Photography Travel

Faces of Maasai

Maasai Children

Maasai School Children

When I travel I always like to take photos of people, especially what I would call environmental photos. Taking photos in familiar surroundings puts people at ease and in the digital world, you can share your photos with your subject, especially children to get them to relax and have more fun.

Inside a Maasai Home

One of my goals on the trip was to be able to go to a Maasai village and learn about their culture and spend time asking questions and get a brief understanding of who they are and spend some time interacting in a village where people live on a day to day basis such as in the photo above. Gabriel knew of such a location and I was excited for the day to arrive.

Maasai Herders and sister

Throughout the trip as we got further away from the main city of Arusha, we would see many Maasai tending to their cows and goats. Most of those responsible for keeping these animals on the move and being fed, comes down to boys often under 6-8 years old being helped by an older brother as in the photo above. It was not unusual to see child after child on the side of the road or off in the distance as we whizzed by on the highway.

When we first arrived at the village, we were met by many of the married women in the village and they performed a greeting song for us as you can see in the short video above.

Maasai Men Jumping Dance

The men then came out and performed and then started their traditional jumping song and each time the men take their turn, they try to jump higher and higher.

Inside a Maasai Home

We were then able to go inside a home and learned they take about 4 months to build and are built by the woman. There is not much more than  a simple place to have a fire with an exhaust out the side of the hut and an area to sleep. Men and boys sleep together as do the girls and women. And you can see by the photo above, the beds are very simple as is most everything in their lives.

Maasai men starting a fire

After taking a tour of the home and the homeowner answering many questions, they then shoed us how they make a traditional fire by using a knife and a couple of pieces of wood, something they do on a daily basis in the village I was told. you’ll also notice in the photo above, the guy on left wearing a watch. He told me he attended secondary school in Arusha and many villagers had an interest in my watch, apparently its one of the luxury’s they do like to own. It’s interesting to  me as I look at their culture because they only seem to worry about two times of day, sunrise and sunset.

Maasai Lighting Fire

Once they get the embers hot, they then add it to dried cow dung and this is what really starts the main fire.

Maasai children in school

Next we were able to see children in their school and they are taught English as a second language and they recited the alphabet for us and counted in English as well. The age of the children in the school were between about 3 and the oldest being 11 or 12.

Maasai children

We wandered around the village for a short time and took a few more photo and I thought this one of Ken interacting with the little ones was pretty fun.

Maasai Leaders

Eventually it was time to be on our way, but not before they gave us the hard sell on buying some of their carvings and a few other things they were selling in the village. I picked out a handful of items and then they told me it was $250 Euro’s for everything and I just laughed and handed everything back to them and said I was thinking more like $50. We finally agreed on a price for a few items and then we were able to get a few more photos in the village and it was on to our next adventure down the road whatever that might be.

It wasn’t long after we left the Maasai village, I asked Gabriel to stop again and I was able to get one of my favorite portraits on the trip. As A photographer one of the first things I learned, when I photo opportunity presents itself, you have to take action and get the photo then or you’ll probably never have the opportunity again. Throughout our time driving, every  once in awhile we would see Maasai boys on the side of the road with their faces painted either white or black. I asked Gabriel why only a few boys chose to wear paint like that and he said they were boys who had gone through a circumcision ceremony also known as Emuratta.

Maasai boys after circumcism ceremony

The ceremony is the most vital initiation of all rite of passages in the Maasai society. This initiation is performed shortly after puberty. Young men are eager to be circumcised and become warriors. Once the boys become warriors they resume responsibility of security for their territory. Circumcision initiation elevates an individual from childhood to adulthood. In order for the boy to be initiated he must prove himself to the community. The boy must exhibit signs of a grown man, by carrying a heavy spear, herding large herd of livestock, etc. After the operation is successfully completed, the boy would receive gifts of livestock from his relatives and friends. He would also gain a tremendous amount of respect for his bravery.

Maasai boys with white faces

I was really happy to be able to stop and take a few quick photos of these boys as it was really once in a lifetime shot with the perfect location. I threw on my simple “Nifty Fifty” 50mm f/1.8 lens, allowing me to get some beautiful bokeh in the background with excellent sharpness. They were really good sports about me taking their photo and its one I’ll always be happy with from my trip.

Next up, we stopped at Olduvai Gorge, considered the cradle of man and one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world. It’s famous for Mary Leakey and her find of Homo habilis, meaning “man with skill.” in 1959.  

Medicine Man at Olduvai Gorge

Here we also met a man with skill, a Massai Medicine Man who was there selling his medicine to other Maasai at Olduvai Gorge where he allowed me to take this portrait. 

Note: If you’d like to join me on a trip to Africa in 2015, please use the contact page at the top of the site to be added to the list to send information to in December. 

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