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PONGEZI, alternative rites of passage for Maasai girls

Anja Ligtenberg | Kenya

Pongezi, Kenya. Magadi,
Girls are celebrating traditional and new song and dance in preparation of the final ceremony.


A photostory by Anja Ligtenberg about alternative rites of passage, replacing traditional circumcision with education for Maasai girls in Kenya.

Pongezi means congratulations in Swahili. Congratulations to the girls who are now women without being circumcised and to a community that had the courage to break with a centuries-old tradition.

In the new ritual, the girls are not circumcised but they do celebrate all the beautiful traditional rituals, such as the shaving of the head, the dancing, the drinking, the singing, and the face painting. Instead of the cutting, the Maasai choose to give the girls an extra education. Moreover, their parents promise not to marry them off until they have completed their studies. Because the men and the elders are approached first in the process and shown respect, every one in the community accepts the girls as woman, societal change happens harmoniously.

To watch how a community is giving a positive modern spin on a centuries-old tradition is truly inspirational. These photos pay homage to what collaboration, dialogue, education, resilience and respect can accomplish. 


Today, more than 15.000 girls have celebrated the alternatie rites of passage and their Maasai advocate, Nice Naillante Lengete has been chosen as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, by TIME magazine this year.<>


The photos are published in a book, titled PONGEZI,

E 28,50 / $ 39,00

ISBN 978-94-6226-061-0

112 pages, English, Hard cover

Published by Lecturis, the Netherlands

When books are purchased through the author, the profits will be donated to the Maasai girls and their younger sisters. Please send an email to anja@anjaligtenberg.com


More information, www.anjaligtenberg.com/book


Anja Ligtenberg (1967, Culemborg) completed in 1998 her documentary photography and photojournalism studies at the International Centre of Photography in New York.
With a mastersdegree in communicationscience she earned before this, she discoverd that her future was in visual communication. After ICP she worked from her home in New York for various dutch national media.
Her own documentary stories got her a participation in the Eddie Adams Barnstorm, 2 published photobooks and a large solo exhibit in Africa Museum, Netherlands.
Since 2003 she lives and works from Eindhoven, and specializes in documentairy - and portraitphotography. Her work shows an authenticity that comes from a sharp eye and sincere interest in the people she photographs. Her inspiration comes from investigating the emotional layers and deep respect for the resilience of people combined with a curiosity to the world.
The same goes for her work for Seeing The Unseen, photography for the blind and visually impaired.<>

 Amref Flying Doctors

 Anja Ligtenberg

Eindhoven, the Netherlands



+31 6 1359 6264


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