Sunday, March 8, 2009


Over a period of 6 years, renowned photographer Hans Silvester photographed peoples of the Omo Valley. It is a very remote area in Ethiopia. Wild and unspoiled. The Surma and Mursi Tribes take great pleasure in decorating themselves with the glorious pigments available in this volcanic region.

White kaolin, ochre-red, copper green, luminous yellow and ash grey.

In addition to the pigments all manner of materials from the surroundings are added to the "fancy dress".

Flowers, leaves, grasses, berries and seed pods

.....shells, butterfly wings, animal horns and tails

....... sometimes the odd modern accoutrements such as glass beads, bottle caps and bullet casings.

These joyful people are walking masterpieces of abstract art. Marked with spots and stripes, stars and circles. The first time I saw the photographs, I thought they were contrived but apparently not. We are looking at the expression of a joyful spirit. The ancestral art of body painting together with headdress are part fashion, part protection from the sun and also part trophy display.

See more here.

Books available:

Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley (Set of 2 volumes) by Hans Silvester
Natural Fashion by Hans Silvester


  1. I so enjoy coming to your blog. I learn so much and see such exciting bits of artistry. Your blog is always an inspiration.

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  3. Totally fantastic, I followed the link too. One photo in particular, the 2nd one, made me smile where the dog gets a drink of water! What a wonderful post as ever!

    Best wishes Blu x

  4. Wonderful - a stunning glimpse into another world. Thanks for posting.

  5. Thats it. I'm off to the studio right now. Now I'm in the mood to finger paint! Thanks for the inspiration Robyn!

  6. Absolutely exquisite stuff - I can see how the4se gloriously natural colours and patterns will excite you in your line of work.

  7. Simply exquisite.

    I know what book I want for my birthday now!

  8. Thanks, I loved the photos and the faces behind the embellishment. You always seem to post the perfect
    stimulus.Thanks for the sharing of beauty. Joan T

  9. Isn't this simply fabulous? I find it so interesting that people of all areas and for generations have always been so into art and make-up, and decoration. It's just human nature, I suppose. Great post! Thanks for the peek.

  10. no words except to say I LOVED LOVED LOVED this post! - I'm with Cynjon - I know what my next book is going to be! thanks Robyn

  11. I find their choices of protection from the sun to be quite stunning and imaginative ... thank you for sharing these images and the link.

  12. What a beautiful world we live in.

  13. Wonderful, these painted faces really seem like modern art abstractions.
    Sincere art expression can be so powerful!

  14. Gorgeous and, as you say, so joyful! If only I could decorate my day with a headdress like one of these beauties - I'd just be bound to enjoy it more!

    Hope you and yours have recovered from the gastric bug. Also wanted to tell you that I am now officially hooked on your fresh ginger drink - thank you so much for sharing it!

  15. Another beautiful eye-opening post!

  16. Unbelievably cool and amazing. These people have a much better idea of sunscreen than we ever will. This makes me want to shave my head so I can paint it!!! lol

    Thank you for the fantastic post, Robyn.

  17. It's so wonderful to see these beautiful expressive people here on your blog! They amaze me again. I love the combination of nature with human design - the seed pods, and flowers, the body, and great graphic design!

  18. The purple flower bangs and the seed pod headdress photos are my favorites. I want to get out my sketchpad and start drawing!

  19. WOW Robyn. Incredible range I must admit. They are so colorful as well. Unlike the educated world these folks surely don't bother to let people know that they are waering a make-up.

    Beautiful series as always Robyn.

    On a lighter note Robyn - Expression of joyful spirit is much much more beautiful word than Make-up.

  20. Hey ho Missis!!
    Stunning photo's...they remind me of your fabulous totems...

    Hope you're all fully recovered now...and got the plumbing sorted (was there a connection there?!?! x;0) )

  21. Robyn, thank you for making my eyes open so wide and for knowing how to take my breath away!!!

  22. What an absolutely amazing post - I can't tear my eyes away from it! Such raw, delicate beauty. I always love dropping by your blog - it's always so very interesting and inspiring. Thank you for introducing me to the amazing art of tribal body painting.

  23. This is incredible Robyn.... what a feast for the eyes. Thanks for sharing with us.

  24. .. and here I am in Bali, creating images that so echo these amazing discover that they are real!

