A tribe is viewed, historically or developmentally, as a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states. A tribe is a distinct people, dependent on their land for their livelihood, who are largely self-sufficient, and not integrated into the national society.
"Those which have followed ways of life for many generations that are largely self-sufficient, and are clearly different from the mainstream and dominant society." - Stephen Corry
Sounds like our kind of people. Here at KTGA we're getting ready for Vintage Tribal Fest our 4th Grand Bazaar and this time around we honour the small groups who fight to maintain their strong shared customs. In a world so fully integrated and connected it can be difficult to stand against the rising tide of technology. Tribal culture is still here, for now and along with our sponsors Perrier, SUMMERGATE SPIRITS OF INDEPENDENCE and Summergate we want to share their stories and support their bravery in remaining true to themselves and their roots.
Over the coming weeks we'll be posting everything we can that's tribe related, from how they inspire lifestyle gurus to grand fashion houses. We'll look at their customs and clothing, tattoos, food and music, where they come from and what's their future. We can't wait until we see you on July 4th-5th at Da Tong Mill, but for now we'll just have to whet your appetite with the beautiful and magical histories of the worlds most wonderful TRIBES.
“Fine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakh”
The Kazakhs are the descendants of Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian indigenous groups and Huns that populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea. They are a semi-nomadic people and have roamed the mountains and valleys of western Mongolia with their herds since the 19th century.
The ancient art of eagle hunting is one of many traditions and skills that the Kazakhs have been able to hold on to for the last decades. They rely on their clan and herds, believing in pre-Islamic cults of the sky, the ancestors, fire and the supernatural forces of good and evil spirits.
“Don’t start your farming with cattle, start it with people”
The Himba are an ancient indigenous group of tall, slender and statuesque herders. Since the 16th century they have lived in scattered settlements, leading a life that has remained unchanged, surviving war and droughts. The tribal structure helps them live in one of the most extreme environments on earth.
Each member belongs to two clans, through the father and the mother. Marriages are arranged with a view to spreading wealth. Looks are vital, it tells everything about one’s place within the group and phase of life. The headman, normally a grandfather, is responsible for the rules of the indigenous group.
“Knowledge is only rumour until it is in the muscle”
It is believed that the first Papua New Guineans migrated to the island over 45000 years ago. Today, over 3 million people, half of the heterogeneous population, live in the highlands. Some of these communities have engaged in low-scale indigenous conflict with their neighbours for millennia.
The indigenous groups fight over land, pigs and women. Great effort is made to impress the enemy. The largest indigenous group, the Huli wigmen, paint their faces yellow, red and white and are famous for their tradition of making ornamented wigs from their own hair. An axe with a claw completes the intimidating effect.
A number of different indigenous groups have lived scattered across the highland plateau for 1000 years, in small agrarian clans, isolated by the harsh terrain and divided by language, custom and tradition. The legendary Asaro Mudmen first met with the Western world in the middle of the 20th century.
Legend has it that the Mudmen were forced to flee from an enemy into the Asaro River where they waited until dusk to escape. The enemy saw them rise from the banks covered in mud and thought they were spirits. The Asaro still apply mud and masks to keep the illusion alive and terrify other indigenous groups.
The eastern half of New Guinea gained full independence from Australia in 1975, when Papua New Guinea was born. The indigenous population is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Traditionally, the different groups scattered across the highland plateau, live in small agrarian clans.
The first visitors were impressed to find valleys of carefully planned gardens and irrigation ditches. The women of the indigenous groups are exceptional farmers. The men hunt and fight other tribes over land, pigs and women. Great effort is made to impress the enemy with terrifying masks, wigs and paint.
The indigenous population of the world’s second largest island is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. The harsh terrain and historic inter-tribal warfare has lead to village isolation and the proliferation of distinct languages. A number of different groups are scattered across the highland plateau.
Life is simple in the highland villages. The residents have plenty of good food, close-knit families and a great respect for the wonders of nature. They survive by hunting, gathering plants and growing crops. Indigenous warfare is common and men go through great effort to impress the enemy with make-up and ornaments.
“The way you treat your dog in this life determines your place in heaven”
The ancient Arctic Chukchi live on the peninsula of the Chukotka. Unlike other native groups of Siberia, they have never been conquered by Russian troops. Their environment and traditional culture endured destruction under Soviet rule, by weapon testing and pollution.
Due to the harsh climate and difficulty of life in the tundra, hospitality and generosity are highly prized among the Chukchi. They believe that all natural phenomena are considered to have their own spirits. Traditional lifestyle still survives but is increasingly supplemented.
“My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul”
The long and intriguing story of the origine of the indigenous Maori people can be traced back to the 13th century, the mythical homeland Hawaiki, Eastern Polynesia. Due to centuries of isolation, the Maori established a distinct society with characteristic art, a separate language and unique mythology.
Defining aspects of Maori traditional culture include art, dance, legends, tattoos and community. While the arrival of European colonists in the 18th centure had a profound impact on the Maori way of life, many aspects of traditional society have survived into the 21st century.
“A Gaucho without a horse is only half a man”
Nomadic and colourful horsemen and cowboys have wandered the prairies as early as the 1700s, when wild Cimarron cattle overpopulated the flatlands. In the 18th century, when leather was in high demand, Gauchos arose to clandestinely hunt the huge herds of horses and cattle.
The word ‘Gaucho’ was used to describe the free spirits, inseparable from their horse and knife. Over time, when extensive portions of prairies were settled and commercial cattle began, there was less room for the Gauchos to roam. As their way of living changed, the legend of the Gaucho grew.
The lighthouse known as De Brandaris welcomes visitors to the island.
