World Famous photographer Jimmy Nelson has spent several years pursuing his mission of making an iconic almanac of indigenous cultures. His journey to the far reaches of the globe have yielded some of the most beautiful images of indigenous tribes yet created.
His passion for story telling and sharing the majestic wonder of these tribes shines through with each incredible image. Some of these cultures have not been touched by western man for centuries and others are nearing extinction because of them. We thank Jimmy Nelson for being willing to share his work on this forum. All images remain the property of Jimmy Nelson.
Jimmy’s Social media contacts are as follows:
Hunting: The Kazakh’s are a Turkish people found mostly in Kazakhstan but this particular image was taken in Mongolia. Here the Kazakhs have become experts at hunting with Giant Himalayan Eagles.
Society: With a population of only 50,000 the Himba live in Northern Namibia in the South West of Africa. They are considered one of the last semi nomadic tribes in Africa. The Himba do raise livestock and because of the arid conditions both men and woman are usually only clothed in a small skirt made of calf skin.
Society: The Huli are an indigenous tribe that have lived in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea for over 1000 years. The men are exceptional hunters and the women are exceptional farmers even taking on some Western crops like Sweet Potatoes which have become a staple to their diet.
Legend: The famed Asaro Mudmen of Papua New Guinea were defeated by an enemy tribe and were forced to flee into the Asaro river. Later when the enemy saw their muddied frames emerge from the river they mistook them for spirits and ran away in fear. Because the mud is thought to be poisonous they later developed the masks so they no longer had to put the mud on their face.
Tribal Teaching: “Knowledge is only rumor until it is in the muscle”
Fact: The Papua New Gunie population is one of the most diverse in the world. Typically they live in small clans across the country like the Kalam tribesmen.
Warfare: Inter-tribe warfare is common in Papua New Guinea and the men go to great lengths to intimidate the enemy with makeup and headdress. Here the Garoka show off their mighty battle gear.
Religion: Located in the Arctic Circle inside the Russian Federation the Chukchi Eskimo’s believe every object has a spirit that can be either negative or positive. They hunt polar bears and pictured here is a reindeer rib. Today the Chukchi are educated by Russians and are almost 100% literate in the Russian language.
Tribal Teaching: “The way you treat your dog in this life determines your place in heaven”
History: When the British colonized Australia the Aborigine was very placid. When they moved on to New Zealand they discovered the Maori had a very different temperament. The Maori’s were far more aggressive in their defense. The result is that Maori’s are still 15% of New Zealand’s population and 90% of their Rugby team!
Tribal Teaching: “My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul”
History: Until 1991 no outsiders were allowed to Enter Mustang in the Nepalese Himalayas. Because of its isolation it is one of the last remaining Tibetan cultures left.
Tribal Teaching: “The one who is guilty has the higher voice”
Horsemen: The Gauchos of Argentina are legendary horsemen. For several centuries they have roamed the plains of Rio Grande Do Sol but today their numbers are dwindling fast as plains are consumed by urban expansion and modern farming practices.
Tribal Teaching: “A Gaucho without a horse is only half a man”
Nomadic: The Samburu have inhabited the foot hills of Mount Kenya in Kenya for some 500 years. The tough dry conditions force them to move every 5-6 weeks to ensure their cattle can graze.
Tribal Teaching: “A deaf ear meets with death, a listening ear with blessings”
Culture: Tsaatan translates as Reindeer People. Inhabiting the remotest subarctic taiga in Mongolia only 44 families remain in existence. Their livelihood threatened by the dwindling numbers of their domesticated reindeer.
Tribal Teaching: “If there were no reindeer we would not exist”
Society: For 1,000 years the Rabari have lived in India. While the Men move with the herds the woman manage money, raise children and dedicate many hours to embroidery – an important part of their culture.
Tribal Teaching: “It is morning whenever you wake up”
New Meets Old: Living in Southern Africa the Mursi are famous the world over for their women wearing large clay discs in their lower lip. Only 7500 remain and as you can see by the weapon they are willing to adopt modern technologies to protect their people.
Tribal Teaching: “It’s better to die than live without killing”
Environment: Nestled in passes of North Indian Himalayas the Ladakhi are forced to work very hard to grow food for 4 months while the weather is good. The other 8 months are bitterly cold and they spend their time celebrating one festival after another.
Tribal Teaching: “The land is so harsh and the passes so numerous, that only the best of friends or the worst of enemies would visit you”
Culture: There are over 80 islands that make up Vanuatu and they have been settled by these tribes since before Christ. Today every island has its own language, culture and identity.
Tribal Teaching: “A girl is like a branch of nettle tree – whatever ground you plant it in, it will grow”
History: Over 5.5 million people live in Tibet. This civilization began over 4,000 years ago.
Tribal Teaching: “Better to see once than to hear many times”
Isolation: Over 4,000 Huarani live in Ecuador. As many as five communities – the Tagaeri, the Huiñatare, the Oñamenane, and two groups of the Taromenane – have rejected all contact with the outside world and continue to move into more isolated areas.
Society: Over 20,000 Dassanech have lived in Ethiopia for 1,000 years. They survive on cattle and are often at war with neighboring tribes.
Tribal Teaching: “A close friend can become a close enemy”
Culture: Numbering some 45,000 the Banna of Ethiopia practice ritual dancing and singing. To prepare for the ceremonies they paint themselves with chalk and put flowers in their mouth.
Tribal Teaching: “A close friend can become a close enemy”
Living: The neighboring tribe of Karo number only 2000. In their society each household has two huts. One is a living room and the other a center for household chores.
Tradition: The Hamar are known for their unique custom of “bull jumping,” which initiates a boy into manhood. First, female relatives dance and invite whipping from men who have recently been initiated; this shows their support of the initiate, and their scars give them a right to demand his help in time of need. The boy must run back and forth twice across the backs of a row of bulls or castrated steers, and is ridiculed if he fails.
Tradition: In Papua New Guinea the Dani are the most dreaded headhunting tribe of Papua. An incredible feat considering they do not eat their enemies, like the majority of other Papuan tribes.
Tribal Teaching: “If the hand does nothing, the mouth does not chew”
Culture: The Dani’s neighbors the Yali are officially recognized as pygmies with the average man standing just 5 feet tall. Like most Papuan tribes the husbands have many wives.
Environment: Since the discovery of gas and oil reserves in the Russian tundra where the Nenets live their environment has been steadily shrinking. Each year they migrate over 700 miles and back to avoid the frosty winter which can reach -100 degrees.
Tribal Teaching: “If you don’t drink warm blood and eat fresh meat, you are doomed to die on the tundra”
Massai of Tanzania are one of the last great warrior tribes. They rely heavily on cattle and migrate over large distances looking for water and food.
Tribal Teaching: “Lions can run faster than us, but we can run further”
From the Northern most peninsula of Netherlands is a community known as Marken’s. It was theorized over 100 years ago that as Netherlands modernized their customs and values would be forgotten, but they have held strong and remain true to their ancestors even with a thriving metropolis just a few hours away.
Culture: This intuitive traditional tribe in Northern China has trained birds to fish for them. They tie a snare near the base of the birds throat. This means the bird can eat small fish but not large fish. When a large fish gets caught in the birds throat the bird returns to boat and the fishermen retrieves the fish for himself. Pretty darn clever if you ask me.