Omo. Peuples & design
7th 2008 to
August 31st 2009
Musée Royal de l’Afrique
Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080
temporary exhibit at the MRAC in Tervuren, this time dedicated to the people
of south-west Ethiopia.
Valley of the Omo River in south-western Ethiopia is actually populated by a
dozen peoples of shepherds who speak different languages and most of them
migrated to the area over the past three centuries. Presently, there are
about 110,000 people on a total area of 24,000 square kilometres. The
living conditions are extreme and the main and constant concern is survival.
Livestock is at the heart of their economy and their way of thought. The
maintenance of the herd largely determines their way of life and obliges
them to live a semi-nomadic life. Yet these shepherd populations dedicate
extraordinary attention to the aesthetics of their objects of daily use.
Equally remarkable are the visual codes embodied in the hair, the headgears
and clothings, on which the identity of the individual or the group are
Royal de l'Afrique Central has an extraordinary collection of over 1250
objects from the shepherd peoples of the Omo Valley and in this exhibition
are shown, for the very first time to the public, a vast selection of the
best examples. About sixty images of the photographer Hans Silvester will
complete the themes developed in the exhibition.
exhibition is divided into three sections: the first describes the
environment in which these populations live in, a truly "wild" place,
entirely determined by the hot climate and the scarcity of rain. The second
section explains in detail the dynamics between men and herds, the
only social status and sign of wealth, as the basis for food and the
supplier of many elements of material culture, and the third section
describes the complex system of visual codes and symbols that these
populations have developed, including scarification and other "body
by Gustaaf Verswijver, the catalogue OMO. Peuples et design (260
pages, 230 coloured photos) is beautifully illustrated and also contains
pictures of Hans Silvester. This exhibition and it's catalogue propose a
whole new look at these populations, which emphasizes the refinement and the
design of everyday objects. Of the latter - explains the author of the texts
Gustaaf Verswijver - you can completely understand the meaning only by
analysing in depth the social and anthropological dynamics of the
civilization that produced them.