During the mid 1950’s two valiant brothers from Iran, with $180 between them, decided to go on an adventure that would take them around the world. A daring journey that would carry them through some of the most challenging terrain. Initially setting off on two British 500cc Matchless motorcycles armed with photography and film making equipment the brothers headed east through Pakistan, India, South-East Asia and Australia. They crossed the Pacific from Japan to Alaska, headed to the Arctic and then south through Canada and the Americas, travelling the entire length of the Andes, to finish with a trip to the Antarctic. Their homeward stretch took them through Europe back to Iran after a 7-year adventure of a lifetime. A brief stint at home saw the two young brothers catch a bad dose of ‘itchy feet’. Refuelled and raring to go in their newly donated Citroen 2CV van the brothers headed across the gulf to Mecca and then on to complete a 3-year anti-clockwise lap of Africa including the arduous task of getting through the Ituri rainforest in the Congo.
It is this defiant attitude towards the unknown that leads to remarkable encounters. For us the most memorable stories have come from diving headfirst into the unknown!
Throughout their 10-year expedition they had the opportunity to make films about Congo Pygmies (the short ones), Nilotic peoples (the tall ones), Amazonian cannibals, Polynesian islanders, Aborigines and the Eskimos living in the frozen lands of the Arctic.
British Pathé newsreels and other documentaries of the time were produced from a belittling western perspective with an air of colonial conceited arrogance. The Omidvar brother’s films offer a unique counterpoint where respect and a willingness to learn are the basis of kinship. This simple value is epitomised beautifully by their motto hand painted across the front mudguards of their bikes "All different, all relative". This affinity with the people they met often put them in a unique position, not of an outsider, but of an accepted member of the tribe.
One of the most interesting and macabre items is a human shrunken head that was gifted to the brothers by the Jivaro Tribe in the heart of the Amazon.
Visiting the museum and marvelling at the amazing photographs made us realise one thing in particular, it is the photographs that convey the passing of time that are really interesting! Culture, lifestyle, fashion and ‘the everyday’ change faster than a timeless landscape!
Unfortunately the inclination to ignore preconceived typecasts and a willingness of openness, acceptance and understanding towards strangers is not practiced to the same degree in western culture; it is a lesson that many of us could learn from.
It is this simple characteristic that opened many doors for the Omidvar brothers and the wisdom of their learnings as intrepid adventurers is summed up simply by one word painted on the rear of one of the motorcycles “Peace”.