Photo Essay: Inside a Maasai village in the Mara Triangle

Susan Portnoy is a communications and public relations consultant who writes and photographs as The Insatiable Traveler. She recently travelled to Kenya and captured these stunning black and white photos. 

On a recent visit to Kenya to photograph the wildebeest migration, a small group of photographers and I spent a beautiful September morning with a local Maasai tribe in the Mara Triangle to learn about their culture.

A week earlier, the same Maasai village opened its first school, a crucial step in providing a bright future for their children. Proud and excited to show it off, Simon, the school’s teacher invited us to meet his students and watch a class in session.

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Women from the tribe gather to welcome us. A traditional house made of dirt and cow dung can be seen to the right. In the Maasai culture, women are responsible for building the family home.

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A young woman stands behind the various handmade necklaces, bracelets and other items she sells to travelers.

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Men engaging in the jumping dance for our entertainment. Traditionally, this dance is performed by single warriors in front of single ladies—the higher the jump the more virile the man.

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A once nomadic society, the ability to start a fire anytime anywhere is a crucial skill in the bush. Here a man breathes life into a tiny flame he started by hand.

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The son of the tribe’s chief, this man led us on a tour of his village. The thorny fence behind him is part of a large boma (enclosure) used to protect the village’s livestock from predators at night.

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The modest one-room schoolhouse that opened the week prior.

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Students of varying ages, the oldest standing in the back, are not unlike school kids everywhere. Prompted by their teacher’s question, the children stood on their tippy toes, raising their hands yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”

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A student ponders the answer to her teacher’s question while my camera (whoops) attracts the attention of her seatmates.

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Each student took turns writing out an answer to a math problem on the school’s chalkboard.

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When a student answered a problem correctly, the rest of the children would clap and break into song. The song celebrated not only the child’s achievement but also thanked God for his love and support.

View more photos from Susan Portnoy here

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