One more village, why not? The Karo are one of the smallest tribes in this area, numbering perhaps 1000. They live in the village of Kolcho, which is attractively located on a hill overlooking, once again, the Omo River. But what else can I say? When we arrived, there were five other four-wheel drives parked under the specially constructed car port, just off-loading the tourists. Yet, there were sufficient women and children left to immediately line up next to our car, too, for the inevitable photo, against the inevitable two birr. And although I do believe they have their traditional outfit, once again consisting of very little cloths, I just don’t buy it that they are all permanently so elaborately face- and body-painted, or permanently have a nail through their lower lip, or anything else that – I think – is just an addition to attract the tourist’s camera.
No guide here, so no means of communication; however, I do find a young guy, perhaps 20 years old, who speaks quite good English. He tells me that he studies in Arba Minch, in boarding school, and is just visiting back home. Then he asks me for my pen. You can take the boy out of the village, you can’t take the village out of the boy.
Another observation: a man invites me, no, he insists, that I come into his yard, where he and two of his friends are sitting under a thatched roof, eating from an enormous bowl of nuts, or grains, or something. They immediately ask to be photographed, and hold up the bowl in front of them, to increase the attraction of the photo’s subject matter. They never, once, contemplate to offer me a grain, or a nut, or whatever it is they are eating from the bowl. In my culture, you would never not offer some nuts or grains to passing visitors you have just asked in. And in many poor countries I have lived – Haiti, Indonesia, India, you name it -, people would share what they have with visitors. But here tourists are not seen as visitors, with whom you could have a human interaction, they are just seen as mature resources, that can be milked.
Apparently, we pay 200 birr – almost 10 Euros – per person entry to the village, plus 50 birr for the car. Plus all the individual photos, of course. I have no problem with paying, after all, everywhere in the world people pay to see something that is unique. But let’s not do as if we are coming to see an almost extinct culture; let’s just call it by its name, we are here in the South Omo ethnic museum – or call it a zoo, if you like -, and the people here are the museum’s assets – and hopefully their main beneficiaries, too.
We are in the low season, now; imagine the high season, quite possibly with more visitors than objects to look at!
next: the market in Dimeka