Massai Woman

Massai Woman480
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5 Essays

  1. Wanda R. Lopuch | Brain Fitness Institute says:

    In this picture of an elderly African woman, Rachel captured a moment that challenges so many stereotypes of aging. This matured yet somewhat mischievous Maasai woman illustrates what we often forget.

    Aging can be attractive. Her conspicuous face is framed with deep wrinkles around the narrow eyes, contrasting sharply with full lips not touched by time. Aging can be colorful and vibrant. She projects vigor and vitally despite a somewhat cynical look of perhaps one too many disappointments and unrealized dreams. Aging can be sensual. Her bald head is striking, reminiscent of the way in which bald heads of young women going through chemotherapy are sexy and sensual.

    Rachel, being only in her 30s, used the camera to see far beyond her own frame of reference. With this picture she unveiled just slightly the mystery of human pursuit of longevity and happiness.

  2. Jeanne Altmann | Princeton University says:

    I am struck by this woman's direct gaze and crinkly, somewhat bemused smile; such a contrast to the Maasai women I first met in the Amboseli area in the early 1960's, when they would run in hiding if any men were with me. Even when I was alone or with my toddler, they would approach only after I had been, quietly but visibly, engaged in other things, in the area for a while. Often then, several giggly young women would approach, look around my vehicle, touch skin and hair and child but glance away from direct eye contact, soon depart to continue their trek to collect water, perhaps some firewood, and make the long journey back to their manyatta (temporary homestead) before dusk would bring elephants coming to water and more predators ready to hunt.

    This woman, perhaps in her forties, might be joined by her young daughters and grand-daughters and her daughters-in-law, perhaps carrying their youngest children. Her daily routine has probably changed little over the decades, but her familiarity with 'wazungu' or strangers, is so evident in her comfortable, probing gaze and willingness to be photographed.

    How familiar was she with the photographer we wonder? Does she still speak only Maa as her mother probably did, or does she share Swahili with some of those who are now around her? Does she have children who have gone to school? Surely grandchildren who are there now. Rather than carrying all her most special items against her body in a handmade leather bag that she would have throughout her adulthood, since she first married, she apparently leaves some behind in a locked box. Or does she now live in a permanent structure with a lock on the door? How much of her jewelry is recent, beads on wire, absent the cowry shells and beads sewed onto leather? Does she still make the more traditional pieces for special occasions or are these the new favorites? Is she a widow as so many women are? A 'co-widow' with a late husband's other wives? Is some young adult first son now starting a family and also responsible for his younger siblings, and is his mother having yet more children for which he will be responsible? Is her life better than her mother's and her grandmother's? Will her children's and grandchildren's be in a world of less, even more arid land, fewer trees and less water, AIDS and malaria.........and also schools, clinics, perhaps sources of income for women?

    I try to tell from her gaze but much is not known.

  3. Craig Coelen, Catherine Haggerty, and John Thompson | NORC, University of Chicago says:

    An aging population is presenting a challenge globally. Most societies, especially the poorest ones, find it difficult to set aside scarce resources to take care of the elderly. It is estimated that US spending on the elderly will consume half of the federal budget by 2015; the US is in far better shape than most of the developed world. The burden of an impoverished elderly class with a thin or non-existent safety net will be especially acute. The Maasai woman seems to be reflecting on the lessons and experiences of what appears to have been a long and fruitful life.

  4. Naomi Rosenthal | Sociologist, SUNY College at Old Westbury says:

    Rachel used her camera to record the colors of difference. Like many travelers, she was a collector of people, costumes, streets, and landscapes that, when displayed in the United States, could only have been encountered on other shores. Looking at the color-drenched images, however, I am partially struck by the fact that sometimes what is “exotic” is the unexpected appearance of familiar objects. For example, a Maasai woman displays her finery. A layered array of beautiful bead work, colorful necklaces, and what appears to be a set of house keys adorn the machine-made cotton of her dress and elaborate earrings emphasize her stretched earlobes and shaved head. In this photo, the local is constructed and framed by the juxtaposition of global elements – standardized items available across the globe.

  5. wiolarebecka says:

    Masai Women's I met them many years ago when I first time went to East Africa. Masai Mara it was my first stop where I was attending as a guest their traditional life in the small village. This photo remind me of Mama Mo. She was the oldest women in the Masai village.All elements what I see now in Rachel photography is deeply important to understand Masai women"s culture.
    Masai culture is strongly patriarchal in nature, all women's they are dependable by men's in their family and villages. Only older women's as this pic showing us they have a right to stand up for themselves and others.
    Older women in Masai land is around 45 years old..Is really possible as this lady is exactly this age.
    She is wearing traditional Masai clothes- Shuka this is a traditional sheets worn and wrapped around the body and like we see is red, Rachel pic showing us traditional necklaces and earrings. Beadworking done by Masai women's has a long history and tradition. Is as a voice to articulate their identity and position in society. Rachel women is wearing a lot of necklaces this mean like her position in the village is high , maybe she was a wife of the chief or mother of the current chief.
    What we see and what is really important that is her ears with big holes..and earrings of course but the most important is the holes. That's mean like she never learn reading and writing.
    So Rachel photography tell us small part of Masai women's history...and this is all about a travel photography, we are making a photo but also we also telling the story.