Swathed against the sun, an 11-year-old Afar girl named Hassna Afkada tends her family’s goats near Lake Abbe. The Djibouti government encourages the Afar and other nomadic peoples to send children to town boarding schools.”

National Geographic Magazine, May 1990, “Africa’s Great Rift”.

Photo: Chris Johns

devionnefields asked:

Hi I'm writing a story where a kingdom does a lot of trade with a neighboring nomadic tribe. They are dark skinned and love in tents and other easily moveable housing. The tribe doesn't have a lot of modern tech. and other modern every day things. When I asked my friend for words to describe the tribe the only one she could come up with was 'primitive'. I don't think any of human being as primitive. But at the same time I can't think of another way to describe them. Help?

Describing nomadic people respectfully

If you want to describe these nomadic people with respect, you should shrug off western views and imagine being one of the nomads. They might have less technology, but they are more than their technological advances in comparison to others. What are they proud of, what have they cultivated, what do they value. What about their culture? When you fully develop them in the sense of writing and world-building, you shouldn’t have a problem describing them as equal to anyone. 

But, if you really want to fix the problem and understand why it arose in the first place, we need to delve deeper. What made this question arise?

Western viewpoint and western media

Although I know there are many different cultures in the western world, there are some things they have in common which are essential to what I have to say.

The reason why you both can’t find other words to describe these nomadic people is because you are seeing them from a western viewpoint. Through western culture - and as a part thereof the media - we are conditioned to see the world around us a certain way. We have our standards (European beauty standards, the white is default problem with these characters most often also being cis hetero able-bodied men). Those who conform are “normal” and those who defy them are “the other”.

Because of the way our media is we see the western standard everywhere. White western characters sneak in in every setting and we have hardly ever been exposed to real non-western culture (unless distorted for consumption) partially because of that. We have though, exposed most of the world with western culture due to colonialism (which still affects the world today). Do to the lack of representation we’ve always had in western media, we have been taught to see the world in stereotypical ways, since those are the only ones permitted, past the white western standard.

On a side note, this is why those who “deviate” from the norm learn to see the world through both/multiple viewpoints. The standard one is forced on them, while we shape our own one because we are simultaneously othered by society.

We are taught to think everyone sees the world the way we do, despite the obvious differences. Unconsciously, our media teaches us that our way is “normal” and so, our modern and “technologically advanced” civilizations are the norm. All those civilizations who deviate from the norm are less-advanced, which is parallel linked to the advancement in intelligence, wealth, etc. Because these civilizations cannot be called the same in the eyes of the western viewpoint, we use coded words like tribe, which are linked to non-western people (“the other”) and who have often been linked with “primitive”. Because the culture is very competitive in nature (individualistic, capitalist, etc.) the western view often is one of “looking down” because we are taught so through our media (white savior trope, and many stereotypes which dehumanize poc).

Words don’t exist in a vacuum. Because these words are coded, and so strongly even, that when one is used, the others are often already at the back of our mind. Lurking. Tainting our view without us knowing. It is because these words (“tribe”, “primitive” and “nomadic”) have for a long time been used by westerners while they observed “the outside world”. The only people who get called tribes are people who are seen as lesser. Especially since the western world is focused on technological advancement as a means to show how “far we’ve come”, it shows that those with less are seen as inferior or backwards.

It is up to ourselves to recondition ourselves so we don’t think in stereotypes and actually treat each other like human beings. When you are conscious of these western goggles, you can discard them and learn to see the world for what it is. Be open-minded and listen to the people around you, especially to those who are never heard because people talk over them or silence them in other ways. And don’t do it from a point of superiority, but from a point of respect.

~ Mod Alice


Zenbox Design | 1967 Microbus Conversion

“…inspired more by boat design than any camper”

The couch and lounge area provides ample space for relaxing, eating dinner or playing games with guests, but also transforms into a pull-out bed at night. The camper is equipped with its own propane cooktop and grill, its own water tank and faucet, and a refrigerator for keeping consumables cold and a ready supply of ice for that cocktail at the road’s end. The fridge, lights, fan and stereo are all powered by the engine while underway and by an adjustable rooftop solar panel while camping.

gratitude to Alek Lisefski for the tip


Cities of the Dead: Kyrygyzstan by Margaret Morton

Islam, which became the predominant religion in the region in the 12th century, historically discourages tombstones or decorative markers for the deceased. The elaborate Kyrgyz tombs, however, combine earlier Shamanistic and Buddhist influences with Muslim architectural forms. Enamel portraits of the deceased, an Eastern European tradition, were integrated into Kyrgyz tomb design in the mid-1900s.  During the seven decades of Soviet-led secularization and de-Islamization of Central Asia, most of the country’s mosques were destroyed or turned into public buildings. The Kyrgyz mausoleums, however, survived unscathed, exposed only to the elements. It is Kyrgyz custom that the carefully constructed monuments return to the earth by slowly disappearing with the passage of time. Kyrgyzstan’s dramatically sited cemeteries are architecturally unique and reveal the complex nature of the Kyrgyz people’s religious and cultural identity. A book of these extraordinary sites will contribute greatly to the architectural and cultural record of a region that is unfortunately known in the West more for its problematic political and economic status than for its nomadic heritage.


PNEUMAD  | hat tip designboom

Combining PNEUmatic (air-inflatable) architecture with a noMADic ethos, the PNEUMAD enacts a form of anti-heroic desire to escape permanence, solidity and place-bound dwelling. Recalling the revolutionary-experimental fervor of 1968, but with 21st-century technical sophistication, PNEUMAD is prototype for nomads who want to spread out. The inflatable offers one distinct advantage - it is not limited by the dimensions and volume of the vehicle itself.