MAASAI BEADWORK IN THE MARA

On your next African safari, there’s one place you will be sure to find the best Maasai beadwork in Kenya. At Basecamp Explorer’s Enjoolata Information Centre in Maasai Mara. Beadwork is one of the most complex forms of artistry, certainly outstanding, perhaps even exclusive, since it involves a lot of creativity and uniqueness. But, often, we only come across the finished products without putting much thought into the process used to compose this eccentric form of art. At Enjoolata Information Centre in Basecamp, Maasai Mara, not only will you get the finished product, but you also get to watch and understand the fine art of Maasai beadwork.    

Beaded belts
A trader displays pieces of the fine beadwork done by the Basecamp Maasai Brand community project at Enjoolata Information Centre in the Mara. The project is meant to empower and give women in the region a source of livelihood.

    To the Maasai people, beads highlight their dress code which is never complete without beaded decorations. Be it a belt. Bangles. Pendants. Bracelets. Anklets. Trinkets. Sandals. Necklaces. So forth. Beads are the main condiment in Maasai attire. Beadwork is, therefore, an activity accorded great importance in the community. It represents the cultural values and traditions of the Maasai and signifies age and social status. So important is the practice that women, who do the Maasai beadwork, are expected to learn and perfect the art for the benefit of the community.

Beaded bracelets
Bracelets are part of the fine Maasai beadwork made at the Enjoolata Information Centre in Basecamp, Maasai Mara. The community-based project benefits 160 women from the region.

    Maasai Brand is a community project supported and housed by Basecamp Explorer at the Enjoolata Information Centre in the Mara. The community-based organization led by the project manager, Jemimah Sirowua, has 160 women from the Maasai Mara landscape who participate in the beadwork program. “We make different kinds of items. Bracelets, belts, bangles. We also do leatherwork like leather bags and wallets.” Explains a soft-spoken Jemimah. Basecamp began the project in 2003 with four main aims. First was a desire to empower the local women, give them a source of income, eradicate poverty, and modify the Maasai culture of beadwork. Basecamp Explorer buys the material used for the beadwork. The women go through capacity development and quality control training to maintain the standards and enhance their beadwork skills. They are provided with space for a workshop alongside a shop where they practice their skills and sell the art.           

    Here, at the serene setting of Enjoolata Information Centre, you will find the Maasai women of the Mara countryside busy doing what they love best. The women’s commitment to beading is so palpable. Their superb display of skill and passion comes with almost infectious energy. One cannot help but stare as their dextrous hands string the beads as if by magic chance. When you witness it first-hand, Maasai beadwork appears a craft as simple as it is complex. You get to watch, love and respect the effort put into the work, and marvel even more at the finished product. Most importantly, perhaps, you finally understand why beadwork deserves a higher pedestal in the world of art. In supporting the project, Basecamp Explorer Foundation must have seen and decided to cultivate this massive potential in the sole interest of the community.

Maasai women
Women sort out their beadwork at the BMB workshop. They are taken through capacity development and quality control training to maintain the standards and enhance their beadwork skills.

    The project manager, Jemimah Sirowua, says the project has gone a long way in uplifting the women. “They are paid for each piece they make. 75% of the cost of the item goes back to the lady who has done the beadworks. 25% of the cost of the item covers the administration costs of the project. We have eight staff members here working for the women. Some are working at the shops, and others are within the workshop centre. The project has impacted women in various ways. They can take their children to school, buy food, afford hospital bills and buy assets.” She explains. This Maasai beadwork empowerment has changed dynamics in a community where women were not allowed to own assets. “Because of Basecamp Explorer Maasai Brand project, most of the women have been able to own plots and cows. The main economic activity here in the Mara is livestock. Most of them now have cows that they proudly call their own,” asserts Jemimah, who has adorned herself with a beautifully beaded necklace made at the workshop.

   On the job, the women train on how to get the sizes right, perfect colour combinations, and create contemporary designs. Some of them are able, albeit with lots of practice, to master complex patterns and teach their peers in the group. Apart from these work-related benefits, the Maasai beadwork project educates the women in other disciplines such as investment; how to save and apply for loans in banks. In addition to this, they have also benefited from the social empowerment they get from the project. “Some acquire leadership skills and become chair ladies of certain groups from the six subdivisions that we have within the brand.” Reveals Jemimah Sirowua. 

Beautiful Maasai Woman
Basecamp Maasai brand project manager, Jemimah Sirowua, signs off a sale as one of the workshop workers looks on. The project has uplifted hundreds of women in the Mara and provided employment to quite a good number of locals.

