maasai

A Reflection on Preservation

Maasai Tribes of East Africa 

I reflect upon the fragile existence of the Maasai, seminomadic pastoralists of East Africa. These bold and dignified people captivate me.

In 2009 I followed in the footsteps of the Maasai across the floor of the Great Rift Valley. Since then I have resided in many remote settlements, making drawings and taking photographs of Maasai communities in both Kenya and Tanzania.  Absorbing the culture photographing and drawing women, swathed in brightly coloured cloths and adorned in ornate beadwork. Young girls bedeck themselves in their best necklaces to greet the warriors. Young men, in full regalia: ornate headdresses, colourful beads, buttons and ochre make-up, which seem to convey magical powers. In contrast the etched faces of the Elders, echo their daily confrontation with the arid landscape. The Maasai are under threat from the harsh physical elements and the changing world around them.

In my current work I use cameos to encapsulate Maasai culture and heritage.  In my approach to the individual portraits I liken myself to an anthropologist studying and protecting a people an environment and an atmosphere. I have specifically chosen to depict each member of the Maasai community within this cameo shape to reference historical miniature paintings. Traditional cameos often depicted royalty, and could be presented within a locket. The oval shaped portrait makes each work feel small and loved, a keepsake. I wanted each portrait to feel special and preserved within this cameo; likened to a loved one, worn close to the skin, kept warm, shielded and protected.The ovals are meditation; an immersion into Maasai culture. Portrait miniatures reflected the social history of the times. Whilst my portraits may not be in miniature form they encapsulate the essence of the miniature. Like a loved one, the existence of the Maasai people, their culture and tradition needs to be preserved, protected and cherished.

I return a  percentage of the sale of my work to the communities who have inspired me. I have contributed to a maternity unit.I have contributed towards the education of members of the Maasai community. I have funded a kitchen in a school. Currently I am funding a water project for the Ololosokwan community, bringing fresh water to 5000 members of the community.