Joey L photographs the Bodi Me’en of the Omo Valley, Southern Ethiopia.
‘In a remote village in Southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, these naked men showing off their bellies are actually rivals in an annual competition. They have spent the year transforming their bodies into incredible shapes. This is a beauty pageant where all the contestants dream to be the fattest. The body that is desired most is big, but also a rare combination of fat, thick, and firm. No where else in the world can you see this— the Kael Ceremony practiced by the Bodi Me’en tribe.
Every year, Lavazza collaborates with photographers and other artists to produce a fine art calendar. I had that honor back in 2016. This year, because of the lockdowns and quarantines, many of the past photographers each contributed an image that was shot from their own place. I was honored to be called upon once again, this time finding my name next to legends of art and photography like Patti Smith, Steve McCurry, Martin Schoeller and David Lachapelle, just to name a few. For my contribution to the 2021 Lavazza Calendar, I wanted to find a positive view. I was asked by Lavazza to envision a world post COVID-19, so I looked at what was already happening around me in Ethiopia. I like the Bodi Me’en tribe’s concept of being self-sufficient, owning your own livestock, and that is how you show off your wealth. They don’t need to rely on much beyond their own tribe.’