Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bruce Parry…an Ethiopian son

Sadly, the image that comes to the mind of many people when they hear of the word ‘Ethiopia’ is a very dark one. And even if they have been to Ethiopia, some people go back with images in their heads from what they’ve seen but not understood.

Enter Bruce Parry – ‘explorer and expedition leader.’ Bruce is an ex-Royal Marine, among many other things. But the documentary series ‘Tribe’ that he produced is, by far, the work he’ll always be remembered for. The documentary is about how Bruce travels to the remotest parts of the world, including the eastern and south eastern part of Ethiopia, seeks the most isolated people living there and how he becomes ‘one of the Tribe.’ He stays for one month amongst them eating, drinking, dressing, hunting (sometimes being hunted) with the people. For once, here’s an honest outlook from an honest and humble man.

In the series Bruce visits four tribes in Ethiopia: the Mursi, the Dasenech, the Hamer and the Nyangatom. The videos show the way Bruce won the hearts of the young, the old and all in between. From chiefs to toddlers they all fall in love with him and he is very touched and at times surprised by the amount of love and respect that comes from the humblest abode. Some issues that really need kudos:

- Although Bruce is a physical education man from one of the best trained and toughest armies in the world, he bows down and is thrown around by the warriors. The respect and honour he shows the young warriors is commendable.

- Again, coming from a military background it’s very funny to see him fidgeting with an AK-47 and the locals commenting “he doesn’t know much about guns.”

- It really takes a great deal of courage to run around naked with body parts swinging left, right and all over, especially when there’s a camera that’s going to show it to the whole world.

- Especially endearing is the way he eats what the locals eat, with gusto, and gives an honest opinion. From the pancakes finger –fed to him, which was delicious, to the local beer that tasted like ‘paint-stripper.’

- While the whole world thinks of Ethiopia as a war-torn, famine-ravaged cess-pit, Bruce could see that these people were forced to fight to protect their livelihood, he brings all the ‘chaos’ that any other tourist would see into a pin-pointed perspective: at the risk of being painted as savages, these people have to fight to live. He saw deep inside them and found the beautiful part of them. Another example would be the whipping of female relatives of a person who is having his initiation ceremony. Again to the average outsider what would appear as pure abuse or cruelty, he got to the core of how that simple show of faith and love would be translated later and would be paid back with love and care.

Drinking blood, hunting crocs, eating the ickiest part of an animal and enduring some of the most embarrassing situations like a true Ethiopian in the end open the door to Bruce being adopted by many people as their son over and over again.

This is a DVD collection worth keeping and watching over and over again. On behalf of Ethiopia and Ethiopians this author bows low and says ‘Bravo! And thank you!’