Translation:In search of the Lost Tribes

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In search of the Lost Tribes  (2014) 
by Viktor Pinchuk, translated from Russian by Wikisource
An article from the newspaper "Krimskoye vremia" (Crimean Time), published on October 16, 2014.

Barabaig people.jpg
A horde of savages with loud screaming pursued the uninvited guest. The war paint of the faces, loincloths made of palm leaves, and bird feathers in different parts of the body — all this was terrifying and awe-inspiring. The sharp spears of the pursuers are about to stick into the overtaken victim. Exhausted, I stopped. Taking advantage of my confusion, one of the aborigines launched a tomahawk. In a second, the weapon would have split my skull, filled with thoughts, unpublished articles, projects, but... I woke up!

Viktor PINCHUK

IN SEARCH OF THE
LOST TRIBES
Himba woman (Namibia).jpg

"This individual reminds me of someone... — thought, coming to my senses after a nightmarish vision. A day earlier, the editor, giving recommendations about writing a new article, threatened that if there were no adventures in it, I would be left without a piece of bread. Strictly, but fairly.

Editor-In-Chief!! It was he who appeared in the form of a savage with a tomahawk. My brain processed the information received one day before and "scrolled" the warning dream. Maybe he's right? The first book published is not in high demand. The second, awaiting publication is written according to the same scheme, in the genre of travel notes. Who needs a distant and inaccessible Africa, and some kind of weirdo measuring its endless expanses with his steps? That's if the main character of a future article went to the Black Continent in search of treasures, got lost, was captured by the savages... Interesting plot! However, now will tell you without fiction about what I saw in Africa. Maybe for the last time.

What is MOSARETU?[edit]

…This is a truck with cement, in the back of which several dozen black passengers are shaking along the potholes of local roads. In their company I got to Lake Turkana — there is no other "public" transport here. Four Kenyan tribes: El Molo, Samburu, Rendille and Turkana (namesakes of the lake) — live peacefully side by side with each other. Local say, foreigners come here sometimes, and a month before my visit, Russians came. An English-speaking boy, noticing my interest, explained that my compatriots arrived in a large team in a hired jeep, lived in the simplest African hut, ate local food. I understood: the countrymen wanted to "come off to the fullest", to taste the real African life, because after a month of vacation will back to the office. God be with them. For the uninitiated, all four tribes look similar to each other, the difference is only in the elements of clothing, they live in round-shaped huts covered with straw, and are engaged in fishing...

"Chocolate" medal from the leader of tribe[edit]

When I told this to one of my friends, he took the news ambiguous. But about everything in order. I got into an area where a white man had never set foot by chance: at our consulate located in the capital of Kenya, I met a Ugandan who came for a visa. He also gave me information that the Internet does not know. I got there, by African standards, relatively easily. After handing out gifts to the aborigines: medallions made from damaged CD-s, earrings without a pair and a comb-brush preserved from school years, I sat down on a bamboo stump, directing the camera lens towards the locals. At this important moment, one of them, apparently an elder of the tribe, came out of the highest hut of the village. They called me to the circle.

Pygmy peoples (batwa).jpg

Only the next day, returning back, I realized what kind of material a strange, almost weightless reward was made of: pressed manure.

Himba: australopithecines with mobile phones[edit]

In the northern regions of Namibia, exists a tribe that has preserved the traditions of the primitive communal system. When I first went into a relatively large supermarket in the village of Opuwo (which is called a city here) and saw two representatives of this nation, — almost speechless from surprise. Pulling out the camera with a jerk took a few shots and only then came to senses. Later I learned that here many aborigines belonging to this ethnic group, and already perceived their like everyday occurrence. The houses of these people are not like the dwellings of other African tribes: built in the form of a cone, they resemble Hutsul hats... made of clay. Both men and women of the tribe are smear over their body and hair a mixture of ochre, fat and ash to protect themselves from the sun that is too hot in those places.

Barabaig — relatives of the Maasai[edit]

Kwa Mtoro is not an African swear word, but a place in Tanzania, where you can get there in an almost civilized way — on a rattling old bus — from the city of Dodoma. After that, need to negotiate with the motorcyclist or walk twenty kilometers. The second option is possible if you are also barabaig by nationality and returning home. Otherwise, the road cannot be found. My guide on an "iron horse", also got a little lost among the wild bushes. The chief of the tribe, as a sign of hospitality, gave us goat milk, and after that I witnessed the procedure of branding the animal. Children were photographed with joy, and adults hid from the lens. I asked the motorcyclist: "What is the reason?" He replied: "They are shy, because dressed homey."

"Gnomes" from the rainforest[edit]

This tribe, which in Uganda is called the batwa, does not need to be represented. From the small town of Fort Portal, possible get to the wilds of the Ituri forest with two transfers. The diaspora of Pygmies living here is not numerous. In the thickets by the roadside there is an "office" for the registration of guests. Vendors of some edible change were sitting at the intersection; a motorcyclist was standing next to them. He offered ride me after visit the office, where every "tourist" is required to register. The last word offended me, causing bad associations. "I’m not a tourist. I am pigmy!" — "This changes everything, get in..." — the motorcyclist suggested, nodding to the seat behind him.

"People the size of a fist", which is how this word is translated from ancient Greek, greeted the guest routinely: they were already used to white visitors. For each photograph, they charged a special price, while threatening to contact the police in case of non-payment. I went into one of the huts and immediately... as if scalded, jumped out: the terrible smell of "horse" sweat hit my nose. After that, I changed my mind about staying here for the night: after taking pictures of local "photo models", I handed the leader a gift — a ruined gas mask — and left.

Many tribes still live a primitive communal system. But they are no longer lost. Unable to protect themselves from civilization and external attention to themselves, the tribes adapt to the situation. Their lives are changing rapidly. Not always for the better. But this is a completely different story.

Viktor PINCHUK
Photos by the author

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