2011 — professional
Nikon Ambassador and National Geographic magazine photographer Ami Vitale has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.” She has traveled to more than 90 countries, bearing witness not only to violence and conflict, but also to surreal beauty and to the enduring power of the human spirit. Recently, she has turned her lens to compelling wildlife stories, such as returning critically endangered captive born species, like the giant pandas back to the wild and attempts to save the last four living northern white rhinos from extinction.
Her photographs have been commissioned by nearly every important international publication and been exhibited around the world in museums and galleries. Now based in Montana, she continues to make films and stories of the planet's most important issues and frequently gives lectures and workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Read the Alexia Foundation interview with Ami Vitale here.
Initially a grant recipient in 2000, Ami Vitale was asked to update her work on the Fulani in 2011. These color images that follow are the culture revisited in 2011.
The Fulani, who once crisscrossed the continent of Africa tending their precious herds of cattle, was a civilization known for its constant movement. This nomadic existence spun the threads of a rich social fabric of tradition and ritual that endures to this day. In the West African country of Guinea Bissau, the former nomads have settled in a village, become farmers and now struggle to adapt to a world that has rudely intruded upon them.
Unlike most other ethnic tribes in Guinea Bissau, the Fulani are Muslim. Village life is structured according to Islamic traditions including performing male and female circumcision, praying five times a day, following the Islamic calendar and practicing polygamy.
The inclusion of local beliefs and traditions produces a brand of Islam that is unique to its area and its people. From the belief in tree spirits to the use of traditional medicine or “voodoo,” the mixing of cultures that took place centuries earlier has produced a society that blends a unique spiritual universe with an often brutal daily existence in the physical world.
To an outsider, the village may appear to be a place where a people, living simply, struggle to survive. While that perception is partially valid, the social hierarchy and politics existing among members of the tribe are far more complex than in most modern western societies.