Afar Warrior and Guilé – Why We Weren’t Hacked To Death

by John Downey

I admit, the headline is sensational.  But there’s truth to it.  The Afar tribes who dominate the political division of the same name are well known as fierce warriors who defend their territory and herds to the bitter end.  Look at one crosswise and start begging for forgiveness – the guilé is what you see above. Razor-sharp on both sides. Fortunately, hunters frequent this area, so the locals are habituated to firengees.  For this trip, I had prints from my previous visit and handed them out. This went a long way in establishing rapport and respect from the new folks who, I gather, had NEVER seen a photograph by the way they examined their own faces on paper, rolled and folded them, or asked for a plastic bag.  Comments ranged from, “This is my brother.  Why do I need a picture of him?  He’s not dead yet…” …to speechless smiles.  Word traveled quickly and the next day, more than a dozen folks showed up, curious at first, then wanted their own pictures taken.

My guide, Ahadu, didn’t want to be photographed at first but once I looped the strap around his neck and showed him which button to push, he went wandering off with a lot of expensive glass, shooting everything in sight.  I should have set everything on automatic.  It was a great two days – more portraits to follow…

…yes, he borrowed the hat and glasses.

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