A southern neighbor of the Kara tribe…(the tribe of my two Ethiopian families)…the MOST southerly tribe living in the country’s Omo Valleyare the DASSANECH people.
Despite their close proximity to Lake Turkana, they live in an incredibly dry region with desert to their west and southwest.
Part of our visit to Ethiopia this time was to visit the Delta home of this tribe and to witnesswhat is probably their most important ceremonial event…the DIMI. It’s certainly the biggest ceremony in the lives of Dassanech fathers with daughters. Its purpose is to celebrate and bless the daughters for fertility and future marriage. When the fathers have gone through DIMI, they become elders in the community…an important distinction. The daughters… also the focus of this ceremony…between the ages of 8 and 11, endure circumcision to become what the Dassenech men consider “marriageable women.” (This is one of the few tribes left in Ethiopia that still practice female circumcision, although it’s now against the law… BUT…IT’S TRADITION!)The two purposes are inexorably linked in the DIMI.
The appearance of the celebrants is very specific and unique…
EACH MAN paints himself with yellow mud
Wears a black ostrich feather hat
A leopard skin cape
A giraffe tail armband
Bells on both legs…
Carries a small wooden shield painted red and white
And a very long stick, reminiscent of a spear.
EACH WOMAN, similarly painted,
Wears a cape of colobus monkey fur
Over a leather skirt
And carries a wooden spoon or baton.
A special, temporary village is set up just for ceremony participants and families. The men march from house to house, stopping at each to chant and dance. The women join the ceremony as the men arrive at their hut, then merge into the procession as it progresses around the village. This repeats, morning and night, for several weeks. About 10 cattle and 30 smaller animals are slaughtered (and other stock traded for coffee,) to feed the community as they feast and dance…and the leaders of the village bless the new “marriageable women.”
Definitely a spectacle… and a privilege to witness such a personal, traditional ceremony. Yet another unique experience organized by Steve Turner at originsafaris.com .Forever grateful…
I just wanted to let you know that my old blog posts…years of them…are still available for viewing. I was using BLOGSPOT, but switched to WORDPRESS because it affords more flexibility in posting from ANYWHERE! The previous postings are also about travels, art, book reviews, as well as many photos.
BONOBOS are the “hippy chimps,” found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo…in the second largest solid stretch of rainforest in the world. You may not have heard of them before as these GREAT APES (there are only 4 GREAT APES in our world, as seen below…) live in an extremely remote, sparsely populated, war-torn…and least developed part of the world. Compared to thousands of chimpanzees (pink faces) IN CAPTIVITY, there are only about 100 bonobos (dark faces).
Most of the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo face extreme poverty. It might be the richest country in natural resources, but the second poorest country on earth…I saw and felt the desperation firsthand… overwhelming and very real. These photos were made from a car as it was too dangerous to get out and photograph surroundings. The police were a huge street presence and photographing them is against the law…it was tricky photographing…even with my phone…from the car.
Deep in the heart of the hot, wet, Democratic Republic of the Congo rainforest, there lives a tribe of peacemakers…looking like the familiar chimpanzee, but with darker faces, more graceful limbs, a part down themiddle of their hair and adorable pink lips.
Before entering the bonobos’ forest home, we visited with the local community’s BATEKE tribal “chef de terre” (land chief)for his consent to enter their forests. In the Malebo area (where we were,) a cultural taboo against bonobo hunting has been documented…to keep them out of the very active local bushmeat market. The locals believe that the critically endangered bonobos are their distant ancestors.
Bonobos are the only great apes that are matriarchal…their troops are ruled by female alliances…and, unlike the chimpanzees, they’re a peaceful society, cooperative and much less aggressive. It’s known that bonobos are the only great apes that reduce tensions in their troops (and between different troops of bonobos) through all kinds of sexual contact… they engage in a variety of sexual activities for comfort, for pleasure and for procreation just like their human counterparts. They prefer to “make love, not war!” Practicing “free love,” they are the original Hippy chimps!
HERE’S THE BONOBOS’ STORY…AND MINE:
Pre-dawn wake up… we trek a virgin path into the forest,
Our headlamps light our way.
A primatologist, veterinarian, two trackers and us- 3 friends…
(One tracker is already ahead watching and listening…)
An adventure, to be some of the very first“tourists”
To see bonobos in the wild.
Stop… Wait… Listen…
When a sliver of light appears
In the black, night sky,
We hike into the densest part
Of the tropical rainforest.
A tracker chops vines and branches from our faces
And undergrowth from our feet,
While noting our location
and proximity to the bonobos’ night nests.
