London-based travel photographer Ben Pipe recently completed a personal portrait project on a tribal group in Ethiopia. The Dassanech Tribe, meaning ‘People of the Delta,” live where the Oma River delta enters Lake Turkana, in the southernmost part of the Omo Valley. It’s a dry region, with nothing but desert to the west and southwest.
The tribe must cultivate crops only when the rains arrive and because of the dry conditions, survival is precarious.
Ben spent time with the tribe, capturing faces of the men, women, boys and girls. Some happy, but most hardened by the rough conditions and survival methods they carry out on a daily basis:
When Dassanech people lose their cattle to disease, drought or a raid by a neighboring tribe, they are unable to sustain their usual way of life. Instead, they become the Dies, or ‘poor people’ and turn for their livelihood to Lake Turkana, where they fish and hunt crocodile and even occasionally hippopotamus.The Dies’ place in Dassanech society is unique. As cattle are a central status symbol, and they have none, they are looked down on. On the one hand, they are considered members of the tribe yet economically, and to some extent culturally, they are set apart.