The Essence of Africa: Award-Winning Natural History Photographer Steve Bloom Has Described His New Book, Living Africa, Images from Which Are Reproduced Here, as 'A Fleeting Glimpse of the Africa I Love', Yet It Still Manages to Express the Essence and Diversity of This Gigantic Continent

By Bloom, Steve | Geographical, December 2008 | Go to article overview

The Essence of Africa: Award-Winning Natural History Photographer Steve Bloom Has Described His New Book, Living Africa, Images from Which Are Reproduced Here, as 'A Fleeting Glimpse of the Africa I Love', Yet It Still Manages to Express the Essence and Diversity of This Gigantic Continent


Bloom, Steve, Geographical


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A Karo gathering, Omo Valley, Ethiopia. The Karo are a small tribe numbering less than 1,000 who live on the banks of the Omo River. They differentiate themselves from neighbouring tribes through their extensive use of body painting. They use ochre, chalk, charcoal and pulverised rock to achieve a variety of colours. The body artists create vibrant designs that accentuate fine facial features and enhance their graceful movements. Members of the tribe are under constant threat from larger surrounding tribes that have more guns and warriors. Both men and women scar themselves; the men to indicate how many enemies they have killed. The scars are made with a sharp blade before ash is rubbed in, which causes the wounds to rise as they heal

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Wodaabe man, Niger. Nomadic herders who inhabit the southern areas of the Sahara Desert, mostly in Niger, the Woodabe have straighter hair, narrower noses, thinner lips, larger eyes and longer faces than most of their neighbours. These characteristics are considered by the Wodaabe to be signs of beauty, and are emphasised wherever possible using techniques such as decorative facial scarring and race painting. At the end of the rainy season, they get together for the Gerewol festival, where the men of the tribe beautify themselves, then preen and parade before a gathering of eligible women before taking part in competitive dances where prowess is defined by the number and intensity of different facial expressions they can generate.

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A male ostrich crosses the seemingly barren dunes of the Namib Desert, Namibia. Rain is exceedingly rare here, but moisture from the fog that rolls in from the cold Atlantic Ocean supports a surprising range of plants and animals. Although flightless, ostriches have long, powerful legs that enable them to sustain speeds of 50km/h for up to half an hour; Flamingoes stand in channels between islands of soda in Lake Magadi, Kenya. Flamingoes use their curved beaks to filter the mud for small crustaceans and algae. Attracted by the high concentrations of food, they rest in huge flocks in the alkaline lakes of the Great Rift Valley. The lakes are a hostile environment to most other animals, so the birds are relatively safe from predators

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Samburu men, Mount Nyiru, Kenya. …

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The Essence of Africa: Award-Winning Natural History Photographer Steve Bloom Has Described His New Book, Living Africa, Images from Which Are Reproduced Here, as 'A Fleeting Glimpse of the Africa I Love', Yet It Still Manages to Express the Essence and Diversity of This Gigantic Continent
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