Client: Smithsonian Magazine
Photo Editor: Jeff Campagna
Production: Peter Jones, Tanganyika Film, Tanzania
This is Nyotee Kweshema of the Datoga Tribe in Tanzania. She is probably in her seventies, and I think she is beautiful and would turn heads wherever she lived. I remember she just walked onto our makeshift set, and just sat like this, with no direction from me. So very regal. I loved her.
Above, portraits of young Maasai warriors.
Above is Kakai of the Datoga Tribe. Photographed in an abandoned cow shed, as the winds and sands were blowing and howling all around us.
Above is Leemo Zakaya, a young Maasai warrior. The warriors are in charge of protecting livestock from predators and enemies. Since the Maasai is a cow culture, and wealth is based on the number of cows one has, being a warrior is a vital role within the community. To become a warrior, one must first be circumcised, the idea being that if one can endure the excruciating pain of circumcision without flinching, one is brave enough to risk his life to protect their herds.
The above two images are of Stefana Gudumaiya and Musa Sapo respectively, of the Hadzabe Tribe. They are true hunter-gatherers, hunting only for food they will eat that day. Visiting them was like going back to the stone age. They live in caves, make their own bow and arrows, wear baboon hides for clothing and have absolutely no modern amenities. They were extremely kind and generous to us. Photographed in a makeshift studio in the shade of a giant baobab tree.
The two images above are of Usimbgi Kwesamoi (I think I spelled it correctly) of the Datoga Tribe. I think she is stunning. I debated whether or not to retouch the fly out near her eye, but decided not to. It was there, and well, it felt somehow wrong to do so.
The two images above are of Zarmpu Lenganya, a Maasai elder, photographed in Tanzania during a male-circumcision ceremony - something every Maasai male goes through in order to become a warrior. Hundreds of villagers were there, singing, dancing, drinking home-made honey beer, and slaughtering a cow for a feast. If I remember correctly, Zarmpu may have had a bit too much honey beer, as he was a bit wobbly and the cane kept him from falling back into the backdrop. Such a beautiful, elegant, albeit drunk man.
These young Maasai warriors were very funny, making jokes and laughing all the time. However, as soon as they got in front of the camera, they all got very serious. Quite the little warrior posse. I smile every time I look at this photograph. I wonder how they say “Yo!” in Swahili?