   The Maasai beadwork project by Basecamp Explorer sources materials needed for the work through recycling. A rice bag provides the thread used to string the products. The women pull a strand from it and twist it nicely, an activity that requires a lot of patience. It reduces the cost of production, and since the source is reliable, they get a constant supply of the thread. The project also relies on the tips of horns of dead cows to make a button for leather handbags and a twisted leather necklace. One of Basecamp Explorer’s other main involvements in the Maasai Mara community is a waste management project that involves the collection of plastics for recycling.

   For the women of the Mara who have benefited from this project, the Maasai Brand beadwork is a golden chance to make something out of their lives. As the sun sets on the last day of our trip to the Mara, two beneficiaries of the Maasai beadwork undertaking tell me how much this opportunity means to them. “I enjoy beadwork, and although my passion lies in the fact that the venture is beneficial to me, I love coming here every morning.” Says a beaming Janet Rakwa. “Through the money I get, I send my kids to school, sometimes buy utensils and furniture. I can even start another business if I want.” Adds Jennifer Muronya. “If not this job,” she adds, “I would be staying at home, doing chores, being a housewife.” Both women agree that the project is a source of solace to them. They have a home at Enjoolata Information Centre, a place where they can polish their cherished beadwork skills, find shade, and make hay while the sun shines.                

Maasai Beads
The Maasai women train on how to get the sizes right, perfect colour combinations, and create contemporary designs. Some of them are able to master such complex patterns and teach their peers in the group.

WRITTEN AND EDITED BY: Tim Njugi, Writer, Blogger, and Photographer

STORY COURTESY: David Macharia, CEO and Founder, Versatile Photographers          

Maasai Mara: Enjoolata Information Centre

When you set out to the great Maasai Mara on a maiden trip, your imagination is alive with scenes of vast grasslands, endless savannah stretching for kilometres as far as the eye can see. Wavy hills, the occasional sprout of an acacia, the slow march of elephants, the trot of wild dogs, and the rowdy gallop of wildebeests. You envisage lions on the prowl seeking the next zebra to devour. Overhear their roar. And you foresee the cheetah’s lightning-speed sprint. It all plays out in your mind as you travel to The Mara. And then you arrive at the Enjoolata Information Centre.

Lion cubs
Two lion cubs trot in the Maasai Mara jungle. As you travel to the region, your imagination is awash with such scenes. PHOTO COURTESY: Versatile Photographers.

Set within Base Camp, Maasai Mara, which lies in the hems of the National Reserve, Enjoolata Information Centre is like gold in the midst of an ocean. Encountering the place comes with a feeling of awe and satisfaction, not only because it wasn’t part of your expectations but also because the serene setting is the perfect place to host a haven of information. Enjoolata, which, in Maasai, translates to knowing or finding a hidden thing, feels just like a discovery. The architecture itself is unique with open, spacious rooms that invite some soothing birdsong, the serene ambiance of the place, and convene at a quadrangle for a night-time bone fire and an outdoor cinema. Each of the eleven sections holds equal weight in the quest to empower and garner information. There’s an addictive library, its shelves rich in literature ranging from Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield to National Geographic picture books, and walls dotted with expressive art pieces that leave you smiling. Two exhibition centres showcase pictures and facts about the local wildlife. There is a space set aside for an upcoming community radio station that will no doubt impact the people living around the area.   

Enjoolata Map
A map of Enjoolata information Centre. Each of the eleven sections holds equal weight in the quest to empower and garner information.

   Enjoolata Information Centre was founded in 2019 by the Basecamp Explorer Foundation, a non-governmental organization immersed in fighting wildlife extinction in conjunction with local communities. Although still in its infancy, the centre boasts a lively human presence, rife with the excitement of the opportunity to be here, to find this treasure trove of information and knowledge in the middle of The Mara. Such was the enthusiasm seen on the faces of six employees of the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) when they attended a three-day USAID-sponsored photography training by Versatile School of Photography at Enjoolata Information Centre’s Edit room. A few steps away at room five is a BMB workshop where local Maasai women have been provided with a space to do their beadwork beside a shop where they sell their craft. One cannot help but see the zeal of these women who are finally empowered.

Enjoolata Library
A section of the library at Enjoolata Information Centre within Basecamp in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. The serene ambiance of the place makes it the perfect place to lose yourself in a good book.

At the centre of Enjoolata’s core values are conservation and the need to involve the local community in these efforts. The founder seeks to answer two pressing questions in the Maasai Mara. How is climate change affecting the preservation of flora and fauna? And how is it affecting the livelihood of the Maasai People?  “It is a call to action,” says Mr. Francis Sopia, the Basecamp Explorer Foundation’s Chief Project Manager. “How can we as a community contribute to curbing climate change and reduce the effects in the conservation arena and also in our livelihoods?” He poses. The information about climate change provided by the centre goes a long way in creating the public awareness needed to fight climate change which has gravely affected the world. It is no wonder that three of Basecamp Explorer’s five major projects are on conservation. The first, reforestation, encourages the locals to participate in reviving and restoration of lost vegetation cover. Second, a water project provides accessibility of clean water to the Maasai community. The foundation also runs a waste management plan that involves collecting plastics from lodges and areas around and sending them hundreds of kilometres to the capital, Nairobi, to be recycled.

