We are deep in tribal Africa. Today brought us into the Mago National Park and the home of the Murci tribe. I first visited this tribe eight years ago and — well, frankly, my mind was blown wide open.
I had heard of nomadic people living in traditional ways, I had looked at the photos in National Geographic, I had seen the exotic pictures of tribal people, but standing in their village, shaking their hands and interacting with them — well, that is something else entirely.
It’s confusing at best: Should I even be here? Always I find there are more questions than answers, but after having read the interviews with the tribal women at the Jinka Museum, they want us here; in no uncertain terms, they want the money tourism brings. Of course, they just want their culture portrayed correctly, so I’ll say very little, as I am just a student in my understanding.
But when you view my photos, I will ask you to keep in mind that we are all 99 percent the same in our DNA. A smile and sense of respect goes a long way, and seeking first to understand is essential.
We also went to the Banna tribal people’s market in the afternoon. Each tribe has its own traditions and customs, which the local guides and the Jinka Museum share just a bit of with us. When a Banna woman is married, she braids her hair and colors it with butter and red earth so after a young man successfully jumps the bulls and qualifies for marriage he will know who is available. His first wife wears one necklace; his second wife will wear two. In all of the tribes, a woman’s most important question is, “How many cattle do you have?” If there are many cattle, the woman is interested, but if a man has few, his prospects are limited. It’s a a lot to take in.
Everything an artist does affects their work, and I am very sure how these majestic landscapes will play out in my studio, but as for the color and customs and decoration of tribal life — well, we will have to see what will emerge in my work and what will lie beneath the surface.