated as family heirlooms to ward off other tribes and livestock. mediadrumimages/JimZuckerman/

The photos were taken in the Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, by Jim Zuckerman (72) from Franklin, USA.

The American shot the fascinating portraits on a Canon EOS-1Dx Mark II.

“The Karo is the smallest tribe in South Ethiopia fluctuating between 1000 and 2000. They live along the Omo River and practice ‘flood retreat cultivation’. This means they use the silt left by flood waters that occur during the monsoon season to fertilise their crops,” said Mr Zuckerman.

Guns have been passed through generations, after they were gifted to them by visiting Europeans. mediadrumimages/JimZuckerman/

“But recently the Ethiopian government, needing to create more electricity, built a dam on the Omo River.

“This affects the flooding of the river, and this in turn causes disruptions in the natural fertilisation of farmland as well as impacts the traditional flow of water to the tribes below the dam.”

It is not the only tradition being affected in the 21st century, as until July 2012 the tribe used to drown disabled infants.

The Indigenous group are under threat from man-made industrial dredging of their nearby river. mediadrumimages/JimZuckerman/

The Karo people feared that physical abnormalities meant a curse was laid on their tribe, so they would kill these infants in the discontinued ‘Mingi’ practice. Sadly, unlike the Karo, many African communities still hold this belief.

“But the way the Karo decorate their faces and bodies is fascinating. They use a mixture of ash, animal fat, and water to create striking designs,” added Mr Zuckerman.

“Their body decorations are for two reasons – for beauty and for battle.

The dam affecting the Karo’s lives was predominantly funded by The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. mediadrumimages/JimZuckerman/

“The men decorate themselves brighter than the women so they look more attractive and courageous. In addition, tribal people are often very superstitious, and a painted warrior looks fearsome to outsiders.”

“The Karo were very welcoming and friendly, more so than most tribes.  They seemed like they enjoyed the attention of being photographed and liked seeing their images on the LCD screen on the back of my camera. They posed quite willingly and were very cooperative – I’d love to see them again.”

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