One of the employees of the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) who attended a three-day photography training by Versatile School of Photography practices videography skills. Two rooms at the Enjoolata Information Centre are dedicated to a gallery where pictures and facts of the local wildlife are displayed.

  The centre is a pot stewing with Maasai values. “This is where you will find the culture of the Maasai. Talk about the artifacts. Talk about everything that concerns or pertains to the Maasai culture.” Says Emmanuel Kisemei, a communication officer at MMWCA. Enjoolata Information Centre is also the hub of research done in the Maasai Mara. In seeing the need to keep the Maasai cultural info and the data of certain species intact, Basecamp Explorer Foundation also offers material on how Maasai culture and conservation come together. Today, the foundation has provided an opportunity to safeguard both the culture and the breath-taking experience of the Maasai Mara. Enjoolata Information Centre has two rooms for professors who wish to come to the Mara to do their research. “In order not to lose the information, we’d like it to remain with us here at the centre. If the stakeholders, landowners, or community need the info, they can find it here at Enjoolata.” Concludes Mr. Francis Sopia.

Maasai women
The Maasai beadwork workshop at the Enjoolata Information Centre. The project benefits 160 women from the Maasai Mara landscape.

WRITTEN AND EDITED BY: Tim Njugi, Writer, Blogger, and Photographer

STORY COURTESY: David Macharia, CEO and Founder, Versatile Photographers  

Lets preserve the little that is left. All is not lost.

Over the recent years, things have gone from bad to worse as far as cultural practices are concerned especially among the youths. Globalisation due to technological advances have posed a threat to the future generations. It is a norm nowadays that very few of our dear youths have the knowledge of our cultures. Not only have many of our youths neglected their cultures and assimilated the western cultures, but also no effort or desire is seen in them to bring them back.

One among the few communities which has preserved their cultural identity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology which has encroached our societies has blinded our very own youths, it has enslaved them. A big percentage of our siblings have already lost directions and it will take not the efforts of one man but joined hands with the same vision and focus to deliver them out of this slavery. The many vices we experience today is as a result of the changing world and we, having accepted to be changed by the world.

A traditional meal common among people living in the central region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wished I lived during the days of our forefathers, a time when cultural practices were considered greatly and adhered to by all members of the respective communities. It was then when immorality, early​ marriages, theft cases, corruption, killings were nowhere to be seen for youths were taught according to the desires and culture of the communities. Youths knew their roles​ in their societies by then, not today. The traditional teachings had a great positive impact to the lives of youths. It is no doubt that we had responsible youths brought up in the ways of the communities.

Positive results of cultural influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The roles our grandparents played in those days were of great affection. Young men who had gone through the initiation ceremonies and had completed the transition from childhood to adulthood would sit down with the elderly and be taught the roles and expectations of them to their societies in their new positions. Something​ that was similar to the girls which were taught by their grandmother’s. Societies lived in peace and harmony then. Punishments were in place to all those who would deviate from  the expectations of the society.

A Maasai elder, one of the wise councillors outside his Manyatta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saddening it is that in this century, youths are ready to do what they want even if it is wrong. Respect to their elders has lost its meaning and they can challenge their parents without shame, a great taboo in the past. Young men can do what ladies are doing, from skin lighteners, hairstyles to dressing. In a similar way, ladies too want to be equal to men, from hairstyles, dressings to roles in the house without condemnation from around. It is indeed something that everyone has closed their eyes on and this needs intervention as fast as possible to avoid the great danger which lies ahead of us and it’s nothing,​ but going back to where we came from.

If we need to save the future generations from this disease, we have to accept and embrace our cultures. It is until then when decency and modesty shall be seen in our communities and our youths.

Versatile Adventures is a Versatile Photographers initiative to create awareness for Wildlife, Conservation, Tourism and Culture through content development

#PhotographyForConservation

#PhotographyInTheWild

YOUTH AND CONSERVATION (1): FOREST CONSERVATION.

A tree seedling beside the stump of a tree burned down for charcoal. The seedlings are planted to mitigate the effect of wide scale deforestation in areas surrounding the forest.

