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Omo Valley Journeys – Abushe

Before I went to the Omo Valley, I’d seen quite a number of images of Abushe circulating on Instagram. After all, it isn’t often you see photos of little blue-eyed children among the many photos you see of people in Africa.

I was intrigued by Abushe as soon as I found out about him. What was he like? Was he easy to find? Would he even mind if I photographed him as well?

When I learned more about him and where he is located, I decided quickly to not divulge anything about him other than a few simple things that I know would be OK to share.

Abushe has a very complex story and there are quite a number of mistruths posted about him on social media by people who perhaps haven’t understood his story. Since I am worried about him being exploited I am not going to divulge exactly what I know about him. Abushe is just a little kid and he deserves the respect of any child that crosses my path.

I can and will tell you about my impressions of meeting him though!

Abushe shares his blue eyes with other members of his family including, I believe, a cousin of his who lives some distance away.

He is a very striking little boy and as soon as I saw him I recognised him. We met him in a cafe where we shared lunch with him while we chatted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Abushe to be honest. I somehow pictured that he would be a shy little boy, perhaps who has been bullied because of the way he looks?

What I found was the opposite! I met a very sweet young man who is tack sharp, wants to further his education and is always cracking jokes!

He knows photographers well but one of the things that always struck me about photos of him was that we never smiled! I found myself saying aloud “Why does he never smile? He is just a little boy! Doesn’t he ever laugh?”

So I set out to find the zany, funny side of Abushe and photograph him that way.

When we first started taking photos, he pulled all sorts of funny faces at me!

And then I started joking around with him which brought out a fantastic, huge, Abushe smile.

Then he settled down a bit!

I gave him a blue shawl that I had brought with me on the trip. This procured more funny looks!

Soon he got in to the swing of that scarf though and in the end, one of my favourite images of him is with it (below).

Meeting Abushe requires your guide to have good contacts and know the area that he lives in. I’m not the first photographer to meet him obviously but I have one small request for the photographers who may follow in my footsteps.

Please be mindful that this little boy is just that, a little boy. Spend some time with him, enjoy a meal, talk to him. He is not a subject and definitely shouldn’t be objectified for the way he looks. Above all be a good ‘parent’ around him and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do to your own children. He is a lovely little guy with one of the most infectious smiles I’ve seen in Africa. My hope is that he always has a reason to smile. Please go gently with him.

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