The Maasai are a semi-nomadic people inhabiting portions of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. During my recent photographic trip to Kenya I visited several Maasai villages and had the opportunity to photograph traditional Maasai ceremonies as well as make candid portraits of these regal people.
Maasai tradition call for boys to be circumcised at ages 12-13 and spend the next 10-15 years performing traditional cattle herding duties on the tribal lands sometimes in places quite distant and remote from their villages. After performing this extended duty for the village, young men return to marry a teenage bride usually selected by the parents. This young man is being decorated in preparation for an Adumu or “jumping dance” which we were able to photograph.
The jumping dance is intended to strengthen the men’s legs in preparation for the rigorous herding tasks ahead.
Many of these women are stunning and would be at home on a Vogue cover! The colorful dress is the norm in the village but the accessorizing of jewelry, headwear and body paint is part of the special preparation for the ceremonies.
This is one of those stunning women. She would turn a lot of heads if she were strutting down 5th Ave or the Champs-Elysees in the latest haute couture outfit.
The young men apply each others decoration and use mirrors to admire their look. The ochre color comes from the dominant earth tones in the area.
This portrait was taken inside one of the village huts/homes which have a rounded rectangular shape and are constructed from grass, sticks, mud and cow dung. The homes are without running water or electricity and contain fire pits which are used for warmth and cooking.
The light for this image originates from a small window on the side of the building and provides nice soft lighting for a dramatic portrait.
This young man created fire from a couple of tufts of dry grass and a stick. Very impressive.
After marrying men gradually gain seniority in the village and some rise to the position of village elder where they provide advice and governance in the Maasai way.
I worked with these little guys for 20 minutes and finally got them to relax and not “pose” for the camera. Once they forget there’s a camera there, the magic can begin.
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