After living in Nepal and exploring Tibet and the Himalayas for more than a decade, photographer Hamid Sardar Afkhami decided he would travel to outer Mongolia to document the nomadic tribes and their unique way of life. A scholar of Tibetan and Mongol languages who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Tibetan Studies, Sardar was just the right person to capture the Dukha people, Mongolia’s last nomadic reindeer herders. The Dukha are an ancient group of people of Turk descent who are dependent on reindeer for their way of life. In addition to milk and cheese, the reindeer provide transportation for hunting. They are ridden to hunt wild elk and boar.
The Dukha tribe is quickly disappearing. Only about 44 Dukha families remain, or between 200 to 400 people. In the 1970s, it’s estimated that there was a population of about 2,000 reindeer. That number has since dwindled to about 600.
Sardar has not only captured fascinating photos of this lost culture. He shot a film called The Reindeer People which followed a family on its seasonal migrations. The film earned a jury prize for Best Film on Mountain Culture at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.