Karnataka 2002 “Aren’t you afraid living out on your own?”

“Aren’t you afraid living out on your own?”Image

I was asked this question every time I came in contact with humans.  Folks live in fear, I know this.  Fear was never an emotion I felt on my cliff.  I was suspicious of other humans but that was about it.

Have you noticed when you are in the dark woods at night and you turn off the flashlight you can’t see.  Your eyes are not used to the dark.

The whole time living on my cliff I never had a flashlight.  My hearing, sight and sense of smell became extremely proficient.  I could see clearly under a new moon.  Karnataka has poisonous snakes, scorpions and really nasty ants.  The same people who would ask me about my fear would always bring up the snakes.  The snakes live their own life.  I don’t bother them.  If they were in the path I was taking they would definitely let me know by coiling.  I could see the shape of a coil much better then a stick like shape.  Maybe it was instinct.

A friend wanted to try this walking without a torch idea.  They did well until I stopped them when I saw something, a shape.  In the dark most all shapes are nothing.  Something deep within you  knows when the shape is a possible threat.  I wanted my friend to make a wide berth around the shape without using the torch.  Their fear got the better of them.  With the light on a very large (as big as my hand) black scorpion raised it’s tail in striking position.  I laughed at my friend because it was obvious to that the scorpion was going about it’s life and the light triggered it into defense.  It was an awesome sight I do admit.

Snakes, scorpions and even humans didn’t bother me.  What would send me into a slight panic were the ‘ants of doom’:  a term I came up with.  These ants would travel at any hour in a highway.  If you got near their road they would attack.  Imagine being stung by ten to fifteen yellow jackets.  The sting would burn like fire for days.  It sucked.  I got so good at detecting the highways at night.  I would dead run and jump as high as I could over them.  Then after the jump the ‘ant of doom’ dance would happen.  The dance was a way to make sure there were no clingers that would hope to get lucky.  The locals loved sharing my dance.  With out the border of language all knew what charade I was playing when I would show them.  I learned this dance from the pack of wild dogs who lived in the area.  You could see them jump high into the air frantically.  Usually yelping.

All the dark night walks were done barefoot.  I wasn’t afraid just a bit panicky when I would do my dance over the ‘ant of doom’ highway.


Kalderash of Europe and Lambani of India: Adornment comparison



Photo credit:  Elena Nazare


Both groups of people finger twist a small part of hair in the front of the hair line.  Then that twist is braided.    Notice the headscarf worn towards the back of the head and the brightly colored prints.

Photographer unknown

Photographer unknown

Photographer unknown

Photographer unknown


Some from both groups will add jewelry clipped to the braids.

Photo credit unknown

Photo credit unknown

This shows the braiding and adornment of the Lambani

Photo credit unknown

Photo credit unknown

This is a women from the Banjara group who are related to the Lambani


Lambani of Karnataka




Karnataka 2002-The hunt for someone real

I was staying on a friends land for a while.  He had a battery powered radio.  I had heard the clear sounds of tribal music.  Ancient that is older then the current Karnatic ragas so commonly played.  My friend called the radio station to find out about the origins and location of the tribe who composed that particular song.

A day later I found myself living with a Eco Warrior Brahmin family in Hubli.  They understood my desire and research to find the musicians of the song I heard over the radio.  In between a royal wedding and a revolution against the government, the family drove me to small encampments and invited musicians to the house to tell me their story.

I begged the musicians to take me with them.  They kindly refused.  They were afraid of what calamities would take place by bringing back a white woman to their families.  I understood and let it go.

Yes, they were the same musicians who recorded the song I heard over the radio.

Sitting with them I observed their social conduct.  This observation gave me ideas of how to approach a tribe if I was given the opportunity again.

Revolution happened, host family had to flee the city in the middle of the night and I was on a bus back to my cliff.

Weeks later I met a modern man.  Causally over tea I found out that he is in fact of the Lambani tribe.  He said since he was working in town he didn’t wear the traditional dress.  He sisters, mother and grandmothers did.  He invited me to meet them, but I had to wait to arrange the time because he respected his families privacy and their daily routine.

When I finally sat down with the women of the tribe I found out that they were just as excited as I was to meet. They shared many songs and hand clapping rhythms with me.  If I remember correctly I cried with joy the whole time.  We also shared embroidery techniques and different ways to sew mirrors onto fabric.  I asked them why did they accept our meeting.  Outsiders are normally not welcome and suspicious.  They got real serious and told me that their son had told them that I was “a wild witch who held no claim to any country.”  They traveled a few times to visit me on my cliff and watch the moon rise.

After I had moved on from my cliff I found my self with a plain dressed lambani couple who were trading the tribe’s crafts.  After everything I had observed about the tribal folks I had the opportunity to meet I guess I made a great impression on them.  They invited me to join them on a journey to a Lambani gathering.  An event that happens once a year when extended Lambani from the surrounding states come together.

That event was a whirlwind for me.  So much happening at once, my eyes were always tired.  I was constantly in a loving way mobbed by everyone asking questions in an unknown local dialect.  As a whole the tribe was happy that I wore their clothes, worked their goats with them and was not afraid to get up and dance around the fire at night.  I had been getting very wild before this gathering, living in isolation for many months.  I don’t remember much.  What I do remember was the strength and power of the women.  Their eyes could pierce steel with one look.

Life as an experiment (face and hands)

I spend so many hours of my life researching movement. Most the time it’s cosmic. I’m so deep in side out side. I am greatful for Mitko joining in on the fun.