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Extreme Ethnography: Imprisoned in Africa and lost in Mongolia

  • Published in InFocus
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August 9 is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. These small ethnic groups are carriers of 5 thousand diverse cultures. Their representatives live in more than 90 countries. The study of the life of indigenous peoples has become a work for Alexander Khimushin, an Australian photographer who was born in Yakutia.

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In an interview with RT, he talked about his hobby and his adventures - how he remained without a car in the Mongolian desert, how he denounced Filipino robbers to the police and why he was imprisoned in Africa.

Alexander Khimushin was born and raised in Yakutia. He took his first photographs on his father's old camera. 15 years ago he left Siberia and moved to Australia, where he learned to be a manager.

But my dream of seeing the world and the passion for photography turned out to be stronger, so I left my career in business forever

Nine years ago he went on a journey and since then has visited almost a hundred countries. Alexander Khimushin tries to visit places as far from civilization as possible.  Principal characters of his reports are often representatives of indigenous peoples. Photos from Khimushin's project The World In Faces published Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, as well as leading resources that write about travel.

In an interview with RT, the photographer described adventures that occurred with him during his travels:

The situation in Djibouti immediately comes to mind. I was arrested for taking photos on the street. As a result, I spent five days in a local prison, after which I was deported from the country and all my photos were deleted

Traveling, Alexander has repeatedly found himself in a quandary. When the photographer was visiting the Evenks, he needed to wade across a river. Representatives of the indigenous people usually use boots that reach to the waist, but Alexander did not have such with him:

They offered me theirs, but they did not fit me in size, and as a result, the Evenks carried me across this river in their arms. One guy carried me, the other carried my photo backpack

Once he had to fight the cold when he traveled by train across the Sahara. In the car, two Africans and two Berbers were traveling with him: "We got down on the iron bottom and slept in embrace, because you had to warm yourself somehow."

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Two years ago, Alexander, while traveling across the Mongolian desert, the Gobi, saw a beautiful sunset. He parked his car and went to shoot a natural phenomenon to the nearby hills. Returning to the car, the photographer realized that he had lost his keys:

I did not know what to do, the situation seemed hopeless. I tried to find the keys with a flashlight, but after an hour it went out and I lost the car itself. I had to spend the night in a ravine

The nearest settlement was 100 km away, and Alexander's friends could send the keys only to Ulan-Bator, located 1.5 thousand km from the place where he stopped.

I just walked around, looking for - I did not have another option. And after an hour and a half I saw that something was sparkling. I approached, and among the stones, grass, among all this I managed to find the car keys. It was incredible

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"Last year, I was shooting one babushka  in a very old house in Sakhalin. The house was dilapidated, and when I was shooting, the floor fell through under me, after which I found myself underground up to my chest. I was glad that it was me, and not the babushka that I was shooting," said Alexander.

When Alexander was in the Philippines, he was robbed; they slipped a mickey finn into his glass. He woke up the next day, not understanding what had happened:

"I woke up at the hotel, missed my plane, I had a very bad headache. I had to go to the police. They stole my stuff, my camera, money. <…> Then I found these robbers and handed them over to the police. "


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Alexander believes that people around the world are interesting in their own way, and it cannot be said that they are somewhere better or worse. He is particularly interested in African tribes.

It seems to me that the people there are very beautiful; each person is like an ebony statue

The photographer calls the Northern peoples living in Siberia "extraordinary": "They have very beautiful clothes, this is Siberian charm. Well, they look very spectacular."

According to him, in the comments, people are often surprised when they learn that the representative of indigenous peoples, depicted in the photo, is not a model.

People cannot imagine that they are not some kind of models, but our ordinary northern peoples. Just very beautiful people

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Last year Alexander Khimushin celebrated the holiday with Nanais in the Far East. This year the photographer was in Papua New Guinea.

"I went to the tribes with the locals. They are exotic, they live by hunting crocodiles. They gagged a crocodile so that it did not bite, and wore it as an ornament,” he said in a conversation with RT.

Alexander congratulates the indigenous peoples of Russia on the holiday and says that there are "incredible people" in the country:

I want to wish them prosperity so that their culture revives, and traditions are preserved

Photo Alexander Khimushin / The World In Faces

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