Guys, remember I once made a promise to share portraits of the fierce women of Samburu. I was there with Onetouch a while back and wrote about the experiences we had and the food we ate. Now it’s time for the people we met.
We met Enekuyatei at her restaurant which we stumbled upon looking for a place to eat. She showed us to a camp we’d only read about on Lonely Planet and incidentaly, her mother in law was the one who ran the camp which is one of the support facilities for the women of Umoja. Now, when coincidences like these happen, I know we are in for a great trip. We had only read about Umoja, a women only village in Samburu and of course we were intrigued so much about it and wanted to meet them and feel the vibe in that village. I thought this was such a rad plan they had.
We spoke to their leader/spokeswoman, Rose Lekata Nalangu and expressed interest in photographing them and hearing their story. She agreed, at a cost, obviously. We were ok with this cost and so we went to visit the village and watched them dance and sing. This is part of their welcome to their village. After that we went around to see their manyattas and museum. They did have a museum in the village that has traditional Samburu weapons, tools and artefacts. We had many questions obviously. Most were answered.
Basically, Umoja is a village that offers refuge for women who have run away from their husbands because of battering. When they feel enough is enough, they take the kids and run away and in Umoja, they find solace and a community of caring women who also understand. Interestingly, they don’t forbid each other from marrying or men but the condition is that if you have a man, you have to leave the village and go live with him. Together, they make ornaments for sale (which we bought for our loved ones) and make money also from tourists who visit the village and even more from people who wanna photograph them, like us. Since many do have kids, the males have to leave the village after they complete their high school education. If any man tries to forcefully come into their village, they call the cops and so over time, the men let them be. The numbers obviously keep changing but when we visited there were 48 women in Umoja.
We got to shoot with a few of them that first day in Samburu and scheduled the rest for the next morning. Here are some of the shots I got.
Juliana Nagusii Lolemu wasn’t too happy about many photos of her being taken. A few shots in and she felt it was enough. The Samburu do have a belief that photographs suck their blood. The more photos you take, the sooner they die because you can’t live without blood, obviously. She was one of the eldest in the village.
Nangaram Lucy Lasakalbo is also one of the oldest in the village.
Rose Lekata Nalangu is the leader/spokeswoman of the village. She did the negotiating and drove a hard bargain. But was gracious enough to take a few photos.
Gabriella Lolemu was the happiest one among all the women we photographed. She agreed to take photos even though she had a cold. Possibly from the rains that made Samburu colder than it usually is. She was so kind and even gave me a ring which I proudly wear now. At first I thought she was selling it to me (by then I was broke from buying so many ornaments and I was like, nah) but she was like, no, it’s a gift. Take it. Thank you.
Lina Lorpe Lolemu is Gabriella Lolemu’s (above) daughter. She has such a beautiful face with contradicting emotion that made it so fun to shoot. When you made her laugh, she cracked up.
One thing we discovered was that kids don’t wear the traditional colored clothes. I still don’t know why, but they mentioned that when you grew up into a woman then you started wearing beads and the traditional garments that signified that you are a woman. Thankfully Lorpe’s mom allowed her to borrow some of her clothes and beads to wear for this shoot. We didn’t think jeans and sweatshirts would cut it.
So that is all for now. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask in the comment section below. I would be happy to hear your thoughts.
God bless you guys.