Maasai Mara – Goodbye Kenya!

 

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Our last two days spent in Kenya were incredible. What a way to end an amazing trip with a great group of people! On Sunday morning we drove 4 hours on the old Rongo School bus down to Narok where we met Rufus, who picked us up with his drivers in two safari vans ready to go to the Maasai Mara. The Mara was signposted as an 80km drive away from Narok. I think we travelled about 10km on tarmac before going 4wd on slanted, dusty, rocky road. I loved it though; it was the start to an awesome safari adventure and the best end to the CM4K trip. Pete, Elle, Lewes and I shared the first van, and before we had even got to the Mara (game park) we saw so many game animals (Zebras, Giraffes, Vervet Monkeys, Gazelle, Warthogs and Wilder Beast). This was my day! I felt so emotional; ecstatic and excited to say the least. Being able to see all these beautiful animals, wild in their natural environment was mind-blowing. Driving through Maasai land was a whole other encounter on its own. I had a strong sense of admiration sparking through my body while driving through the deserted villages and land owned by the Maasai people. The Maasai appear so strong-willed compared to other tribes in Kenya, as they continue to practice their ancient customs, traditions and rituals by living a very simple and peaceful way of life. Where cattle are their everything, and temptations and prizes offered by the West are refused.

We arrived at our camp – the coolest tents with thatched roofs and built in bathrooms that looked like caves. We stopped for a quick coffee and to drop our luggage off and then got straight back into the pop-top safari van, to catch some more wildlife before the sun went down. The Maasai Mara is one of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen. The views and sunset were breathtaking. It was an amazing way to end the CM4K trip. The following morning we went out for a safari between 7am and 12pm, before heading back to Nairobi Airport (5 hours drive) to get our flight in the evening. I think I have gained a lot from the trip – knowledge, experience and especially friendship. It’s so sad that it has come to an end already. I will be back Kenya! Next year maybe 😉 x

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Lake Simbi

Today was fun and especially amusing. We travelled about 2 hrs out to Lake Simbi in Homa Bay County. Before we arrived we were told that the lake was formed after a volcanic eruption that happened many years ago. Oh yes, and that it would be full of Flamingos. Although when we arrived, we were told that lake was formed after locals arrogantly refused to shelter a woman who sought refuge there. There was only a very small flock of flamingos on the opposite side of the lake, but when we tried to get close the Flamingos took off. The lake is also believed by many locals to be medicinal, with healing and curing powers… Lets just say I’m glad I didn’t need any spiritual healing today!… No but, the scenery surrounding the lake was beautiful and I’m glad we spent the day exploring. It was such a nice sunny day, and a perfect, picturesque location for our picnic lunch! A lovely last day spent with the students and staff of Rongo University.

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Last day at Rongo

Today was our final day working with the students at Rongo University. Together in the photography group we worked to write an introduction on Luo culture and community for the exhibition, covering the importance of the Lake for Luo people, how it brings them together, and then finally discussing the Luo dances the Kagan villagers performed. After lunch the day went from quite laidback to a mad rush, where I was trying really hard to put a simple digital storyboard together of all our chosen photographs for the exhibition. I think this is the most stressed I had felt throughout the whole trip. Having tried to use 3 different softwares on my Mac to do this, but on each software there was always something restricting me. The others in the group either didn’t have their own laptop and if they did they had no software for producing a digital storyboard. I joined a few guys from the film group who said they would help me put one together using Final Cut Pro. After we imported the photos and arranged them into order based on their theme, we realised that because the photos had been imported as a RAW file they were far to big to be seen within the small frame provided on Final Cut Pro. I was stressing majorly at this point! Although there wasn’t much we could do before the end of the day. I just felt really bad for the film guys who worked so hard to help me and then I had to tell them to not worry about finishing it. Fortunately the exhibition isn’t until the end of April so when I get back to Brighton I’ll nag some of my film friends to help me out then. 😉

Half day at Rongo

Today we had only half a day Rongo University as Peter had kindly given us the morning off to sleep in and relax a bit. After most of the group said that they would love to have a lie in, Elle and I were the only ones to take advantage of this on the day haha. Anyway the bus picked us up at 1pm and took as too the uni ready for lunch. After lunch we got together with the photography group where we looked at the photos that Elle and I had organised into folders of the ones we liked and the ones we didn’t. We did this in our own time as we thought it would be more productive if we had 100 photos each to present to the group rather than 800 each to go through and decide whether we liked them or not. We hooked the laptop up to the HD TV and flicked through them like that. The photos looked great on a big screen and made it much easier to decide based on image quality, framing etc. By the end of the day we had narrowed down to 60 photographs that we plan to use in the exhibition.

Homa Bay

Today was interesting. We drove down to Homa Bay so that the audio and film guys could go interview the County Director of Homa Bay. As we arrived into Homa Bay, Jerry and Peter had received a call to say that the Director was in an important meeting so we would have to wait to meet with them later on. We drove towards Homa Bay Pier where we parked and from there we had a wander round and checked out the Lake and local Fish market where the photography group (my group) wanted to get some contextualizing photographs of the lake, boats and fish to introduce our exhibition on the Luo people. It was a good day out; we got some great photos of locals, the fish market, African stalks and the Lake. And we were also lucky enough to go on a boat trip on the Lake in a rustic looking fishing boat. 🙂

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Kagan Dancers

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Today has been one of my favourite days of the trip so far. We travelled to Homa Bay near lake Victoria to a small village called Kagan, where the some of the Kagan people performed to us three traditional dances to symbolise the customs and traditions within the Luo community. As we arrived to the village on the bus the dancers came down the hill dancing, singing and playing instruments to welcome us to their village. We followed them up to a big grassy area where they had chairs for us to sit and watch. The whole experience was so amazing! It was like something you would see out of National Geographic magazine with all the beautifully coloured costumes, feather headdresses, and excessive beaded jewellery.  Each dance represented a different traditional belief within Luo culture (marriage, death, and chasing away evil spirits). The whole time we were there the atmosphere was so vibrant and fun! I managed to get a lot of nice shots so I’m happy! 🙂 I’m also so glad we had the opportunity to see this; I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it before.

