Souls of Kibish

Biljana Jurukovski

2018 - Ongoing

Over the course of few voyages to Africa's Omo Valley, I became fascinated by the beauty of the Surma, Mursi, Hamer and Arbore tribes, who share a taste for body painting and extravagant decorations borrowed from nature.

In between Ethiopia and South Sudan is where the Avant Garde of the tribal world is found. This is where rivers wind through dry grasslands - there is flora and fauna, with water supporting abundant flowers and wild fruit trees. This is where nature instigates and invites spontaneous creativity. Within hand’s reach flourishes plants, branches, horns and more – inspiring art, imagination, and self-expression. Civilisation here is among the most ancient, mystical and exotic in the world.

This portfolio serialises the stories of the Surma tribe - a people who are as creative as they are proud. Their bodies are canvases, the valleys their catwalk, mother earth their designer of haute couture.

For them, beauty is impromptu, and accessories are born in a moment. They make mesmerizing hats and headdresses, bracelets and bangles – from fallen leaves, plant roots and seed pods. Extravagance, drama and theatre are the only trends known.

Their practices of body painting, decorative scarring and piercings have been practised for centuries. And so, tradition continues – heritage is passed from generation to generation.

These costumes demand craftsmanship that levels any dressmaker or designer in our developed world. To observe these people, even for an hour, is to observe strength, dignity and pride.

The grounds here are rich with colour - white kaolin, red ochre, yellow sulfur, grey ash and white limestone – all common minerals of the earth and a palette of hues for the body.

My portfolio shines a light on the uniqueness of this society. Among which is pride and strength, and within which is art and beauty. Image by image, this portfolio honours them and their world – a world that is boundlessly inventive, magical and natural.

In their individuality there lies much to be admired. To embrace vividly differently cultures such as that of the Surma Tribe is to discover stories, and to step beyond the fear of unknown places.

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  • In the name of the tribe

  • The boy I was

  • Tribal warrior

  • Spirit of Kibish

  • Tribal Madonna

  • Mother's Love

  • Mother Africa

  • Human Canvas

  • Painted soul

  • Tribal grace

  • Tribal Muse

  • Kibish girl

  • Enchanted

  • Kibish calling

  • Artisan of Kibish

  • Kibish soul

  • One of a kind