the girl with no name
The Girl with No Name
Mehmet Genç is professional photographer from Turkey. His name is ‘Rotasız Seyyah’ on the internet. It means ‘nomad travels without making any route’. He is travelling around the world since 2012 and he started his last journey 2 years ago. He likes taking photos of indigenous people during his travels. He visited 9 different indigenous communities so far. He has many stories from his journey. This is one of them.
I was in the Duamanak village that is located in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, where Kogui people lived. We were visiting the houses in the village with a Colombian I had met. The houses were all round and made of branches and bamboo leaves, just like the ones you see in the documentaries. Each house had its roof completely covered in yellow straw. Everywhere you could see was endless greenery and banana trees. Even though we were passing through the village, there was no one since it was around noon. Everyone was labouring either in the mountains, or on the field. After a few snaps of the children between houses, I saw Antonio, a fifteen year old boy who sat by the door. After the greetings we began to chat:
While we talked, I noticed a young girl in the house with her baby. She was sitting on a piece of cloth by the cooking fire, while looking at us time to time.
“Do you live here?” “Yeah.”
“How old are you? “Sixteen.”
“Is she your sister?”
“No, she’s my wife.”
“How old is your wife?” We were taken by surprise.
“How old is the baby?”
“Five days old.”
“Did you say five days? Was he born here, or in a hospital?”
“He was born here, in this house.”
“How did it happen, did her mother help with labour?”
“Village chief Mamo helped her.”
“Mamo helped her? Can he do things like that?”
“Yeah. It’s Mamo who delivers babies in the villages.”
“So the mother hasn’t been to a hospital?”
“No, she hasn’t.”
“Where does she sleep at night?”
“Just there, on the floor.”
“Where do you sleep?”
“On the hammock.” He pointed to a hammock in the house across. “Why does she sleep on the floor?”
“Because she sleeps there with her mother.”
“Is it alright if I talk to your wife a little? What’s her name?”
“She doesn’t speak Spanish. She has no name.”
“She has no name!?”
“Yeah. No name.”
“How come!? What do you call her?”
“We call her the villager (indigena).”
I couldn’t believe that she had no name, of course. I told my Colombian friend who was right next to me, “No way, she must have a name!” And he persistently asked Antonio to reveal her name, but the answer was the same. She had no name…
“Alright. You call her indigena (villager) in Spanish, what do you call her in Kogui?” “The same, we call her the villager.”
He said a word in Kogui which meant villager.
“Why doesn’t she have a name?”
“The Mamo in her village hadn’t named her.”
“Is she not from this village?”
“No, she’s from the Bukeron village.”
“Where is that village, how did you two meet?”
“Her village is far from here. It takes two days to walk there. My father saw here there, and he brought her here for me. Then we got married.”
I couldn’t help but pause a little, and then asked: “Can I take a picture of your wife?”
“Yeah.” He replied.
I looked at her from the doorway. Knowing that she doesn’t speak Spanish, I bowed my head a little and smiled slightly. She smiled back. I showed her the camera, asking for her permission to take a photograph with my hand gestures. She nodded for approval and smiled again. And I took a picture of her.
I have never felt resentful towards any of the village people I have visited so far. Because all of them were content, somehow. But this girl was different. She had given birth in that house five days ago. She sat there all day, cooked meals in the fire, and went to sleep on the same spot. Everything aside, she had no name. They even denied her a name.