Is has been said somewhere in the book of times that Kureng and team Kurengworkx are the guardians of photography, period.
Kureng had this to say about the motive behind this project.
From time immemorial, the pervading name tag as it relates to Africanism and the response to westernization or what many would prefer to refer to as ‘civilization’ has always been Culture Clash.
However, for the Maasai people of East Africa, another tag has been given them. The external gaze has always been that they are a people who prefer to stay away from civilization and ‘all’ the technological advancements that come with it. They are gazed as backward, afraid and unflinching towards all that defines the evolving 21st century world and are thus unwilling to relate with it. Infact, they have been termed ‘Technophobic’.
As the winner of the 2017 African Rising Photography Competition, I was afforded the opportunity to travel the very lands of Kenya and as such chose to embark on an exploration of the Maasai people, just to gaze at them through my own lenses. I hoped to uncover for myself the assertions about the Maasai in these regards. I found out that the Maasai had a reverse memory of all that ensued between their community and their people during the colonial era. They believe that westerners invaded their space and deconstructed their sovereignty thereby bringing division amongst them. The presence of the colonizers also instigated the death of countless Maasai people.
For this reason, the inherent Maasai gaze has always been to be aware, learn and utilize all that comes as time progresses and all that there is about technological advancement, but, to never get entangled with it to the point that the core of the Maasai culture is lost or termed as irrelevant. To this people, their culture is priceless!
This realization of the Maasai belief system informed my own gaze towards them. I saw with my eyes how they were able to not just come in contact with technology but adequately handle the machines from contemporary times. The Maasai have even learnt to create their own clean energy. Even one of the oldest amongst them exploited these gadgets with the best ease a man his age would muster. This unique perspective as it concerns culture is what I offer the world. The Maasai are not a technophobic people.
Nevertheless, I learnt these:
• We must learn to make that clear cut difference between westernization as it brings with it many technological advancements and our Africanness as a people. We must never discard one for the other or soon. We would remain archaic or lost in our approach towards life if we ignore technological advances. Or, our culture, tradition, norms and beliefs that define us as a people, will become extinct and lost from the map of life and existence if we grab too tightly to westernization.
• Again, despite the invasion into our African territories, we must cease to see western culture as ultimate and superior.
• We must rise above the mental slavery as the Maasai people have.