Tip: 8x how to visit tribal peoples

Henk has been with the Suri people in Ethiopia for thirteen years, who live far from civilization as they did a thousand years ago. He also visited the Yanomami Indians in Venezuela, visited the Dani in Papua New Guinea and made the book, Pure India, about tribal peoples of India. Pure India, Pure India, about tribal peoples of India. Sometimes he meets other travellers and unfortunately too often sees disrespectful behaviour towards the indigenous peoples. So if you want to go to the Himba’s of Namibia, the Paduang women (longnecks) of Myanmar or the Dhuka nomads in Mongolia, please check our list below.

Text: Angelique van Os | Photography: Henk Bothof

1. Deepen yourself in the area

It’s an open door, but a lot of tourists skip it. Those who want to visit tribal tribes that still live according to centuries-old traditions and customs and are close to nature, often live in remote areas. This requires the necessary preparation. Have yourself well informed by a local agent who speaks the language of the tribe in question, so that you can communicate well.

2. Make contact first, and be humble in doing so.

Acclimatise first for one or two days, so that people can get used to you and you can get used to them.

3. Don’t take pictures directly

They’re people, not objects!

4. Request permission

If you want to take pictures, always ask the interpreter/guide for permission from the chief whether it is allowed to take pictures.

5. Keep it airy

When you’re ready to shoot, keep it playful and involve people in what you do. Then they often show curiosity. Especially when you show them the pictures and present them in a light-hearted way.

“I always talk to the people I photograph in Dutch. They don’t understand it, but they notice that I relax and they often find the foreign language funny. There is a very amicable, informal atmosphere and that’s relaxed photography for both people and me.”

Henk Bothof
Lambadi woman

6. Create trust

The longer you stay with tribal tribes, the more likely it is that you will be able to attend special rituals or customs. A stay is about mutual trust. Think of at least four days. A visit of one day is too short to make good contact.

7. Do not divide anything

Don’t give children candy or money and don’t hand out western attributes. Your visit should not interfere with people’s daily lives. Unless – in consultation – it has some kind of exchange value for the local population.

8. Do not buy irreplaceable objects

Nomads and tribal tribes, for example, hunt with authentic objects such as bow and arrow. That’s what they need to survive. Also jewelry or attributes that have been from the ancestors and are used in special rituals are irreplaceable. This awareness often only comes to light later when people have lost the object and the friends have left. Henk: “Of course I sometimes buy or get beautiful attributes from the people I visit. But I always ask – also to my guide / interpreter – to what extent it is important for the tribe to keep this in the family.”


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