I chose an early morning tea session to sit down with Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation Chief Executive Officer , Mr. George Murilla to discuss conservation efforts in the Kakamega Forest. Mr. Murila was happy to host me for a conversation on Kakamega Forests, which he advocates for. Mr. Murila and I had this conversation on the advent of a free medical camp in Lugala Village . The medical camp was hosted by the Foundation  in conjunction with The Nairobi Hospital.

I asked Mr. Murila what motivated him to be a pioneer member of the Foundation. He said,  “It is just awareness. When Al Gore started talking about climate change and scientists started putting emphasis on it, I asked my friends who are environmental  experts about climate change and they told me how bad the situation was. I asked them about the forest, and they explained to me how important the forest is, thereafter teamed up with likeminded people from the area and we started the foundation. I didn’t even know how important the forest was until I talked to those experts.”

I notice that unlike most areas I have seen in  Kakamega, the Lugala Community has planted a lot of trees on their plots. Mr. Murila explained how this came about, “We carry out massive efforts to raise awareness on the importance of not cutting down trees inside the forests. We also give the Community tree seedlings from our nursery to plant at home for purposes of firewood and charcoal. That way they don’t have to go to the forests. We also hold tree planting sessions twice a year during the long rains and short rains.”

I asked Mr. Murila how the community was responding to the reforestation efforts. He tells me, the community was cynical at first. After many years of cutting down forest trees, it was cynical to change. In fact I remember, when Mzee Moi was informed about the ongoing deforestation and illegal logging in Kakamega Forest, he created a Nyayo tea zone here. It was a barrier to people from entering the forest. If the Police found you beyond the tea zone they arrested you. The people here were outraged. They  said it was their trees and resources, so they should be allowed to do as they wish. 30 years later I am glad Moi stood firm, or else there wouldn’t be a forest.” There was a tone of reminisce in his voice. “Those were the days.” He laughed uproariously while shaking his head.

One of the ways the Kakamega Forest  Foundation increases forest cover is by giving out tree seedlings.I asked him how the Foundation has been distributing seedlings to schools, churches  and well-wishing farmers.” We have entered into a partnership with organisations like the Kenya Forestry Service who supplied us 2000 seedlings last year. We plant them in our nursery and once they have matured enough we give them out to people who are willing to reserve 10% of their plot for trees, on condition they take care of the trees until they grow.” I was curious on why they insisted on the condition.”Until you dig a hole,plant a tree,water it and ensure it grows,then you have done nothing.You are  just talking” He quoted revered environmentalist Wangari Maathai.

One of the initiatives of the Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation is, The Young  Echo Club. In layman’s language, this the youth wing of the Foundation. Mr. Murila seemed very excited about this part of the interview. “Mentorship is the key to continuity of a society. We started the echo club with the intention of targeting young people such that one or two generations down the line, everyone will appreciate the role of environmental conservation. We have education bursaries,sanitary pads distribution programmes for girls and underwear for boys. I hope we can get financial support to help take this to the next level. These young people will be the tour guides in the forest and this creates employment, since they will have the knowledge of the forests, its species and its history. In fact, there are still the indigenous scouts who can tell the medicinal value of the tree by just smelling its leaves.”

The Foundation also holds various events during the last week of November in each year. The events include a half marathon, full marathon and a fifteen kilometer corporate race for both men and women. ,a black mamba  cycling race which is growing in numbers, tree planting and bull fighting.. Plans to open an athletics training camp and to bring in athletic coaches to train athletes in the area are underway.

Research is one of the pillars of the Kakamega forestry foundation. The goal is to eventually establish a research institute for forestry and medicine purposes in Kakamega. I asked how close we are to making this a reality? “We are far, very far. In fact we haven’t even began, because we can’t do it ourselves. We lack the academic knowledge to do it. This is where local academic institutions come in. The only research going on in here is being carried out by wazungus. There are Germans and French nationals  who usually come here and get degrees using research from the forest. We have around 13 German PhD’s courtesy of this Kakamega forest yet not even one local degree. Not one! If we get a university ready to do research here, I’m sure we can organise something. People need to know what kinds of trees are ,best; we need scientists to improve our breed of trees. We need such specialists. We need them and we need them to be African.”

“Mr.Murilla how is the political and stakeholders response?” I asked him, because for someone to execute the vision they have, political goodwill is necessary.  “On paper the goodwill is there, on the ground not so much. The legislation is yet to be passed, we are still funding ourselves, we haven’t received any money pursuant to the Paris climate agreement. We have been informed by the UN offices that all money will go through the county government and we haven’t received any, but the Governor is on our Foundation’s Board. We get almost zero input from him, hopefully things will change.” I didn’t press the matter further.