    I love the creativity and the clear powerful shots..thanks again for some wonderful soul food.

  25. I found your Blog through Jacky. What a gorgeous post! These painted faces are truly amazing. I especially love the last photo... adorable!
    Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed the visit!

  26. Fantastic find! Such an incredible creativity expressed with the human body. Makes me wanna go and live in the Omo Valley! :)

  27. Thank you Robyn,
    Every photo on this post takes my breath away..Wow is all I can say. Enchanting!

  28. Wow. I love the flowers - brings a whole new concept to a flower in your hair or tucked behind an ear! I'm sure I won't be remote enough to see these people in person when I'm in Ethiopia, but what a wonderful thing!

  29. Thanks Lisa. There is so much exciting art out there. The creativity amazes me.

    Blu, I laughed at the dog photo too!

    Annie, the internet has opened windows into the most amazing world. Discoveries I never even dreamed of.

    Leslie, looking forward to seeing those finger paintings!

    Weaver, oh they do!

    Cynjon, I have a birthday coming up too.....don't know If I can wait til them though.

    Joan, it's a big thrill for me to share the things that inspire me.

  30. This beauty is beyond words.
    Thank you.

  31. Absolutely blown away by this wonderful post. Those photos are magical. What a lovely expression of pride in who you are. I particularly love the long hanging seed pods and the lady with the side pony tail and the polka dot face. Wonderful, wonderful. Could look at these all day.

  32. Katie, even in some cave paintings children appear to be wearing you say human nature to adorn.

    Jeane, the book's on my wish list too!

    Michelle, here in South Africa it is a very common sight to see clay smeared faces (to prevent sun burn).

    Chris, yes we do!

    Thinker, such vivid colours and amazing effects!

    Kendalee, I'm so pleased you are enjoying the ginger "tea". It is quite addictive!Wonderful when you battle to sleep too.

    Thanks Theresa. I'm still finding these photographs eye opening myself.

    Karine, they have such nicely shaped heads too.....not sure I could carry it off :-)

    Karin, they are such exciting images....I've ordered my book!

    Stevie, I would love to see your sketches!

    T&S, like exotic birds, don't you think?

    Mimi :-)

    Jo, I knew you would love these!

    Thanks Lee,... "raw, delicate beauty" ....exactly!

    Jacky, glad you find them as incredible as I do!

    Grrl, how wonderful to receive a comment from you in Bali! I bet you are having a ball!

    Gaby Bee, thanks for stopping to comment. I'll pop over to visit your blog soon.

    Svasti, yes I'm wanting to put flowers in my hair and paint my face with glorious colours too.

    Caroline, jaw dropping indeed!

    Heather, who knows you might even meet someone there who can tell you more about this tradition.

  33. Robyn,
    WOW!! What beauty. What inspiration. What 'art' they have created here...using their faces, bodies, as a canvas.

    Amazing. Thank you for sharing. I'm so glad I found your blog. And so glad you found my blog, too!!
    Susan's Art & Words

  34. Wow. Living the art, breathing the art, being the art. So exciting and glorious. "Art is not a thing; it is a way". Elbert Hubbard said that and I couldn't agree more. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made my day.

  35. Wow! Living the art, breathing the art, becoming the art.I am enthralled with your photos.Best thing I've seen in ages. I'm blown away - thank you so much for sharing this!

  36. What beautiful people! Thank you for the pointer.

  37. Susan GT, everyone who sees these photographs has the same overawed reaction. They really are outstanding!

    Pam, Hans Silvester is an amazing photographer. He has created other wonderful series including one on cats and another on wild horses.

    The Crow, my pleasure!

    Thanks you so much Robert!

  38. Oh wow! These photos are fabulous. The people are so beautiful! The thought that came to me was that they look like "children of spring". What a celebration of life. I love these. Thanks.

  39. So imaginative the different materials they used. Wonderful! I'd like a yellow flower crown too :)

  40. hello

    i have to say, if i could walk down the street and see such beauty, my eyes would just sing... i think it would raise the IQ of humanity to be so stimulated. Thanks.

  41. Robyn, you inspire so many with your artistic eye... I have never seen such beauty as these joyful ones. I am overwhelmed... Roxanne