Portrait of a Dessanech GirlThe Dassenech are a nomadic tribe that live in the region where Ethiopia borders Kenya and Sudan. We visited one village situated along one of the banks of the Omo River. Getting there was not easy though. We started with a long, bumpy ride over dusty, unpaved road. At the riverbank, we crossed to the other side in very simple, hand hewn dugout canoes. We then trudged across a treeless sandy plain where the wind was blowing so hard I could barely see. I think I still have dust and sand in trapped crevices I never knew my body has. The village itself was not attractive at all – clusters of small flimsy domed huts fashioned from tree limbs and lined with corrugated tin dotted the desert floor. To compound the ugliness of it all, trash was flying about everywhere.
The one bright spot in the harsh Dassanech world are the women who are known for wearing head pieces fashioned from bottle caps and any other small metal items that can be strung up. I saw zipper pulls, padlocks and even ball chains adorning many a woman’s head. Considering what little they have, I admire the Dassanech women for being so creative in coming up with ways to beautify themselves.
Just as we were about to leave, I caught sight of this young girl whose face captivated me. It took me doing some silly antics to get her to warm up to me but in the end, her smiling eyes and toothy grin melted my heart. Surrounded by rubble, I found a small ray of loveliness.