Finally just before our session was concluded, I asked  Mr. Murila for his rallying cry to Kenyans on the matter of the  forest. “There is nothing new I can add, all that has to be said has been said. It’s time for action. Everyone needs to dig a hole, plant a tree, water the tree and ensure it grows. Otherwise you’ve not done anything.” We concluded the session with a insight sessions in the under workings of the political world  where he was once a key player. A good pastime after a great conversation.

Click here to view the short film of the forest.

How to sustain culture as part of tourism

Culture plays an important role in the tourism industry. It acts as one of the main tourist attraction element in the country, Kenya. The diversity of Kenyan culture has been of great affection to many people around the globe. Most people from European countries visit Kenya every year to satisfy their eyes the great satisfaction granted by our cultures.

An elderly Maasai woman dressed in beads. She represents the beauty of the Maasai culture

Very few communities in the country have been able to preserve their cultures over time, this has been greatly influenced by the changing world. The advancement in technologies and adoption of western culture has been some of the reasons.

“Githeri” a staple meal at central Kenya.

Our rich cultural heritage which was our pride and our identity in the olden days has no place in the modern society today. This is because every member of the society wants to be seen civilized and no longer outdated, something that has indeed brought​ a huge negative impact in our pursuit of sustaining our cultural practice.

Maasai warriors lighting fire through traditional means.

Most tourists love coastal Kenya not because of the warm sandy beaches offered by the ocean but due to the friendly nature of the coastal people. They have been taught how to handle and treat visitors of which going against it will be a serious offense. This has made them offer a friendly environment for visitors, something that is attributed to the rise in tourism activities.

Coastal dishes, one of the tourist attraction.

The traditional dances along the Kenyan coast are of great affection too. Traditionally​, they used to put on mahando (a piece of cloth cut lengthwise in small strips), worn around the ladies waist.When they start to dance on these attires, it was indeed true that none would turn down a chance to join them. These dances attracted many tourists who came to see and learn more about our traditions. However, this has depreciated over time as now it is less considered in our communities nowadays.

Have you ever interacted with the Maasai of Kenya? The Maasai community is one of the very few communities that have upheld their cultural practices over time. From the mode of dressing​ to the type of food they take, all are traced back to their olden days. The different amazing clothes, African in origin, offers a good and wonderful point ​of view.

Benjamin, a local tour guide at Lake Magadi.

Apart from the dances, there are traditional foods. These traditional foods offer a great desire and love to outsiders and hence giving them the feeling of wanting to be part of these specific communities. This has seen many foreigners crossing the borders and adopting our ways to some buying land for settlement and some inter-marrying the local people giving rise to new tribes. The intermarriage between the coastal Bantu and Arab for example led to the rise of the Swahili tribe.

The cultural artifacts. Different communities used and to some still, carve these materials. They are beautiful to look at and offer a good scenic view. The Maasai community has been largely known for this. This cultural practice has been a great plus as many tourists visiting the country have been buying these carvings.

Generally, there’s​ need of preserving the positive cultural practices in our communities for them to an extent offer a good market for tourism thus promoting it. The desire of seeing and learning different cultural practices is promoting national pride for domestic tourism and stimulates an understanding and respect of other cultures too as well as promoting international cohesion. This makes the world a wonderful place to live in. Cultural practices​ and heritage have to be sustained as it is a primary promoter of tourism. Changing our negative ideologies and the way we look at our cultural practices is the best way out to sustain our culture.

Versatile Adventures is a Versatile Photographers initiative to create awareness for Wildlife, Conservation, Tourism and Culture through content development

#PhotographyForConservation

#PhotographyInTheWild

Wedding In The Wild with David Macharia

Versatile Photographers came to being due to the demand we had in wedding photography more than 10 years ago. It has been an adventurous experience covering  weddings from different cultures. This made it possible for us to meet clients expectation. We, Versatile photographers create art by capturing the passion and the chemistry between two lovebirds. At the beginning of last year, I received an email from Kara, Stefan and their travel agent Team Kilimanjaro requesting to capture their wedding day. As always my assistant and I, requested for the brief and it was just Kara and Stefan traveling to Kenya to get married. So there were no more guests. 

Stefan and Kara at Amboseli National park

To my surprise, they wanted to get married in the beauty of our  Maasai Culture at Amboseli National Park. I was drawn to the wedding because I run a conservation project that focuses on our culture, wildlife and tourism Versatile Adventures.  After consultation, we came into agreement in terms of logistics and payment. All year I was looking forward to this day to capture a wedding in the wild. I opted not to use the flight  to Amboseli park since it would limit the number of equipments to carry and game drive thus I decided to ride in my own vehicle so as to document the couple experience. I booked a van for myself from Bigfoot Adventures Kenya  and made a request  that  I need a driver who has an interest to learn photography. That’s how I met Tim who turned out to be an amazing assistant. Lucky he carried his own camera. 

