Journey to Masai Land
Photography by Andrea Calandra
Text edited by Simone Luchessa
Andrea Calandra’s photography takes us through a journey in the Rombo Manyatta Masaai community in Kenya, where the pride for traditions lives together with new style of lives and western habits. A changing place, where the future is particularly uncertain
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Andrea Calandra - andreacalandra.com
Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikkor 14mm f/2.8, Nikkor 35mm f/2, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8