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L. Pescador, 1995





Omo. Peuples & design

from November 7th 2008 to August 31st 2009


Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale

Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren (Belgique)


New temporary exhibit at the MRAC in Tervuren, this time dedicated to the people of south-west Ethiopia.



The 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 based.

The Musée 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.


The 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 modifications ".


Compiled 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.