The beauty of our maasai culture

A day before the wedding, we left Nairobi at 5am hoping to find Mt Kilimanjaro clear. You can’t go wrong with Amboseli national park when it comes to Wildlife photography. As soon as I made an entrance to the park, I started taking pictures of the wild animals before getting to Tortilis camp where the couple was. Tortilis is one among the  unique camps that is located inside the park and is known for best views of Kilimanjaro Mountain. We received a warm welcome from Bob before introducing us to the couple. It was my first time to meet the couple and I loved them. At this time I couldn’t wait to capture the candid and natural moment of this lovely couple. I almost fell into the holiday mood only to realize am at work. Later after lunch, we did a game drive with Tim and this time round my focus was to capture elephant’s behavior. 

A herd of elephants feeding at Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is the only park remaining where elephants walk in big herds. Elephants depletion has resulted due to poaching and climate change. In our project Versatile Adventures we create awareness and the need to focus more on conservation for generations to come. Amboseli sunset is just breathtaking, and we were advantaged to have our camp inside  the park, thus we could wait till it sunk down. 

Beautiful view of the sunset at Amboseli National Park

Here comes the wedding day. We kicked off at  6am ready for sunrise shots. At first, I met the groom,  and captured his first expression when he saw his bride wearing a very beautiful wedding gown. Tortilis Camp had prepared breakfast for us in the bush. 

Stunning sunrise shot brightens the day

Wow, what an experience. Following, was the  game drive with our tour guide named Junior. Having our own ride made it possible to capture the couple true expression since this was their first game drive experience together. The elephants, zebras, wildebeests, and giraffe all witnessed the love. 

Stefan and Kara during the game drive with Tortilis Camp Land cruiser.

A simple walk in the park has lasting memories

The elephant witnesses the union of Stefan and Kara union. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit in the air.

The candid moments captured in the wild

We later drove back to the camp to get ready for Maasai village. The love between Kenya and Canada, is one of  the reasons why we should conserve our culture. Maasai is among the few communities that  has maintained and preserved their cultural heritage, they are always full of joy to share their identity. We received a warm welcome with dances ,food and our couple was dressed to kill to Maasai regalia ready for the wedding ceremony. Gifts in form of cattle was exchanged cordially accepting them to the Maasai family with love.  l almost shed tears when I witnessed the love binding us as human being. Where did the world go wrong that there is so much hatred amongst nations??.. Anyway, wish the whole world can come together and share the love God gave us. 

Stefan and Kara during the Maasai wedding ceremony with the elders.

Stefan and Kara outside the Maasai Village where the wedding ceremony happened.

After nyama choma ( Roasted Meat) we had a group photo to crown the wedding ceremony. We did not worry about dusty winds, all we did was dance to the beats with the new couple as I crawled down to capture the moments. 

Kara dancing with Maasai women after the wedding ceremony.

Maasai elders offering a thanksgiving prayer for the newly wedded couple facing Kilimanjaro.

It was time to go and refresh since the wedding was not yet over and we had a bush walk before the sun set. In Weddings, it is all about food and at Tortilis camp we had our delicious lunch waiting for us. 

Under the spreading branches of the Tortilis tree..love was felt

The bush walk with our Maasai tour guide, gave us an adventurous evening because we learnt so much about animals behavior by just looking at their footsteps. Our bush guide named Ben was so funny we laughed the entire walk.. we even witnessed a Chinese impala. When we meet, ask me what a Chinese impala is. 

Evening bush walk at Amboseli national park

Tortilis gave us an exclusive experience and we had a cocktail at Ermirishari Hill where we witnessed beautiful Amboseli landscape, the sunset and part of the Kilimanjaro. Our wedding ended at dawn as I captured silhouette images of the lovely couple.

Kara and Stefan during sunset. The Silhouette image tells more with little information.

This is one the the unique couples and I thank God for giving us the opportunity to create memories for them. Stefan and Kara is an adventurous wedding couple since they had to leave the following day to hike Kilimanjaro from the Tanzanian route. Can’t wait to deliver the album which they will find it ready as they come back from Kilimanjaro.

Newly wedded couple Stefan and Kara

Few things I learnt that I would like to share include;

Always communicate with your client before so as to meet their expectations

Our culture is so unique it attracts other communities,  we need to conserve it

Wedding belongs to two people who are bound by heart.

You can have your wedding a place of your choice

Stefan and Kara chose their wedding to take place in the wild

For upcoming photographers;

Always give value to your client and you will never lack

Plan earlier,  source the equipments you need, to make your art exclusive

Always sell your craft online someone will fall in love with it and hire you.

Be visible online.

Be open to learn new things and be adventurous

Go out and explore. 

