The Ma’Ati nation meets the Mursi nation. Finally in a place I began to understand myself. If this pic moves you, please go to the Rift and Omo Valley yourself. These beautiful civilizations, which we’re racing to have again, are under threat due to “development” and destructive tourism practices. Those in the Diaspora have the means to help our brothers and sisters to continue to live in dignity instead of being forced to become the spectacles in human zoos.

When I went to the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, the energy that struck me the most and stayed with me during the extent of my stay, was just the familiarity. Seeing how the residents of the Valley walked down the road, and the pride and ease they carried along with them, illustrated in real life the longing I believe I and others in the Diaspora feel. We long to be free and fearless and creative and magical, on our own terms. So to see that freshness in person changed what I thought I knew about myself and the possibilities of my identity.
Near the Valley, the town Jinka is getting an airport, which means way more tourists and the destructive practices that un-ethical tourism can render. Many of the “villages” in the National Park near the town are where tourists and members of the Valley’s nations meet, and it feels like a human safari. Folks stopping long enough to snap some pics, throw some coins at pleading villagers and drive off in their white SUVs. On the flip side, the town Tumi has recently discovered oil nearby and this will obviously have a dramatic effect on the lifestyle of the Hamer nation.
Visit the south of Ethiopia. I believe that if more travelers who were aware of exploitation’s effects visited these places in the right way, it could help to encourage their preservation.

@themaatimag || Shamira is the founding editor of upcoming online illustrated novel/ travel magazine, The Ma’Ati and has previously worked with France24, AlJazeera Investigations and Gwonders Production.

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