Maasai Community of Laikipia

Samburu herder shaking acacia pods from a tree.

A Samburu herder shakes acacia pods from a tree.

Maasai Community of Laikipia
Photographs by Tom Rankin

In July I traveled to Kenya with Wend Wendland of the World Intellectural Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva and Guha Shankar of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress to continue our project to assist the Maasai community of Laikipia in documenting their own culture. Working with the Maasai Cultural Heritage, we spent nine days training Maasai to document their own community, producing new images and audio recordings that will help preserve and protect Maasai creativity and history. The fundamental goal of the project is to build an archive about the Maasai by the Maasai, supplementing and countering the many ways in which the tribe has been “pictured” by others.

In addition to the partnership between WIPO, AFC, and CDS, we also worked closely with Kiprop Lagat of the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, another major partner. Our time in Kenya, where we stayed in the Il Ngwesi community, was a continuation of training begun in Washington and at CDS last year when Ann Tome Sintoyia and John Ole Tingoi, both of Maasai Cultural Heritage, and Kiprop Lagat visited here.

In a community ceremony, under the shade of a majestic acacia tree, still cameras, audio recorders, and computer equipment for supporting a digital archive, all provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), were formally handed over Chief Kisio and other elders of the Maasai community.

—Tom Rankin
Director, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Articles about the Project

“Who Owns the Image of the Maasai?” by Philip Ngunjiri (The East African, posted August 24, 2009)

“Maasai Music on iTunes? U.N. Agency Works to Help” by Laura MacInnis (Reuters, posted July 29, 2009)

“Maasai to Digitally Record Heritage” (United Nations press release, posted August 6, 2009)

“Indigenous Community Goes Digital with High-Tech Support from WIPO” (WIPO press release, posted July 30, 2009)

“American Folklife Center Announces Training Program for Indigenous Communities” (AFC press release, posted May 2008)

For additional information, please contact Tom Rankin.

Ann Tomei photographing a Samburu herder under an acacia tree.

Ann Tome Sintoyia photographs a Samburu herder under an acacia tree.

Guha Shankar of the American Folklife Center showing the fieldwork photographs made earlier in the day, and explaining digital archiving to members of the Maasai Cultural Heritage project at Il Ngwesi Lodge.

Guha Shankar of the American Folklife Center shows fieldwork photographs made earlier in the day while explaining digital archiving to members of the Maasai Cultural Heritage project at Il Ngwesi Lodge.

Maasai women dancing at ceremony where equipment purchased by the World Intellectual Property Organization was presented to the village elders.

Maasai women dancing at a ceremony where equipment purchased by the World Intellectual Property Organization was presented to the village elders.

Anne Tome Sintoyia photographing women dancing.

Ann Tome Sintoyia makes an audio recording of the women singing and dancing.

Guha Shankar explaining the workings of the a Sony digital recorder to Anne Tome as she records singing and dancing.

Guha Shankar explains the workings of a digital audio recorder to Ann Tome Sintoyia.

"Classroom" where we did a S day training on the banks of a river near the Maasai village.

"Classroom" where we conducted a half-day training session on the banks of a river near Il Ngwesi village.

Training session near the Maasai village. Second from left is Ole Kaunga who first approached the World Intellectural Property Organization about a documentary training project.

A training session near Il Ngwesi village. Ole Kaunga, who first approached the World Intellectual Property Organization about a documentary training project, is seated on the left.

Kiprop Lagat, Curator at the National Museums of Kenya, photographing two Maasai in Il Ngwesi village.

Kiprop Lagat of the National Museums of Kenya photographs two Maasai in Il Ngwesi village.

Maasai school, Lakipia, Kenya.

A Maasai school in Laikipia, Kenya

Anne Tome Sintoyia recording recitation of English alphabet at Maasai school, Lakipia, Kenya.

Ann Tome Sintoyia records a recitation of the English alphabet at a Maasai school in Laikipia, Kenya.

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    6 Responses to “Maasai Community of Laikipia”

    1. Lhay Browning Thriffiley says:

      Amazing work.

    2. An inspiring and important project. Congratulations!

    3. Judy Blankenship says:

      Excellent work in Kenya. Exactly the sort of project I’ve been hoping to establish with the indienous community of Cañar, Ecuador, where I’ve been working for many years. I’ll follow the leads…

    4. Abiyu A. says:

      really an astonishing project! would you share me more?

    5. [...] CDS director Tom Rankin traveled to Kenya a second time in September to continue work with the Maasai community of Laikipia to document their own culture in order to preserve and protect Maasai creativity and history. The project is a partnership between CDS, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress, and the National Museums of Kenya. The fundamental goal of the project is to build an archive about the Maasai by the Maasai to both supplement and counter the many ways in which the tribe has been “pictured” by others. Read more about the project and view more photographs [...]

    6. [...] may also wish to read Tom Rankin’s blog post here with wonderful photos of the project’s Phase II [...]

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