Booking for Destination Wedding for 2018 and 2019 is open..

Regards, 

David Macharia

Lead Creative Photographer

Versatile Photographers

Website: www.davidmacharia.com 

Mobile: +254722424136 +254722220978

Office:  +254 202173355

Email: info@davidmacharia.com

Website: www.versatilephotographers.com

 

Running to Restore and Conserve

RUNNING TO RESTORE AND CONSERVE!

Versatile Adventures is an initiative aiming at creating awareness on the importance of Conservation through photography. The Initiative is Guided by four main pillars, that is Conservation, Tourism, Culture and Wildlife. This time round, we traveled to Kakamega county, Shinyalu constituency courtesy of an invitation from Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation. “The Foundation was primarily set up with the objective of complementing the efforts of the Kenya government of restoring and conserving Kakamega Forest, the only Guinea Congolian type rain forest remaining in Kenya today (that continues to be exploited for resources for survival by the communities in the ecosystem) for the larger welfare of the ecosystem through various interventions.” Marathon Brief.

In relation to the foundation’s  theme, Running to Restore and Conserve! It also branched to Empowerment programs such as Donation of wheelchairs, donation of sanitary towels to the girl child in conjunction with Mama Ibanda foundation, Mentorship program to the boy child saving him from the drug and alcohol abuse world, conducting medical camps and educating the local community within Kakamega forest on the negative effects of deforestation thus empowering them economically to eradicate the mentality of selling firewood as a source of income.

One of the corporate social responsibility activity carried out during the Kakamega forest marathon was donation of bikes to every girl child in high school. The bicycles were donated by the Turkish Embassy so as to ease access to students who travel for long distances to get to school.

Conservation.

Prior to the Kakamega Forest Marathon, The foundation conducted a tree planting day. 15000 seedlings were donated to the local church, mosque and to the community. Once the community is educated on the importance of planting trees, they will experience an improvement of water quality, natural flows, natural food, medicine, and shelter to the birds. There will be a fade-out of soil erosion, a positive change in the rate of global warming thus a decline of carbon (iv) oxide in the air.  Present dignitaries promised to help the Foundation achieve a more than  10% forest cover within the western region.

Culture  

Early in the morning on 23rd November, 2017 we experienced bull fighting and danced to the beats of the famous Isukuti dance. I interacted with Sir. Valentine Musonga who informed me on his experience of breeding a bull meant to take part in the fight. The bull is mainly fed on Napier grass and hardly do they feed on processed animal feeds. Crossbreeding of the bulls is done to improve quality for instance between a friesian breed and an asian breed. When injured during the fight, the bulls are treated with traditional herbs and in case of death, the bull is tested and if found good for human consumption, the bull is shared to the butcheries in the area, and it can cost as much as Ksh 200,000 if it’s big enough and worth the price.  

Bullfighting is considered as a game for both the old and young. Home games are conducted and at the end, the bulls winner is awarded with a good lump sum of money thus promoting co-existence.

Bulls are graded in groups according to experience, and weight too. A bull in category A would hardly fight a bull in category C because it would consider that as a way of lowering its status.

Bull Fighting at Solyo Playground, Shinyalu.

An Early Morning Feed

Grand entry to the fighting ground

One of the bull being psyched up.

Bicycle Race held at Solyo playgrounds, Shinyalu division and the Kakamega Forest Marathon attracted participants from all over the country and the world thus promoting domestic tourism. The two activities are meant to bring the foundation into focus highlighting their core action which is to conserve. Through the marathon, within the 3 days, Kakamega county and Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation had an increase in population and wide visibility.

The athletes had to go through an Anti-dopping test later there effort was awarded with trophies and took home a huge sum of money.

Trophies awarded to Athletes

Cabinet Secretary Prof. Judy Wakhungu awarding an athlete Kemboi Elias

Wildlife  

Kakamega forest is widely known for the presence of butterfly’s, 400 species of birds, lizards snakes and more. It is the best place to view butterflies in kenya. The forest is not only productive of an amazing biological diversity, the animals, birds are all  interconnected and part of supporting the forest’s ecosystem itself by spreading the seeds of the trees and pollinating the flowers.

Kakamega forest is a tourist attraction in the country thus we should visit and experience its ambiance.

Story by: Christine Mwaura

The Bull Fighting

How many of you have witnessed a bull fighting competition live? I bet very few people have gotten the chance to see or even attend this event. Bull fighting is a curious event that is associated with the Luhya culture and mostly done in Kakamega County.

The bull fighting event is usually set near the beautiful Kakamega Rain Forest, which is the only rainforest in the country. This event takes place several times a year and forms a crucial aspect of the Luhya culture.

