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AFRICA Lens: Hans Silvester


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Hans Silvester-This is Africa through my Lens


Hans Silvester, born in 1938 in Lorrach, Germany is an acclaimed award winning photographer who has published numerous photography books, including Les Peuples de l’Omo, Abrams’ Horses of the Camargue, Desert Eves: An Indian Paradise, and H2O: The Beauty & Mystery of Water.

The people of the Surma and Mursi tribes live in the Omo Valley of Southern Ethiopia are body painters: they paint their bodies with pigments made from the earth as an immemorial and quotidian practice – mothers paint babies, children and adults paint themselves and each other in a tradition that seems unchanged for thousands of years. Their paintings range from abstract designs of circles, lines, dots and swirls, sometimes focused on specific body parts, to all-over patterns of flowers, zig-zags and fingerprints that form a dazzling array on the entire body. White, yellow, orange and ochre; the natural pigments that they use are derived from the soil and rocks of their surroundings. The tribes’ daily paintings are an essential expression of their lives – more elemental to them than music or dance. Fascinated by the Surma and Mursi tribes’ painting practices and astounded by the beauty of their ephemeral art, Silvester captures the diverse and extraordinary effects that they achieve through their ancient tradition.

Source Malborough Gallery


Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester

Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley by Hans Silvester

In this ambitious work, Hans Silvester turns his photographic eye toward ancient Africa, the birthplace of humanity. Silvester was essentially adopted by his subjects during his travels, and his stunning color photographs present a rare, intimate view of their world.
The first volume of this deluxe two-volume set presents the everyday lives of the Omo people, their rituals, parades, children’s games, and even their battles. In the second volume, each photograph becomes a masterpiece of abstract art, revealing close-ups of the tribes’ traditional body paintings. Silvester’s accompanying text traces his journey to the Horn of Africa, revealing the fascinating beauty of a world now in danger of extinction.

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