We follow him blindly, into the unknown…
Suddenly, he stops…
Silently points upward…
The canopy of a single tree…
At least 100 feet away,
Starts to move…slowly…
Then, as if possessed by a gale-force wind…
Unexpectedly, a shape…
Black as night…
Appears on a single branch:
Lanky, with long, muscular arms,
Enormous hands and fingers,
Bowed legs and a piercing cry…
This, along with the chimpanzee,
Is our closest living relative…
The elusive and rarely seen
Momentarily, a few more bonobos
Emerge from their nests,
Shrieking and peeping,
Then melt into the nearby foliage.
This bonobo remains…
In the semi-darkness,
I make my first WILD BONOBO photograph
In the vine-draped Congolese rainforest of Tarzan…
MORE WILD BONOBO PHOTOS…somewhat dark and fuzzy…challenging light!!
Beforethe World Wildlife Federation (WWF) presented us with the privilege of spending time with the wild bonobos, we spent some up close and personal time at a facility called LOLA YA BONOBO, a rescue, rehabilitate and release facility for bonobos. It’s located just outside of Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of theCongo’s capital city.Founded by Claudine Andre in 1994, it’s the world’s only lifetime care sanctuary for orphaned bonobos. We spent many hours observingthese rescued great apes… our own personal BONOBOVILLE…eating, playing, mating, relaxing…sometimes just inches away from us …in an environment mirroring the wild. They forage for food, compete for mating opportunities and learn to avoid dangers such as stepping on a venomous snake…just as they would in the wild.Below are some photos of these least familiar, most rare great apes for you to enjoy..but first, some final comments…
This trip was exhilarating, exhausting, challenging and educational. My awareness of the need for conservation has been sufficiently aroused. Walkingin a rainforest is hard work. But there’s nothing more satisfying than coming back from the forest covered in dirt and twigs…exhausted, but high from the close encounters with the bonobos…and having a shower, even if it’s with cold water from the river that still has some leaves and mud floating in it!Simply having the opportunity to stand in the company of some of nature’s rarest animals…to appreciate the extraordinary gift of experiencing the rainforest in a way that most people never will. It was amazing…
I must thank Steve and Jayne Turner for including me on another one of their mind-expanding adventures. If you dream it, Steve Turner at http://www.originsafaris.com can make it a reality.
Hummingbirds have a long history of folklore and symbolism in native cultures. The Aztecs saw them as messengers between them and their ancestors…or even, the gods. In Native American culture, the hummingbirds are seen as healers and carriers of love, good luck and joy.
I’ve been watching for these tiny birds each of the two summers we’ve been in our new home. The third brought the magic! We’ve seen them before, but never close enough to photograph. Sooo thrilled that these beautiful birds weren’t intimidated as I stood next to them, camera in hand. Here’s one of the results…
Thanks, little guys…I look forward to our next meeting! 🥰🎉
P.S. This posting was prompted by our recent day-trip to New York City for a photography workshop. It’s a place that I love… and wished I had more time to photograph more of this vibrant city! Another time…
The screams and applause of welcome begin as Josh Groban takes the stage…
From his latest album, “BRIDGES,” he opens with a song of fear, frustration…and hope…”Bigger Than Us!”
The crowd goes wild!!!
This gracious operatic pop singer, (songwriter and actor) appealed to all ages making up his audience. With heartfelt songs, he took us on a musical journey with tunes of love and hope, many personal anecdotes and open talks about things near and dear to his heart (like the need for us all to address mental health issues…and keeping arts education in our schools so children can learn to express themselves freely.) He managed, effortlessly to make the sprawling Turning Stone concert arena (in Verona, New York,) feel intimate. The one HUGE screen behind him artfully magnified all onstage images and video, bringing them to us “up close and personal!”
Possessing arguably one of the finest voices in contemporary music, his vocal choices were impeccable…and it was PURE JOSH…no opening act to detract from the reason we were all there! When he started to sing, a switch flipped and this somewhat geeky young man transformed into an ever soooo smooooth music virtuoso. He was onstage, without a break, for the entire concert. He sang as though he deeply felt each song he performed. His “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables and “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory left me breathless, filled with awe and wonder. The rest of the concert didn’t disappoint either.
Other than his never-faltering voice, the other standout of this special evening was Michael’s and my opportunity to meet and chat (however briefly) with this modest, humble, warm and very accomplished young man. He made us feel as though we were long-time friends.
If and when this gifted performer and stellar spirit returns to Central New York, your can bet we’ll be there…to welcome him and take him and his music to our hearts.
