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  Martin A. Dege

Create in LT: Art Baltica    Create in Lithuania 2009    

Photography Exhibition MAMA AFRICA

International development – Lithuanian support to Kenyans

Jambo bwana!!!

July - September, 2009
Vilnius International Airport


by Eglė Aukštakalnytė - Hansen

In collaboration with Lithuanian Red Cross organization in Vilnius, we shall collect funds for “Little Rock” Inclusive ECD Centre / Interveners in Early Childhood Education in Kibera and Kivuli Children Centre (Nairobi, Kenya). In addition we shall sell the book “Mama Africa” by Eglė Aukštakalnytė-Hansen with the author’s dedication, some books published by the publishing house “Tyto Alba”. If you would like to join this activity, please contact us. You can also contribute by donating concert tickets to pupils of children foster homes or by allotting 2% of the resident income tax.

More about project:

\'\' Eglė Aukštakalnytė Hansen is a well-known theatre actress. In 1999, she left Lithuania, when her husband, a Danish businessman, was appointed to work in far-away lands. The author of the exhibition and her family lived in Jekaterinburg (Ural), Moscow, Nairobi (Kenya), Maputu (Mozambique). Currently, they live again in Kenya.

In Africa, Eglė Aukštakalnytė Hansen assumed new roles as a writer, photographer, cameraman, got interested in the unique culture of the Masai (Maasai) and other tribes and started analysing it. She has managed to gain trust of the old residents of the savannah, observed and photographed many details of everyday life and rituals of local tribes, which are usually rarely disclosed to strangers.

The exhibition reveals a small part of the photos by Eglė Aukštakalnytė Hansen, which were used to illustrate her book “Mama Africa”.

Comments of the author on the exhibited photos 2009:

About acquaintance with the Masai

In Africa, you can still find the roots of humanity, humans here live in peace with nature. I would like visitors of the photography exhibition “Mama Africa” to experience the extraordinary beauty of this poor continent that is still little touched by the civilisation, as well as interesting, colourful, original and inimitable local people.

I highly appreciate and respect my friendship with the Masai tribe that lives in the territories of Kenya and Tanzania. Masai is the most vibrant and best-known wandering tribe in Eastern Africa. At the time of tribe movement in the XV century, this warlike tribe that cultivates only stockbreeding wandered to the territory of Kenya from South Sudan and more or less settled in the African savannah, the Great Rift Valley. A bit later, due to regular conflicts with neighbouring tribes, Masai were expelled to their present territory between Masai Mara and Amboseli national parks in Kenya and between Serengeti and Ngorongor Crater national parks in Tanzania. At the beginning of the XX century, missionaries, who were first strangers to come to the region, noticed the strength, courage and impressive looks of Morans, the Masai warriors, and started calling them “noble primitive men”. They are like that up to this day. In my photographs, I tried to capture the moments of different rituals and ceremonies, faces, moods, and reveal the joys of everyday life.

I have befriended the Masai through their tribesman Leshao Ndork, who once showed us, lost safari lovers, the way to Masai Mara. Leshao invited us to visit his village in Loita Hills. Villagers sacrificed a sheep to honour me, and when they saw me eating semi-raw mutton from their hands and tasting local beer, they probably understood that I accept and respect them the way they are. I had to “domesticate” them step by step, so that they would reveal the secrets of their hundreds-year-old traditions.

Invited by Leshao Ndork, I took part in the emorata (circumcision of boys and girls), eunoto (initiation of Masai warriors to family men), and women fertility blessing ceremonies, as well as a guest at the wedding of the Masai man Matampash. I have always been travelling to their land with a camera.

With their permission and once they have accustomed to the clicks of my camera, I started capturing the moments of their everyday life, ceremonies and rituals. The Masai enjoyed seeing themselves in the photos, though they are still afraid of the flash, as they believe that it takes their souls away. Thus I never use a flash.

About ceremonies and rituals

In the Masai language, emorata means the ceremony of circumcision of boys and girls. It is a pain test for the youth, as they honourably enter the new age group of adults. Boys become the pride of the tribe – Morans, and girls supplement the swarm of future brides.

Morans are Masai warriors, the pride, vitality and joy of the tribe. As long as the army of the Masai warriors is alive, the Masai tribe lives in Kenya and Tanzania.
Merry and bold, dignified and respectable, they are the joy of villagers and the nightmare of wild animals. Up to this day dressed in short toga, armed with lances, wooden bats and knifes, they boldly and freely rule over the wild savannah.

According to the law of the tribe, duties of the warriors in the time of war is to defend people from enemies, protect tribal lands, and in the time of peace – protect cattle of the tribe from attacks of other tribes, and increase the number of cattle by attacking and seizing cattle from other tribes. After all, the Masai still think that all cows in the world belong to them!

Eunoto ceremony is the biggest festival of the Masai community, which is celebrated once in 10 years in each region of residence of the tribe. Within this time, a generation of warriors, Morans, is formed; they are initiated to senior warriors, granting each Moran the status of a family man. After the ceremony, having exchanged their lances to sticks of cattle-breeders, initiated men become entitled to marry, and assume responsibilities and duties of family men. This is the most impressive festival of the Masai community, which requires thorough preparations, extensive organisational skills and much time, since a great number of people is invited to the festival.

Eunoto ceremony lasts 6 days and consists of 2 red, 2 white and 2 blue days. Within the first two days, warriors gather together, paint their bodies and hair with red ochre, and, having calculated caps of killed lions, decide, which group (Kenyan or Tanzanian) is the strongest, as well as dance and sing.

Within the two white days, warriors go to the forest, looking for white lime (enturoto), wash away red ochre and repaint their bodies in white. The 4 days symbolise their gradual accession to a new age group; red is the colour of war, and white is the colour of peace. The last two days, the blue days, are the key part of the ceremony. Mothers of Morans shave their heads bald, and this is how they finally say goodbye to their arms and freedom. A name is given to the new generation by carrying out the ritual of eating the heart and lungs of a sacrificed beef in the holy forest.

Masai wedding is a very colourful event. Wedding in the culture of the Masai tribe is not a matter of love but a matter of parental agreement, irrespective of wishes of their children. To the Masai, love means duty, obedience, and extension of the kin. Boys are the pride of their parents, and girls are their asset, since father gets a wedding tribute when he gives his daughter away; in other words, he sells her for 6–10 cows. Families are polygamous. Cows and children are the greatest value of the tribe, and the feeling of love is experienced not just between mothers and children; in one’s marriage, it’s often an accidental emotion, yet these days some marriages between the beloved take place.

All married women strive to give birth to children as soon as possible, as without them they feel very lonely and unhappy. If they do not succeed in doing that, they pray to their god Enga, travel to sacred Masai places. The ceremony of fertility blessing last two days, women are blessed in the holy forest, under a patulous African olive tree, as well as in a cattle stockyard, and to reinforce the blessing women paint their face in white peace lime. They have to keep all symbols of fertility for four days, and they believe that spells start working after four days.

Translation by UAB "Ermara"

Project partners:

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