I needed purpose in my life and discovered we all walked out of Africa
In 1999, about the time I started looking for a deeper purpose in life than making money with photography, I learned that DNA and anthropologists tell us that we—all of us, all modern humans—descended from ancestors who walked out of Africa some 60,000 years ago.
Seeking purpose and learning our ancestors came from Africa gave me an idea. Perhaps I could find the primal roots of my own beliefs and religion in the Birthplace of Modern Humans, Africa.
Went searching remote tribes for the roots of my beliefs
I sought out the shamans, chiefs, elders, witch doctors and storytellers of Africa's most remote tribes to learn their stories, myths and archetypal dreams.
What I heard amazed me.
I recorded tribal myths, stories and archetypal dreams
Over and over I went to the secluded corners of Africa to record the tribal way of seeing life on earth. The answers gave me a fresh way of looking at my own beliefs and religion.
Then I tried to capture the spirit of those tribal stories with words and illustrations.
My African experiences changed my whole perspective on life
On the way to the tiny Bedik tribe in remote southeastern corner of Senegal, my interpreter told me he would kill me if I said anything disparaging about his holy book or religious founder.
That shook me. It also taught me how a person could become a prisoner of a belief or religion.
Village children taught me to see with my child's eyes
Fortunately, in the coolness before sunrise, in the remote Ibel village, curious kids came to see the stranger. They rubbed my skin. We laughed. Then somehow we all held hands and walked through the village like migrating geese. I was moved to tears. These little children were holding my hands even thought we were from different cultures, different religions, different ethnics.
They reminded me to look through my first eyes, my child's eyes, the curious eyes that see the world as a place to explore.
They taught me the magic of acceptance.
Remote tribal elder tells world leaders: "We are all made by God. We all have five fingers."
On my second Africa trip, as a final question, I asked the Konso elders: "what advice they would give world leaders?" Now these guys are tucked away in a remote corner of Ethiopia, and many Westerners could call them primitive.
After a long silence, one elder started: "We are all made by God. We are all the same. No mater what your tribe. No mater what your beliefs, we all bleed the same color blood.
Then he raised his hand with fingers outstretched to conclude: "We all have five fingers."
In this age of anxiety and fear of the other, fear of the other's religion, I would like to end this introducton to the Five Fingers Project with those insightful worlds from the Birthplace of Modern Humans.
We all bleed the same color blood. We all have five fingers.