Drawn from Water Origins
By : Kristen Nuenschwander, co-founder of Pick A Pocket (photos by Kristen)
The people of the Ethiopian Kara tribe have a tradition-rich culture. It is informed by customs and beliefs dating back hundreds of years. Because of their geographical isolation from developing areas, changes in the ways they think about their society occur very slowly. Very superstitious, the tribe lives in fear of evil spirits who can bring ill fortune to the tribe. The Kara use the word "mingi" to describe subjects they consider cursed or otherwise imperfect.

There are many different ways in which a thing may be considered "mingi"; but there are a few that are more common and have severe consequences, such as pregnancy outside of marriage. Parents and tribal elders still hold all the power in arranging marriages. A female goes to the man with the highest bid, which is on average, 120 goats or sheep, and most of the time it's not the man she loves. Without the tribe's blessing, some young couples in love become pregnant outside of a marriage. A second example of mingi refers to married couples who conceive before announcing their intention to the rest of the tribe. The parents must notify the tribe they are trying to conceive; otherwise any pregnancy is considered illegitimate.

Another example is when a child's top teeth come in before the bottom teeth. In the Kara tribe it is very rare for a child's top teeth to come in first, and they see this as a bad omen for the entire tribe. The Kara believe that the presence of mingi children on their land curses the tribe. Their solution to this perceived threat is to kill the child.

Our photojournalism team, Pick-a-Pocket, arrived in Ethiopia in January and four of us headed south to meet with Lale, a Kara tribesman. Having completed his university education in Ethiopia, he is considered one of the most educated people within the Kara tribe. Lale attended a Youth with a Mission training school in Hernhut, Germany where we met. He informed us of the mingi belief and his vision to convince the tribal elders to surrender these children to an orphanage he would oversee. This action would save lives while he in turn, would focus on the diplomatic process of convincing the local tribes that the mingi belief is baseless. The need is urgent. Along with Lale, It is our hope that this orphanage would exist only for the time it takes to help the tribe recognize that these children are a blessing and not a curse.

I was introduced to a woman six months pregnant with a mingi child who knew she would be ordered to relinquish its life soon after its birth. Already overwhelmed by learning of this terrible process, I couldn't believe how difficult it was just to inquire about her feelings. She tried to be emotionally unattached since the issue of her motherhood had already been decided; she knew of no other option for her child. However, as she spoke, the tears began to gather in the corners of her dark eyes. Feeling empathy in connection to her hopelessness and grief, I sensed a conviction to search for another solution.
"Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend." - Paulo Coello
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