The bull fighting is done very early in the morning in an open field where the locals can watch clearly as well as looking out for their safety. The fight is between two bulls each representing a village where they are fed with traditional beer before the battles begins.

Once the preparations are ready, the villagers accompany the bulls to an open field where the fight happens. During this time there are roar of noise from the gathering crowd of locals as they cheer and blow traditional horns.

As the bulls fight they are provoked by the crowd and horns leading to a fierce battle which lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Due to this jeers from the crowd one bull will eventually flee and the other bull is declared the winner.

Since bulls represents a crucial aspect of Luhya culture, the owner of the winning bull takes home prize money. The prize fighters are respected and recognized in the village where a celebration is done after the bull fighting ceremony.

For sure bull fighting is unusual activity which is an extremely vibrant and interesting cultural event that everyone needs to attend and you are guaranteed to enjoy it.

Tyson Kiiru

Versatile Adventures

The Third Edition Of Kakamega Forest Marathon

The county number represents Kakamega county which is located at the western part of the country.The county comes with a share of unique features that helps the county stand out among the 47 counties.

Did you know that Kakamega forest is the only rainforest in the country with some of the rare birds and butterflies found in the world?Over the weekend our team Versatile Adventures received an invitation from Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation and Athletics Kenya Western Region to participate in the third edition of Kakamega Forest Marathon.

The theme of the marathon was running to restore and conserve the environment of this county.The event started on Thursday with Isukuti dance which identifies the luhyia community then followed the bullfighting where 8 bulls participated in the competition. Later in the day there was tree planting at Solyo playgrounds as well as giving the residents tree siblings to foster the conservation.

On the 24 November there was bicycle racing that started at Solyo playgrounds where there were two categories the 30 kilometers and 70 kilometers.The participants were both men and women,surprising enough the aged cut across all people.

Despite the slippery terrain the participants managed to finish both races though there were slight injuries.All those who took first positions of both races walked away with 60,000 shillings while from positions two to ten were awarded different amounts.

Saturday marked the last day of the Kakamega forest marathon with a42 kilometers marathon both men and women,a 21 kilometers marathon again both men and women and Ingo challenge 15 kilometers run.The participants run across the forest withstanding the muddy terrains and finished the races at the marathon village, Ileho Chirobani.

The Cabinet Secretary, Environment and Natural Resources Judy Wakhungu graced the occasion also present was the speaker of Nairobi County Assembly Beautrice Elachi.The message to the residents is that they conserve the forest and avoid cutting trees,those that wouldbe found doing so will face the law.

Turkish government who also sponsored the Marathon donated more than 200 bicycles to school girls as a way of empowering them.The bicyles would help them commute from their homes to school as most of them walk long distances to school.The Government also assured to support the foundation in the coming years and also donate more bicycles so that no one have to walk those long distances.

The event ended with awarding the athletes who won in both 42Km and 21Km of the marathon. The winner of the 42 Kilometers walked away with 500,000 thounsand shillings while the winner of the 21 kilometers won 250,000 thounsand shillings.The first and the second runner’s up won different amounts of money as a way of motivating them to do better next time.

Kakamega Forest Marathon and the Heritage Foundation said that they will continue to create awareness among the residents of the county. They say they want to set the pace as the best conserved county in the Country as well as preserve Kakamega Forest which is very unique not only to them but to the country too.They hope to host the 4 edition of the Kakamega Forest Marathon some time next year and they expect more participants.

Tyson Kiiru
Versatile school of photography

Isikuti Dance

Culture involves arts, customs and habits that characterize a particular society or a nation. It’s through culture that we understand how different communities carry out their traditions and how they live their day to day life.

Today we focus on Abalughya community which is among the 42 tribes in Kenya and mostly found in the western part of Kenya.  Every community is identified by its culture, norms and traditions; this community is well known for the isikuti dance as well as the bull fighting.

Isikuti dance is a traditional and popular dance among the Abalughya community and it’s done by vigorously shaking the shoulders in a harmonized rhythm. The dance derives its name from the drums used in the performance that are played in sets of three a big, medium and a small drum. It’s also accompanied by horn usually an antelope’s horn and assorted metal rattles which blends the rhythm of the dance.

This dance is mostly practiced among the Isukha and Idakho sub- communities who are part of the Abalughya community. The dance is mostly played in occasions during the different stages of life such as childbirth, initiations, weddings, funeral, inaugurations, religious festivities, sporting events and other public congregations.

There is a great concern among the elders in the community where they say due to technology and evolution future generations may not be able to uphold the isikuti dance. However they try as much as they can to teach the current generation how to play isikuti so as to uphold the Abalughya community. So next time you have an event make sure you invite them and you will not be disappointed with isikuti dance.

Tyson Kiiru

Versatile school of Photography