Terschelling is a municipality and an island in the northern Netherlands, one of the West Frisian Islands. It is situated between the islands of Vlieland and Ameland.
Tourism became an increasingly important factor in the 20th century. Of the Dutch Wadden Sea islands, Terschelling was very much a latecomer in the tourism field; with agriculture and maritime business long remaining the most important sources of income for the island. However, nowadays tourism is the most important economic activity
“Lions can run faster than us, but we can run farther”
When the Maasai migrated from the Sudan in the 15th century, they attacked the indigenous groups they met along the way and raided cattle. By the end of their journey, they had taken over almost all of the land in the Rift Valley. To be a Maasai is to be born into one of the last great warrior cultures.
The Maasai’s entire way of life has historically depended on their cattle, following patterns of rainfall over vast land in search of food and water. Nowadays, it is common to see young Maasai men and women in cities selling not just goats and cows, but also beads, mobile phones, charcoal, grain.
“If you don’t drink warm blood and eat fresh meat, you are doomed to die on the tundra”
The Nenets are reindeer herders, migrating across the Yamal peninsula, thriving for more then a millennium with temperatures from minus 50°C in winter to 35°C in summer. Their annual migration of over a 1000 km includes a 48 km crossing of the frozen waters of the Ob River.
The discovery of oil and gas reserves in the 1970s and the expanding infrastructure on the peninsula, has challenged their indigenous lifestyle. From the late Stalin period, all children have been enrolled in Soviet boarding schools, this has become a part of the typical Nenets life cycle.
“If the hand does nothing, the mouth does not chew”
One of the indigenous groups inhabiting the Baliem Valley region, in the midst of the Jayawijaya mountain range of Papua Indonesia, is the Yali ‘Lords of the Earth’. They live in the virgin forests of the highlands. The Yali are officially recognised as pygmies, with men standing at just 150 cm tall.
Papuan indigenous groups, different in appearance and language, have a similar way of life. They are all polygamist and conduct rituals for important occasions at which reciprocal exchange of gifts is obligated. The Koteka, penis gourd, is a piece of traditional clothing used to distinguish indigenous identity.
“A close friend can become a close enemy”
Life in the Omo Valley, in southwest Ethiopia, has changed very little since the turn of the first millennium. Over 200,000 indigenous peoples live a simple life of hunting and raising cattle along the banks of the River Omo. Within the village, the women build and take down the huts during migrations.
There are serious concerns about the impact of a gigantic dam, currently under construction. It will produce much-needed electricity, but at the same time reduce the river’s flow and tame the seasons of flood and retreat. The fencing of game parks is another threat, restricting the access of the local indigenous peoples.
“Boast during the day, be humble at night”
Around 2,500 Drokpas live in three small villages in a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The only fertile valley of Ladakh. The Drokpas are completely different– physically, culturally, linguistically and socially – from the Tibeto-Burman inhabitants of most of Ladakh.
For centuries, the Drokpas have been indulging in public kissing and wife-swapping without inhibitions. Their cultural exuberance is reflected in exquisite dresses and ornaments. Their main sources of income are products from the well-tended vegetable gardens.
“Better to see once than to hear many times”
The approximate 5.5 million Tibetans are an ethnic group with bold and uninhibited characteristics. Archaeological and geological discoveries indicate that the Tibetans are descendants of aboriginal and nomadic Qiang tribes. The history of Tibet began around 4,000 years ago.
Prayer flags, sky burials, festival devil dances, spirit traps, rubbing holy stones, all associated with Tibetan beliefs, evolved from the ancient shamanist Bon religion. The costume and ornaments communicate not only the habits, but also the history, beliefs, climate and character of the people.
“It is morning whenever you wake up"
For almost 1,000 years, the Rabari have roamed the deserts and plains of what is today western India. It is believed that this indigenous group, with a peculiar Persian physiognomy, migrated from the Iranian plateau more than a millennium ago. The Rabari are now found largely in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The Rabari women dedicate long hours to embroidery, a vital and evolving expression of their crafted textile tradition. They also manage the hamlets and all money matters while the men are on the move with the herds. The livestock, wool, milk and leather, is their main source of income.
“A girl is like a branch of nettle tree – whatever ground you plant it in, it will grow”
Settlement in the 85 Vanuatu islands dates back to around 500 BC. There is evidence that Melanesian navigators from Papua New Guinea were the first to colonise Vanuatu. Over centuries, other migrations followed. Nowadays, all the inhabited islands have their own languages, customs and traditions.
Many Vanuatu believe that wealth can be obtained through ceremonies. Dance is an important part of their culture; many villages have dancing grounds called Nasara. A significant traditional event is the Toka festival on Tanna Island, a symbol of alliance and friendship between different indigenous groups.
Truly inspiring project:
BEFORE THEY PASS AWAY - THE PROJECT
Between 2010 & 2013 Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to document some of the most fantastic indigenous cultures left on the planet today. He had come to realize that from a life spent travelling that his camera was the perfect tool for making contact and building intimate and unique friendships. Relationships with hither to unknown and understood communities in some of the farther most reaches of the planet. He wanted to discover how the rest of the world is threatening to change their way of life forever. But most importantly, he wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time.
Jimmy’s projects title ‘Before they pass away’ is intended to be a controversial catalyst for further discussion as to the authenticity of these fragile disappearing cultures. Jimmy Nelson is not a studied scientist but rather an self trained and visual anthropologist who through curiosity is trying to find answers. He wants to tell stories that leave room for the recipient’s questions. With the project Jimmy Nelson tried next to creating a photographic document, creating an awareness for the fascinating variety of the culture- and history charged symbols of the people, reflecting their rites, customs and traditions, that had hitherto has not existed.
Photo credit: http://www.beforethey.com/