As a people, we have done more in the last 300 years to remove tribal cultures than the last 200,000 years of social evolution. We forget however that it was the establishment of tribal life that ensured our survival in the first place.

Tribes are a natural progression for every species. Whales function best in pods, cows in herds, birds in flocks, so is it any wonder that tribes formed part of our deep ecology on the planet.

With the diminishing tribal cultures within the world we need to start taking stock of two areas that tribes held as sacred to their spirituality. The first was acting as caretakers for the planet. Nothing was wasted, the world wasn’t overrun and a respect for the world around the tribe was paramount.

Many cultures contained a ritual that hunters performed once an animal was caught. A prayer of thanks for the animal for providing their sustenance, the landscape around them and the life they will live because of the food. And committing the animals spirit to the afterlife. This was respect for the life and the world in which they lived.

The second sacred act was their way of life. Everything from hunting, gathering, protecting, childbirth and death held a special part within the tribes spirituality. Every act, every celebration and every moment of mourning was meaningful and satisfying.

It is these two lessons that we should take on board before the tribes are all gone from this realm. To incorporate these sacred spiritual acts within our own journey should help remind us that we have a responsibility to be caretakers on this planet and remind the future generations about the beautiful history that has come before us.

As a society we are becoming connected once again. Visiting places, cultures or people, we are stirring an energy within us that has been laying dormant. Deep within the very fibre of our being is a remembering.

In a recent discussion with Soul Traveller artist, Deya Dova, whose own heritage is indigenous, she described this as a flame of who we truly are. ”External signatures of prayer beads and cultural symbols are gateways of remembrance.”

The next generation are opening up to what is happening on the planet, switching on and connection to the consciousness.  ”We are entering a time of quickening where our true history will be revealed to see who we are as a race.”

As a culture we are beginning to gravitate towards tribes once again. We are now seeing a parallel in today’s society with the tribes of history. In relating with one another, we stir up a deep desire of belonging and needing to be part of a tribe, in whatever form that may take.

Deya describes this as our birthright to be connected. ”It is in ourselves, our DNA…it’s in our memory.” She related a story of seeing American Indian headresses appearing at festivals. She herself began wearing a headress and sees this simple act as just another point of connection with others in a tribe like ritual.

Shama Kabani, CEO of the Zen Marketing Group sees ritual as part of the tribal renewal. ”Rituals have power because they serve as symbols for something greater. They can unite and build loyalty. Whether that ritual is one chief presenting another tribe’s chief with a sash representing bravery or inviting friends to grab some Starbucks.”

The one thing our DNA understands is how much value the indigenous culture can teach us in remembering who we are as human beings on this planet we currently call home.

In his landmark project, Before They Pass Away, Jimmy Nelson captures the lives and traditions of the last surviving tribes who have managed to preserve their traditional ways and customs within our increasingly globalized world. The British photographer’s epic portraits present these dignified inheritors of noble and age-old traditions in a proud spirit and in all their glory-a unique visual experience. 

This exquisitely photographed showcase for world tribal culture is not only a joy to look at, but also an important historical record. This book reveals the wide variety of human experiences and cultural expressions across the ages- and we’re delighted to have it among our fall offerings.  

This historic volume showcases tribal cultures around the world. With globalization, these societies are to be prized for their distinctive lifestyles, art and traditions. They live in close harmony with nature, now a rarity in our modern era. 

Jimmy Nelson not only presents us with stunning images of customs and artifacts, but also offers insightful portraits of people who are the guardians of a culture that they-and we-hope will be passed on to future generations in all its glory. Nelson’s large-plate field camera captures every intricate detail and fi ne nuance for posterity. What’s more, this splendid pageantry is set against a vivid backdrop of some of the world’s most pristine landscapes.

Images have been supplied by Jimmy Nelson from his new book “Before They Pass Away”. Read more about Jimmy Nelson here.


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As program manager and host of Soul Traveller Radio, Shayne's intention is to bring about change through his love of independent and conscious music. With a background in IT and media marketing, Shayne also runs ST Media - Positively Digital - - which helps artists and companies with media and marketing.