Photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 On…

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Photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 On…


Neil Shea







POINT (-13676685.77011, 5704514.12468431)

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Photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 One day he went into the forest alone. He had in mind what he wanted. Not every boy knows with such clarity who he prefers for a companion but he had decided on a baboon. The boy somehow captured the animal. The details are vague. This is what he said. To tell you the truth, I don't believe it. Though he had a certain kind of courage no boy this small has any business chasing dangerous animals around so far outside the Suri village. Especially not in the nurseries of big mother baboons, which are all teeth and banshee shrieking. In any case the beginning is irrelevant. There is always a boy like this, and a baboon without a name. For a while they would be great friends. Everyday they wandered and played together. House to house, aunt to aunt, asking food, wasting time. They are coming to be almost the same age, human and baboon lives passing like satellites, their orbits nearing, nearing. In the afternoons they walked in long cool shadows, just the pair of them. In the evenings the baboon slept curled beside him. It was saddest because you knew it couldn't last. After this brief perigee the baboon would grow bigger, stronger, surpassing the boy's young courage, willful and unpredictable as everything that lives. Then the decision so far suspended would come down, and it would not be the boy's to make. But let's don't talk about that. The daydream can play out a little longer. See how the boy has painted its face. See how it holds him, how it desires to be held. This is a dream you will recognize, one we've shared. To be understood for a moment beyond words.

For the last six years, Randy Olson and I have been documenting culture, change, and conflict in the watershed that connects southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. In the August issue of @natgeo magazine we'll publish the latest in our series, #NGwatershedstories. Join us at @randyolson and @neilshea13 as we follow water through the desert.

#2009 #africa #ethiopia #omoriver #suri #baboon #tradition #rivers #conservation @geneticislands #portrait #documentary #instaessay #takenotes #natgeo @thephotosociety




Neil Shea, “Photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 On…,” The InstaEssay Archive, accessed August 5, 2020,