neilshea13 12 months ago

2015-07-22_191356photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13

“In the old days, when my father was a child, we didn’t have rifles. We carried spears and clubs, and rifles were for white men and soldiers. But slowly they came in from the west, from Sudan, and everything changed. We Mursi live on the far side of the Omo and there are no bridges, so we were among the last to get them. For a while it was very bad. Back then, if hot-heads came downriver with guns, they took what they wanted. No sense could reach them, no speech was sweet in their ears. Many times we were victims and could only run into the bush or die. Now, we have rifles and our enemies think twice. Everyone thinks twice. Listen, a man must have these things: land, cattle, children. Without land you cannot feed the cattle. Without cattle you cannot pay for a bride. Without a bride you will not have children. Lacking these things leaves a man feeling hungry. Only when he has them all can he be taken seriously. And then he picks up a rifle to defend them. Do you understand? Yes, it’s true that the forest has become quieter. Guns changed that, too. There were once many animals—buffalo, gazelles, lions, leopards. Elephants were very dangerous and sometimes crashed through the village. On the river hippos were most savage of all. Today the hunters find far fewer animals, and a kind of silence waits in the bush. But I won’t say it’s bad. Fools and white men may miss the lion. Missionaries may talk of mercy. I can show you a place where bones still cover the ground, and that is the silence I remember.”

— For the last six years, Randy Olson and I have been documenting culture, change, and conflict in the watershed that connects southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. In the August issue of @natgeo magazine we’ll publish the latest in our series, #NGwatershedstories. Join us at @randyolson and @neilshea13 as we follow water through the desert. You can also find this series archived at #omoriver2009. #2009 #africa #ethiopia #omoriver #mursi #ak47 #guns #hunting #life #rivers #conservation @geneticislands #documentary #everydayafrica #portrait #journalism #instaessay #natgeo @thephotosociety