Stuart Butler, a writer and photographer who has covered Africa for more than two decades, recently decided to walk across Maasai lands in Kenya in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the impact of the 21st century lifestyle, conservation, political pressures and tourism on contemporary Maasai people. (To learn more about his journey, visit Stuart’s blog, Walking With The Maasai.)
He set off with his Maasai companion, Josphat Mako, on May 25, 2015 and finished at the end of June. In addition to a series of articles he wrote for AFKTravel, Stuart took hundreds of stunning photos along the way. While we published some with his articles, there were many more that have so far gone unpublished by us that are simply too beautiful not to share.
Here is a collection of just some of these sublime photos, which depict the Maasai people, their lands, their costumes, and daily life in the various communities Stuart traveled through.
(All captions and photos by Stuart Butler.)
This Maasai man was photographed at a cultural village close to the main Sekenani gate of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Some people think that these kind of cultural villages are all a bit fake. For me though they are fascinating insights into contemporary Maasai culture. And the stories the older men tell? Well they are real! Read more here.
This is David Kipees. He’s one of the administrators of the Ol Derkesi Conservancy. We camped outside his house one night and the next day he told me that a big part of his job is explaining to villagers why the conservancy is actually good for them. For more on my conversation with him see my blog.
Ritually scarred arms on a Maasai man.
This is James Ole Siloma. I first met him a year and half ago close to the small town of Aitong in the northwest of the Mara eco-system. As we walked through Aitong this time we went off to meet him again and ending up spending a couple of days with him. For me he is one of the most naturally photogenic people I’ve ever met and he had some great stories.
One Sunday I decided to visit a tin shack church in a small village to see what Maasai Christianity was all about. It didn’t have much in common to a European church service! For more see my blog.
Maasai men are often photographed wearing ostrich feather headdresses but many of these are just ones made for the tourist market. Tracking down a genuine one in good condition was more problematic and took a couple of days. When, finally, one was found everyone in the village I was staying in came out to see it with many people under the age of about 30 saying they’d never actually seen a real ostrich headdress before.
This is Mako, my Maasai companion and friend on the walk. He normally works as a guide at the Cottars 1920’s Camp (www.cottars.com). In this picture he watches a huge evening thunderstorm approaching as we crossed the Olare Motorogi Conservancy.
We spent one night camped outside this man’s house. In the morning, as the rain beat down, we went inside his clapboard and corrugated iron house to drink tea and talk about the old ways. One of the things he told me about was the rather unusual way the Maasai used to deal with their dead. For more on this, click here.
A mass of giraffes in the Ol Derikesi conservancy. Giraffes were one of the more common (or at least more obvious) of animals that we saw as we walked.
A male impala silhouetted under stormy skies at sunset in the Mara North conservancy.
This picture was taken in a media centre in Sekenani the small town that’s grown up around the main entrance to the Masai Mara National Reserve. The centre is part of a project by local NGO Semadep (http://semadep.org) which is working to improve the lot of Maasai communities around the reserve. It was originally set up by James Ole Lesaloi. He had become infuriated by the vast sums of money being made by the government and tourism operators through safari tourism to the reserve while the local Maasai went without clean running water, health services, electricity and a decent education service. In the years the project has been running it has established a school, clinic, media centre, orphanage project and water stand pipes. For more on this topic, click here.
One evening, when we were close to the Ol Derikesi conservancy, we were blessed with this incredible sunset behind a sausage tree. Little did we know that it was heralding the start of several days of utterly torrential rainfall that would wash away roads and even jeeps and make walking a rather damp affair! For more click here.
This is Peter and his goats. Peter joined us for a couple of days as we walked through the Forest of the Lost Child and the high Loita Hills. Despite the dramatic changes to Maasai life and culture over the past couple of decades, livestock remains close to the heart of all Maasai and even Maasai who have moved to Nairobi or even the US and become successful businessmen tend to still have flocks of sheep and cows back in their village. Normally they are watched by a hired farmhand, but when the owner returns to the village he will almost invariably take his cows and other animals out to the grazing grounds during the day. Read more on Peter here.
A Maasai lady in traditional jewellery. This picture was taken in the high Loita Hills under the shade of the trees in the Forest of the Lost Child. While most Maasai prefer to wear red and blue jewellery the Loita Maasai prefer plain white.
Milking the cattle at dawn. I always enjoyed getting up before dawn and watching the villages come to life. The women were invariably the first up and would quickly set to work brewing tea and milking the cows and goats. For more on the life of Maasai women click here.