In the remote Wakhan of Afghanistan, meat is a luxury in most families, you might have it once or twice a month. A sheep or goat will be slaughtered, reducing the size of the family’s herd. It’s a welcomed dietary add-on to a fairly poor diet. It’s just hard to grow anything in such arid high-altitude environment where everything is done by hand. On one of this rare “meat day", I found Khon Jon’s son next to the kitchen, his face decorated with the blood of the sheep that will feed him and his family, as well as his neighbours and relatives. From a recent @natgeo assignment. #evolutionofdiet
#19 Histoire d’amour? They were playing, holding each other shyly, he wanted her to be photographed, she was giggling, not too sure. I rarely saw display of affections amongst Afghan Kyrgyz, I took a shot from far, sipping on salty milk tea. The newly decorated yurt of the newly married couple, the white veil and I must leave the Pamir again, something will pull me back here, hopefully.
#18 During this "veil ceremony", the bride will change her red veil for a white one, showing to the Afghan Kyrgyz community that she is now officially married. It is tradition in much of South Asia that the bride will refrain from laughter, stay humble and contained, lower her gaze and cry if she becomes emotional - I have seen this in Afghanistan, Nepal, India etc... From my understanding, the emotions comes from a mix of anxiety of leaving her family nest, as well as a tender show of affection towards her parents - if she cries, her parents will be touched, and they certainly will cry along. It is part expected theatre, part reality. Certainly no one would understand a laughing bride, and I am not the type to judge... Ikhbal is about 16 years old; she did not know her exact birthday. It might seem young in a so called developed nations, but in a place with 50% infant mortality rate (that is, about 50% of kids die before reaching the age of 5), an average life expectancy of + - 50 years old, and a lack of women (too many men exile to cities to get work and never return), it does happen. Ikhbal cried on and off for a few days. Men and women would walk in and try to console her. Her husband was a young chap, about 3 hours horse ride from her place, and he seemed kind. I saw them weeks later, and Ikhbal had been adopted by her husband's sisters as one of them. #traditionalwedding#redveil#westernhimalayas
#17 Waiting for the groom on one side of the yurt, the bride (right) is separated from the rest of the family by a red cloth that stretched across the entire yurt. Made my way here yet I was confused on wether I was allowed, no other men around yet. A guy walked in (that ubiquitous man is all over the world) telling me that “Here is Afghanistan”, no further explanation, I headed out to meet the other men, they looked real bored. Sometimes you just must abide. #kyrgyzwedding#afghanistan#redclothes A note here following comments: the girl was in her late teens or early twenties, and yes, tradition dictates that, as respect to her parents she must look sad on her wedding day simply to show her parents how good they took care of her and that she will miss that etc. Also, there is a tradition amongst Kyrgyz of the “yeti ata”, meaning seven fathers where male members of the married groom/bride (can’t remember...) must recite the name of the last seven fathers before them, making sure there is no common ancestry and therefore no potential consanguinity. For incredible long term work on underage marriage worldwide, please check out @tooyoungtowed
#16 Toorkhan and her sister Tumar head out in the cold to fetch stray yaks. Once spotted, they shout “tchoo! tchoo!” to get them back to camp. That sound only works with yaks, please use adequate sounds for horses, donkeys or camels :) @natgeocreative#afghanistan#reddress#pamirmountains
#15 I was riding a horse, following the game trying not to get my teeth knocked out, my camera smashed. They were playing Buzkashi. « A common dream interpretation for teeth falling out sees this symbol as a representation of the fear of aging or becoming less efficient or productive. In other words, it would point to the loss of your means to fully bite into life, to break down what life brings you. »
#14 The woman facing us, her name is Tella Bu. This was 2012 and i had first met her in 2005, in her father’s yurt, the chief of the Afghan Kyrgyz community. She wore a red veil then, a sign that she was not married. A few months after her wedding, her red veil was replaced by this white one. Tradition dictates, more on that later. The first image I ever posted here on Instagram is a portrait of Tella Bu. She always wear this beautiful defiant look, detached. #redveil#whiteveil
#13 There is a couple of books on the color Red. Anyone read them? My favorite color, any shades of it. What’s up with that? Why red dresses? And then washed down Blue, I like too, like these buckets sliding on ice, filled with spring water, back to camp and i scramble behind trying not to fall, staying close to red. #nomads#pamir#redcolor
#12 It wasn’t his phone that had gone down the crack, more like he was trying to find us water to make some chai. No success, we had to melt snow over a dung fire. We were quite beaten after a hard day’s walk, scrambling over the frozen Wakhan river. Slept in a mud house that night, kept walking down the river the next day, snaking in deep canyons, ibex high above.
#10#11 « Khairuddin’s father hopes that shaving his son’s head- and putting the hair in a “clean place,” such as a frozen river - will cure the boy’s persistent headaches. Although the Kyrgyz are Sunni Muslims, their rituals also reflect other ancient traditions.” From an @natgeo caption from my 2012 story on the Afghan Kyrgyz. Scroll right for a tuft of hair flying in the Afghan sky. I was following Khairuddin and only later after I shot that image did I get the full explanation of what was going on - from his dad. Later in this region I found human hairs under a rock, I knew why.
#9 + a detail. I found a place on the ground, snuggled inside my sleeping bag, reading “The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus”, it was so damn cold. Opium smell is nothing you can forget, I close my eyes and remember the first time, and it slowly filled the air, my neighbours pulling hard on the “chillum". There is a good french word, “entêtant” - a heady smell, it finds its way into your subconscious forever and you know it’s the devil sweet talking to you. Forget the boredom, the pain, forget the everything, you can just bath in your own warm thoughts, a cloud. In the morning, the men laid lazy in bed, hungover below Mr Karzai, the president. #afghanistan#kyrgyz#opioidcrisis