Before they pass away: 10 stunning photos of some of the most fascinating tribespeople on the planet

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Hunters, fighters, nomads - photographer Jimmy Nelson spent nearly three years capturing the vanishing ways of life within these remote tribes and ancient civilisations - and the results are breaktaking...


    Married women from the Himba tribe wear a small crown made of goatskin on their heads. Himba men are polygamous, and may have a number of different wives and children in different homesteads.

    Papua New Guinea

    The Huli paint their faces yellow, white and red. They also make wigs from their own hair. Tribal warfare is common among the tribes of Papua New Guinea. They fight over three things: land, pigs and women – in that order.


    The Chukchi live in a harsh climate where temperatures drop as low as -54°C. The staple foods eaten by the inland Chukchi are products of reindeer farming: boiled venison, reindeer brains and bone marrow and reindeer-blood soup.

    New Zealand

    While the arrival of Europeans had a profound impact on the Maori way of life, many aspects of traditional society have survived into the 21st century. The haka war dance, meant to intimidate the enemy, is one of the best-known cultural traditions of the Maori.


    The pastimes of the gauchos include gambling, drinking, playing the guitar and singing about their skills in hunting, fighting and love-making. Gauchos usually didn’t marry the women they lived with. She raised their children and took care of housekeeping.


    Mursi women all over the world are known for wearing clay plates in their lower lips. At the age of 15, girls get pierced, after which their lips are stretched out to create enough space to place the lip plate.


    The Rabari women are shrewd and intelligent and manage the hamlets and all money matters. Going to the local village or town market is an important part of daily life. There, the Rabari women trade milk and milk products from their livestock.


    The Samburu people live a nomadic lifestyle in the Rift Valley. Fertility is very important for the Samburu. Childless women are ridiculed, even by children. Samburu boys throw cow dung at the huts of women thought to be sterile.


    In order for young tribesman to qualify for marriage, own cattle and have children they must face up to a unique dare, known as the bull-leaping ceremony. Cows are lined up in a row. Each boy, naked, has to make four clean runs over the backs of the cows, without falling.

    Kingdom of Lo – Nepal

    The Lopa’s traditions are closely related to early Buddhism. Most people in Mustang still believe the earth is flat, illness is caused by evil spirits and monks heal diseases with exorcisms.

    © Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson, published by teNeues, £100, also available as Collector’s Edition XXL.

    Images: Photo © Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV,

    To see more of these stunning photos, check out this month’s issue of Marie Claire, available to buy now. Got a tablet? You can now download Marie Claire magazine straight to your iPad, Kindle (just search the store for ‘marie claire magazine’), Nook or Google Nexus.

    Reading now

    Popular Life stories