His music makes my world better…thanks, Josh Groban! ♥️🎼
What’s amazing about Umbria is that it doesn’t have big cities to contend with. Situated between raging metropolises like Rome and Florence, it’s the green heart of Italy…peaceful and beautiful with its rolling topography. Boasting postage stamp towns and villages…some on hilltops, some not…with lots of ancient history, picture-worthy scenery and people simply living their lives…there’s always so much to take in!
Back in Orvieto, (our beautiful hill-town/home-away-from-home,) with my daughter,
as she hosts an art group for her http://www.adventuresinitaly.ca business, it’s always wonderful to reunite with community members who are dear to us…who have become extended family through the years…
…and walk the ancient, history-filled stones of this medieval town, propelling us forward to once again appreciate our beautiful surroundings.
Ever exciting is the promise of new discoveries…friends and places… even in such familiar surroundings. The streets are books of stone that can be browsed in small steps. They tell of millennial events from the oldest civilizations…times before the birth of Christ…and have left remarkable evidence of those times. This trip’s first “discovery,” we found in the basement of Sant’ Andrea Church. In this 12th century church that sits just outside our neighbourhood on Piazza della Repubblica,
we found confirmation of those ancient periods dating back to the Bronze Age…3000 years ago… remnants of the streets, water system pipes, building design and mosaic floors of a former church…layer upon layer of civilizations dating back to 1100 BCE. What a find!
Hard to imagine living, breathing civilizations so old when we walk above their remains, along the tangle of streets, shops and alleyways. This 21st century small town, Orvieto, is another city, carved over the centuries, by the peoples who have lived in this part of Italy. Hundreds of caves, silos, trenches, cellars, tunnels and stores run under the picturesque houses, shops and miscellaneous buildings of the old town…fascinating!!
The other “discovery” for this trip was the Pozzo di S.Patrizio…St. Patrick’s Well…built in the early 1500’s to store water in case Orvieto was attacked by its enemies. The well is an architectural wonder. The central shaft is surrounded by two spiral ramps accessed by two doors that allowed the mules to carry empty and full water vessels separately up and down without obstruction. There’s even a bridge to cross when necessary, at the well’s base. The structure is 174 feet deep with a base of 43 feet. It seemed like there were millions of stone steps to navigate…TWICE…up and down, but in reality, there were 248 steps at a pretty steep angle, and 70 windows to provide illumination. We’ve wanted to see this well for years, but this was the first time we finally MADE the time to do it…well worth the effort!!
Ancient communities with their often crumbling (but ever charming) architecture adorn rocky hilltops and spread down to the verdant, currently poppy-laden fields of Umbria.
The carols of the birds and bells of sacred places fill my heart with timeless music.
With the ancestry of the Etruscans (since 1100 BCE,) the influence of the ancient Greeks and the fine-tuning of the Romans, Italian arts and culture is everlasting!
More than just the sacred spaces…the many churches and the necropolises…Umbrian towns and villages offer unimaginable beauty. The narrow, cobbled streets and alleyways open onto unlimited spaces…the countryside…visions that can stretch to the rim of the sky.
We rented a car to go exploring and brave Michelle drove…too often…in the pouring rain! As the hilly patchwork of yellow, green and red fields unfolded on both sides of the road, she zipped around hairpin turns on the serpentine roads like a race car driver. But, no matter how death-defyingly fast we went, it never seemed fast enough for those seasoned drivers behind us! As my lionhearted daughter got used to the driving, her knuckles returned to their natural color and we relaxed, delighting in each new destination…no pressure!
From fishing villages to very small as well as larger villages, we traveled to the following Umbrian gems…
CORCIANO, MARTA, CITTA DE CASTELLO, MONTEFALCO, BEVAGNA, DERUTA, PERUGIA, SPELLO…
and we visited all these towns and villages from a new home base…SPOLETO. These were all noteworthy destinations with too much eye candy to post. But, here are some of our favorite sites…
Umbria is a blend of man and nature, spirituality and reverence and intense pride. Every location has a unique identity…the result of millennia of civilization leaving dense layers of memory and timeless masterpieces throughout the land. Dotted with medieval towns, the Umbrian hills offer stunning landscapes. You only need to travel a few kilometres to discover places of unspoilt wilderness with centuries old trees, deep caves, mountains, rivers, lakes and steep cliffs. Umbria is, indeed, a perfect destination to experience extreme beauty, sumptuous food and wine and slow, uncrowned travel…enjoying every moment.
See you next year, Umbria…and thanks for the continuing good times. 🥰