Natural body fashion and piercings of the Omo people

omo fashion

Photos by Hans Silvestri show natural body fashion and piercings of the Omo people in Southern Ethiopia.  They believe that there is no distinction between themselves, animals, plants or rocks. Everything has a soul. Nature is deeply revered.

This may explain why their unique expression of body art blends seamlessly into their environment. Artists like Picasso, Motherwell and Rothko believed that primitivism was the core of creativity because it conveyed the soul of a person. Abstract Expressionist art was based on the non-intellectual. It was all about revealing your inner expression directly on the canvas.

floral in mouth fashion

With the natural minerals from the earth and surrounding flora, the Omo people decorate their bodies. The natural clays protect them from the sun, insects and are believed to be a deterrent from the supernatural. We in the western world wear tattoos and pierce our bodies.The human race illustrates the deep seated need to adorn ourselves.. Without tv or architecture these people draw upon personal creative resources.


primitive fashion

omo purple flowers fashion

Without social media and architecture, one has to wonder where their sense of color and fashion sense emerge. Notice the piercing of the earlobes. All have significant spiritual meaning.

Today more than ever,  fashion, piercing and tattoos exhibit personal and perhaps spiritual expression.

omo faces 3 wordpressmark rothko primitive


This is the work (on the right) of abstract expressionist,Mark Rothko.  He embraced this primitivism because for him creativity came from the soul and he felt the reaction to his work should also come directly from the soul.

omo bodies and facesmotherwell

The primitive imperfect shapes on the “body canvas’ can be seen in a painting by Robert Motherwell, another abstract expressionist who embraced non representational images to act as a direct path to the heart.

omo gourd head dresspicasso profile 2

Picasso’s portraits also show imperfect elegance. Gone are the beliefs that paintings have to be representational.

omo aka 47

 Sadly, the tribes of the Omo valley are all armed with AKA 47 weapons due to unrest in the Sudan. Here the body paint is meant to act as a deterrent to unwelcome visitors.

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