What I saw, felt, smelled and thought during my time with the Surma tribe carried me beyond my imagination. My prior perspective of this trip was to simply feel their energy, witness their lifestyle and learn from them. When you introduce yourself into an unknown culture, it is impossible to gauge creative results. The first two days our auras didn’t naturally blend on screen, but the longer we basked in each others presence, a very tender energetic communion began to stream between us.
They are curious, pure and uncorrupted. Their faces aren’t holding any form of stress. They walk fierce and proud, in a good pace. I’ve never even seen a runway model walk with the amount of grace they do. They imitate nature.
Our instinct is dying. Their instinct is what guides them. More and more we are living from the head instead of our intuitive heart. We have no clue what it truly means to live in relationship to ourselves and the earth. We merely know what we’re allowed to know. The most important things in life aren’t taught to us anymore.
Tribal people are completely self-sufficient and live in synchronicity with the sacred land. They move within their own unique cultural, social and political entity. Their existence is based upon the principles of living in harmony with nature and the spirit world.
I didn’t want the tribe to perceive me as another tourist so didn’t take out my camera the first few days. It was difficult to detain because every single maneuver they made was a reflection of exquisite beauty. Soft and gentle - at the same time - primal and strong.
As intrigued as I was by their appearance, they were by mine. I figured I’d look less of a stranger with the same haircut as theirs. But when they touched it, they couldn’t contain themselves. The different texture of my millimetered hair was incredibly entertaining. I felt deep heart vibrations when they rubbed my head. At that exact moment their innocent energy became truly palpable. It was magic.
Both Surma men and woman pierce their ears, some woman stretch their lower lip with a plate. They scar their bodies by making little cuts repetitively. They also have a long history of painting themselves using pulverized stones and minerals. Not only is it an expression of emotion and art, there’s also a more practical reason. Different colors are used for ritual, to prevent illness, to attract the opposite sex or to relate to family members or certain animals. a
Every single day I felt a stronger admiration towards the Surma people. One time I was resting in the shade of a sculptural tree and I was watching two men and a woman from a distance, they were just sitting in the grass, peacefully playing with some leaves and stones. On all my travels, I had never seen something like this. 3 adults interacting as children would, with nature and each other.
Photography by Jesse Walker & Marisa Papen