Documentary Galleries: Africa
I wasn't sure how the Masai would react to a white woman pulling up in a Land Rover and pitching a tent in the middle of the Masai Mara on her own except for her driver, but I figured I had been accepted when the headman from the closest community came to visit and presented me with a rather large ball of fur. He informed me that it was a hair ball a lion had coughed up. His wife then followed with a warthog tusk, and I was invited back to take photographs in their village. In the following days, I had a continuous group of Masai warriors lined up outside my tent, wanting to be photographed and to take turns holding up the large light reflectors.
Around the Shaba National Reserve area of Kenya there is some tribal conflict because the Samburu and Masai still raid each other’s cattle, so the guards were adamant that I hire a couple of soldiers to escort me. Dressed in full camouflage and brandishing automatic weapons, they attempted to impress me with stories of bandits they had shot. I left one soldier to guard my tent while another accompanied me during the day in the four-wheel drive.
The Samburu warriors in the surrounding area performed their jumping mating dances, and the women sang deep from their throats. They wore bright boldlyprinted dresses, ornate beaded jewelry, and elaborate headgear. The men had freshly decorated faces with flowers and feathers protruding from their heads. With exquisite straight-backed posture, the young men gracefully jumped high in the air as an expression of their attraction and an attempt to engage the young women who watched.
In the evening, one of the pregnant women in the village began to go into labor and asked me and my driver to bring her to the hospital in town, which was over an hour away. She held her belly and screamed in anguish from the front seat, while her husband and the soldier with his AK-47 were squeezed into the back. The rifle would bang the roof every time we hit one of the numerous potholes. The woman gave birth to a healthy girl and was so grateful that she named her baby after me. The first Alison Samburu, I'm sure.