plains of Uganda are home to the stranded nomads of Karamoja; semi-pastoralist
herders, whose wealth, livelihoods and status are determined by the cattle they
With a formidable reputation
as fierce warriors, the Karamojong are caught in a cycle of armed cattle raids
between neighbouring tribes. As heavy weaponry from the conflicts in
neighbouring countries flooded the region and made its way into the hands of both
the Karamajong and their enemies, the old tradition of cattle raiding took a
Often clashing with
regional tribes, rebel groups, and the Ugandan military, their desperate fight
for survival has become increasingly violent. The
government response has been an aggressive crackdown on the Karamajong
in recent years; forcibly disarming them of the weapons they claim were
their only protection against rival groups, their way
of life has been drastically altered.
Shunned by the rest
of the country as ‘primative’ and ‘hostile’, and confined to the barren
backlands, the Karamojong’s struggle for survival has recently encountered a
new adversary: the region they inhabit is undergoing cataclysmic changes.
Persistent droughts are destroying crops, causing severe food shortages and
causing outbreaks of disease in the cattle so essential to the Karamoja way of
In 2010 I visited the
Karamojong; my journey took me through a landscape that is wilting and dying
around the very communities struggling to survive there. And yet, as these
portraits show, survival and resilience are central to the Karamoja way of
life; it is as evident in their colourful dress and headwear as it is in their
proud stances, defiant of the unyielding environment they inhabit.
These portraits illustrate
the pride and resilience of the Karamojong- but
they also allude to the challenges imposed by their environment and an
Visually, the story
of the Karomojong is unique and striking; however their plight as a
marginalised community, facing the profound effects of climatic change and
military intervention, are undoubtedly universal.