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Red Soil: Colonial Legacy in Maasai Land

Rasha Al Jundi | Kenya

John Kisio, 82, sits under a tree in his homestead. “I have nowhere to go. If I die, I want to die on my land”. He is the third born son to General Kurito Ole Kisio, who was an iconic Maasai general in the Mau Mau uprising against the colonial British administration. John was shot three times in 2018, at the height of an armed conflict during which armed young men from the Samburu tribe attacked his village to steal his cows. He survived while four other elders died in the incident. Apart from cattle rustling, pastoral communities face increasing pressure due to drought, population increase and limited land space for grazing. Thus the possibility of conflict is always in the air for John and his community. Nadumoro village, Laikipia county, Kenya (February 2022).

This is a story that spans generations.

About the man in a redshuka, and the woman with a beaded necklace.

Indigenous peoples, once mighty, controlling territories that spanned borders.

A tribe, rich with traditions, culture, knowledge and history.

Uprooted, fragmented and fenced off from their ancestral lands.

A historical injustice with contemporary consequences.

The Maasai, of Laikipia county, live in a state of negative peace.

Colonisers pushed them away from the red soil of the Rift Valley, into confined reserves.

Present day governance trades with their lands and grievances.

Fortress conservation, drought and bouts of conflict surround them. Prejudice mutes their voices.

Peace, without justice, is present. The threat to their way of life is real.

Yet, they are here, holding us witness to their story.

One of perseverance, adaptability and courage.

That of the man in a redshukaand the woman with a beaded necklace.

Full credit goes to the Maasai men, women and children who allowed me into their daily lives, homes and communities. They shared their personal and collective stories with me unconditionally and for that I thank them.

Specific gratitude goes to: Simon Mungai, my companion & interpretor for six months. John and Sioya Kisio for their endless historical narratives and amazing Maasai honey. Chief Harrison Kisio for his bold and frank discussions. 

Rasha Al Jundi

Based in: Nairobi/Kenya and Berlin/Germany

Email: rashajundi@gmail.com

Phone: +254 11 40 89 299/ +49151 541 55 140

Website: www.rashajundi.com

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