A Journey to Masai Land

Africa changes. It’s not banal to say that no other place in the world offers so much, but only to those prepared to accept it. And yet it is so: in the colours of it’s wild nature, in the fragrance and aromas of it’s markets and in the warmth of it’s people still to be found outside the big cities.

This is what convinced me to go back.

Masai Tribesman
The elder Masai sit on a rock of the village, it was dark, the only light available was from a luminaid – a solar lamp donated from Catarina. When she makes a question to the elder about his people, he closes his eyes thinking about it, I see his meditative expression and shoot

I went in Africa for the first time in 2014. I decided to spend my holidays in August on Safari in the great parks of northern Tanzania, two fantastic weeks spent photographing the great mammals.

However it was an unexpected event that offered me the greatest moment in the journey. Our driver, a friend of a village chief, suggested a visit to a tiny Masai village in the middle of the Ngorongoro Crater. Although it was a short visit, I was so deeply impressed, that I couldn’t even take a photo.

I was nearly going to take a photo when a little girl of about ten, came out one of the traditional mud huts (enkang), and stopped to look into the penombra, with a strange slightly frightened expression, a hand to her mouth, the perfect photo, a gift to me.

And yet I couldn’t capture that moment, I stayed staring at her until the village chief, who in the mean time had continued walking and explaining, noticed I had remained behind and called me, beckoning me to follow him. That was the moment I decided to go back. I remember that getting back onto the jeep, I thought this exact words: “I’m coming back here”. I wanted to tell this people’s story, but from the inside, I wanted to live the savannah and live in those huts. I wanted to know their daily life.

children in Masai Hut
The First day I visited the village School the children were very excited and curious, but also very reluctant, I was sitting outside with the camera, sure that something will happen when one of them decided to take a peek

As a result of my return, I decided to look for a suitable place, even though I couldn’t imagine why a Masai village would want to accept the presence of a mzungu (European, white), what’s more a photographer.

After much research, I came across an interview by a traveller from Costarica, Catarina Jimenez. An incredible women who managed to make the Masai community accept and love her (she was blessed by the Masai and called Nemeyan). Catarina gained respect and trust contributing to the construction of the village school. I contacted her immediately.

She was enthusiastic about my project and offered to help me next time she visited the Masai in Kenya. I didn’t think twice.
So between logistical organization, delays and other problems, in May 2016 I finally took that airplane, destination Kenya. Catarina and the Masai of Rombo Manyatta community were waiting for me.

I stayed in their village for two weeks, a guest of one of the mama of the village in a tiny mud hut.

Masai children return from river
Returning from the river. These children are returning to the village with a water supply after they wash clothes, some dishes and themselves.

I’m very fortunate to have ad the privilege of this experience and observing every day Masai life, I’ve been able to observe the changes. The Masai are fascinated by everything modern, some have a small motorbike and cell phone (even if there is no electricity in the village), they love chewing gum and the young people no longer wear traditional clothes.

This demonstrated to me the collapse of an antique population which still struggles to keep out the rest of the word, because they continue to be proud of their traditions and life stile.

Africa and the Masai have left me with a sign and a scar. I’ve discovered something missing in me which I didn’t know existed in my comfortable western life. But once I realized this, I wondered how I had never noticed it. This void started and stopped in the hidden Masai village of Rombo Manyatta.

Masai child washing
A little girl is washing at the river. The river was fifteen minutes walk from the village and is the only water source in the nearby, used for washing, drinking and cooking. The risk is not only the bacteria but also the wild animals in the area, especially elephants

Their great incredible wealth is called human warmth, and the Masai should hold it like a treasure. My worry is that their unaware blindness about the future awaiting them. Because when modern life reaches them, when every one has a motorcycle and a cell phone and the infrastructures makes their life easier, will they still be able to teach us how to be human?

BIO: Born and living in Rome, from when I was young my interest for the “image”, overall about nature was very strong; I discover the photography at fifteen years old and in the same period began to study it, both the artistic and technical sides.

In particular have always fascinated me and do so even now, the works of some photographers of National Geographic, that style, with in common the creation of an image that is in itself a work with so much beauty but also a reportage, created to convey something of the place, the people, represent for me a constant source of inspiration. Attracts me the entire universe of photography but what fascinates me is the reportage. I love to observe things of the world through the camera and this vision is always with me.

Link → Website: andreacalandra.weebly.com
Facebook page: Andrea Calandra Photography

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