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Planning day at Rongo

We arrived at Rongo University to meet with the students and staff to divide into our groups (photography, film and audio) to discuss our topic – The Luo Community. Jerry, the Dean of Rongo University gave us a brief understanding of the Luo people and how their culture is very much about living around Lake Victoria. He talked about the traditional dances that are performed by the Luo people and how it is used to keep their tribe alive and to educate people about their culture.  In the photography group Elle, Ali, Japhet, Geoffrey and I discussed together how we would like to approach this project and how we would like to capture the dancers, their routine and the relationship between the dances and the Luo community using a mixture of shots. Together we decided to focus predominantly on the dancers; their costumes/props, instruments, and movements, but also to identify the importance of the performance for both the Kagan (dancers) and the Luo people who are going to be there spectating. We also want to include other key aspects of the Luo tribe into the photographs, for example farming, fishing, and housing which will also be shown in the exhibition happening in Brighton at the end of April.

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To Rongo!

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Today we travelled 8 hours to Rongo by a big blue and gold school bus sent by Rongo University. Although it was a very long and tiring trip to Rongo the journey was incredible. The scenery was breathtaking, especially while driving through the Riff Valley where we stopped off to look at one of the oldest Maasai landscapes in Kenya. We stopped off right at the top of the valley where we were able to look down onto the vast and deserted plain, that was covered with beautiful African trees like the Marula and Acacia tree, and also a lot of succulent plants. In the distance we could see two sleeping volcanoes, I took a few photos but they don’t give the scenery any justice. After a short stop we then got back on the bus and travelled for another 3 hours to a small village in Narok county where we had lunch (a very memorable lunch.. Where we all ended up giving our food to the stray cats and kittens…). A further 3 hours in the bus and we finally reached Rongo! We were invited by the University to have dinner on their campus before heading the hostel located 10 minutes away near Rongo town. Looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight. I am knackered!

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Exhibition Day

IMG_5482IMG_5484After a nice lie in this morning Elle, Lola, Lana, Keji and I were taken to Adam’s arcade (a local market in Nairobi) to have a look around and buy any souveniers and other traditional Kenyan things. I’m glad we had the chance to see a bit more of Nairobi today as the sun was shining and we all have had a very busy week working on our projects at KU. I think we all got some pretty cool things to take back home with us! By the time we got back to the hostel we only had enough time to pick up Peter, Lewes and Oscar who had been working on their project for the exhibition all morning. We arrived at Alliance Française in central Nairobi for the exhibition where Fred and some others from Sema had already started to set up in the morning. My first impression of the printed photographs hanging in the gallery was wow!. The photos looked great and we were all really pleased with the quality. The only slightly disappointing thing was that we weren’t really given enough space on the wall to hang all the photographs and the captions that told stories about the people. The venue was really busy as there were other events going on, so when it came to the audio and film groups to present their projects the sound wasn’t the greatest. But the exhibition still carried on and it was a really nice way to celebrate working with all the students at KU, and the people of SEMA with lots of food and drink. It was a little bit sad to say goodbye so soon to such a fun group of people, but I’m really looking forward to getting out of the city and meeting the people in Rongo. 🙂

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Final Day at KU

This morning when we left for KU I felt quite stressed about the day ahead. As a group we had a lot of things to do before 4.30pm; organising and arranging photographs, going out and taking more shots, printing photographs and writing up the captions for each of them. When we arrived and met with the rest of the group we thought that to ensure we had everything ready for the exhibition tomorrow that each of us would need to be allocated a task for the day. I went with Impeesa, Fanuel and Ali out to Kenyatta Market again to get some photos of us engaging with the community and also to get the locals to take photos on our cameras. This was really interesting, as many people in the market had never held a camera like any of the three SLR’s we had, and a few had no idea how to make use of the camera. This is where we were able to help them to take a good quality photograph of something going on in the community. I found this really rewarding as a few of the people we asked to take photos we’re so happy and appriecative that they had been offered the experience to use a camera. It’s an experience I have probably taken for granted, as this technology has always been so accessible for me back home.

While this was happening we also asked each person a few questions (about their work, their interest and hobbies, and also if they had learnt anything about photography). We then went back to the university to go show the rest of the group what we had done, and together we selected photographs to put into tomorrows exhibition. The rest of the afternoon we spent stressing and working our socks off to make sure we would have the photos printed and everything organised before we had to leave. We rushed and managed to get all the captions and photos ready for printing on SD cards right before we were due to leave to go back to our hostel when Fred said that he would print them off for us somewhere much cheaper in Nairobi city centre. This took a huge weight off our shoulders. All there was to worry about now is that the exhibition will be arranged correctly tomorrow in time for its start at 3pm. I really enjoyed the experience at Kenyatta University; I met some really lovely people who have inspired me to pursue my passion for photography.

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