Photo Essay: The World in Faces

Photo: Ulchi girl – Amur river, Far East of Siberia, Russian Federation

In agreement with the United Nations Department of Global Communication, IPS is pleased to share with it’s global readers, the UN exhibit ‘The World in Faces’, a powerful collection of images to honour indigenous peoples worldwide.

Below is a sampling from the remarkable exhibition. Please visit The World in Faces for many more photos. Photographer: Christoph Lingg

13 July 2021 | Inter Press Service

Sepik Papuan girl – Ambunti, East Sepik river, Papua New Guinea

The East Sepik river serves as the only ‘road’ into many Sepik villages, with little to no infrastructure, including electricity, shops or other amenities. This isolation has helped preserve the East Sepik culture for generations. However, there are fears that their remote paradise will soon be destroyed by mining. There are development plans to introduce a new gold and copper mine along the East Sepik. It is estimated that this area is one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world, but the risk of ecological catastrophe as a result of its exploitation may outweigh the possible benefits to the East Sepik peoples.

Khik woman
 Wakhan Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan

Living in the valley between two of the world’s highest mountain ranges, the Khik people are practically cut off from the rest of the world. Donkeys are used as the main mode of transportation. Khiks are traditionally a nomadic people, depending on their herds of yaks for survival. However, now many of them have settled in clay houses along the river Panj, where they practice agriculture. Due to their extreme isolation their traditions and culture, including their everyday clothing, have remained intact.

Papuan girl
 Massy, Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Laftadio Kupayna, along with a group of other children from Massy village, takes part in a big sing-sing ceremony on the day of this photo. Her mother applied the traditional paint on her face and dressed her in their traditional clothing. Only the Massy decorate themselves in this distinctive way. A sing-sing is a gathering of a few villages to peacefully share traditions. Each village has its own face-painting style and dance. It is a major annual celebration, although they are sometimes called for special events.

Bodi woman
 Mago river, Debub Omo, Southern Nations Region, Ethiopia

Bodi people live in one of the most remote areas of South East Ethiopia along the Mago river. Bodi tribes are dependent on their livestock. There are more than 80 synonyms in their language describing their animals, differentiating them down to the smallest details in their color and physical appearance. Traditional foods consist of animal blood that is collected and stored and milk porridge. Scarification is widespread among both men and women and is intended to demonstrate both beauty and courage.

Ulchi girl
 Amur river, Far East of Siberia, Russian Federation

In a school of her native Bulava village Anastasia Kuchekta, 8, learns her people’s language, dances and embroidery. She helps her mother engrave birch bark and process fish skin. The Ulchi are one of eight groups of Indigenous Peoples living along the 1,740 mile / 2,800 km long Amur river in the Far East of Siberia. Fishing is their primary livelihood. The Ulchi are a very small Indigenous group, living in just 2 villages, yet they have managed to preserve their traditions and national clothing. However the UN ranks the Ulchi language as critically endangered.

Afar woman
 Danakil Depression, North-East Ethiopia

The Afar are Indigenous Peoples located in the Afar Triangle at the Horn of Africa. It is the lowest point of the continent, well below sea level. Affected by constant drought, it is also considered the hottest place on Earth. A skeleton found here in 1994 has been dated to 4.2 million years old. Paleontologists believe the Afar region is the cradle of humanity. The Afar people may well be the descendants of the first humans living on this planet.

Orochi woman
 Coast of the Sea of Japan, Far East Siberia, Russian Federation

The Orochi are an Indigenous people living on the shores of the Sea of Japan, Far East of Siberia, just north of Japan. Ina Akunka was a spiritual leader who dedicated her life to preserve Orochi traditions and culture. Here she is pictured wearing the last traditional clothing made from salmon skin by a traditional master craftsman. That master is no longer with us, and their traditional knowledge died with them. The last person who could speak the Orochi language died 11 years ago. Ina, 64, passed away in 2018. She was one of the last of the Orochi people.

Papuan woman
 Tambul, Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Kuku lives in Lagaim Village, Tambul District, in the Eastern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea. In this photo she has just applied her traditional make up made from local organic material. She is participating in a sing-sing, which is a gathering between a few villages, to peacefully exchange traditions. Each village has its own lineage, face-painting style and dance. A sing-sing is a big event celebrated once a year or on a special occasion. With over 800 Indigenous languages spoken in the country, there is an amazing diversity of people, culture, tradition and oral history. Only 18% of these groups live in urban areas.

Sakha Shaman
 Lena river, Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, North East Siberia, Russian Federation

The Sakha people live in the world’s coldest region with winter temperatures often dipping below -96F/-71C. They speak Sakha – a Turkic language, despite Turkey being more than 7,000 mi/11,300 km away from the Sakha Republic. There are less than 1 million people, spread across a region that is approximately ⅓ the size of the United States. Many Sakha people practice their traditional spiritual practices, including shamanism. Although the Sakha Republic has been considered a part of Russia since the 17th century, the Sakha people have preserved their culture and traditions. Approximately 87 percent of them are fluent in their native language.

Huli man
 Tari, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea

The Huli people have many vibrant and unique traditions – one, the making of wigs using their own hair, is presented in this photo. When boys enter puberty, they live separately from the female members of their clan for about a year. During this initiation, young men live under the direct guidance of male elders, growing their hair and, at the end, get it cut by a traditional wig making master. The wigs, decorated with feathers, are later used for ceremonies throughout the man’s lifetime.

Nenets man
 Tukhard, Taimyr Peninsula, Arctic Siberia, Russian Federation

Pavel Nikiforoff, 36, has a lot of responsibilities – he is the head of the administration of one of the most remote and northernmost settlements of Eurasia and of the world – the village of Tukhard. Until recently, Pavel had a herd of reindeer, but when the local residents elected him as a village Chief, he had to make a difficult choice. Leadership is a huge responsibility. Life in tundra is harsh, with temperatures below -40 F/ -40 C, but for Pavel it is his homeland, and his people’s land. He doesn’t dream of any other life.

Ixil girl
 Santa Maria Nebaj, El Quiché, Guatemala

Joselin Pamela Valdez and her family live in the Cuchumatan mountains of the Guatemalan Highlands. Due to its remoteness, the Ixil Community has largely maintained its traditional culture. Most women are weavers making the handmade traditional clothing that the Ixil women proudly wear in everyday life. Ixil are among the Indigenous Peoples who suffered horrific atrocities during the 36-year Guatemalan civil war which ended in 1996. In 2012 Rios Montt, ex-president of Guatemala, was found guilty of the massacre of 1,771 Ixil People, however, after an appeal which dismissed the conviction and before the second trial’s final verdict, he died in 2018.

Please visit The World in Faces for many more wonderful photos.


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