The Teso tribe of East Africa numbers about 3.5 million people, most of whom live in NE Uganda. After Kampala, Tesoland was the first place I visited in the country. Nearly three years later I still hold it in my heart as one of the most special places in the world. Centuries old traditions remain firmly engrained in the culture here. While that’s not unique among tribes in Africa, rarely are they so welcoming to outsiders as the Teso. Take, for instance, their nearby cousins, Kenya’s Turkana. During colonial times even Great Britain dared not enter their tribal lands. The colonial power shut off the Turkana Region and required a special pass of any outsider wishing to visit.
Above, villagers enjoy beer and peanuts at the local bar. The local brew, shared from a communal clay pot, is concocted from millet and sucked through long straws made from reeds. In the past twenty years, the Teso have endured much hardship: two armed rebellions (including Joseph Kony and the LRA’s infamous 2003 incursion), floods, drought, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and cattle raids from the neighboring Karamojong tribe. However, you wouldn’t know it if you were to travel here. The Teso remain resolute and joyful. It’s all water under the bridge.
Watch the above video about a private primary and vocational school in Amuria, in the heart of Tesoland. Living Hope Education Center currently educates over 300 pupils, many from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. When I’m not out shooting, I sit on Living Hope’s advisory board. We’re currently getting ready to begin a volunteer-teacher program at the school. For those willing to make the step out here, shoot me an email. The musical performance for this piece was captured at the Teso Traditional Music Competition in Amuria.