In the Ngorongoro Highlands of Tanzania, a picturesque Maasai Village sits in the rolling hills and valleys in the shadow of the famous crater. The image on the top is from our visit in 2004. At the time, we met the Chief, a jovial young man, in his 30's is my guess, who had a brilliant toothy smile, a brand new pair of Nike sneaks, and a Masters degree from Oxford University. He told us of his life in the village and what his hopes were for the future.
As he walked us around this homestead, he showed us the features that included visits inside some of the dung/mud and stick-constructed homes. He was most proud of the center ring of sticks, a corral for the livestock, which is the primary measure of the wealth of the community. Notice it on the image on the top. Like most places in the world we have visited, our walking tour ended at the gift shop. Again, notice the Maasai bead jewelry hanging on a small wall on the right side of the interior fence. It is about 6' in length and is incidental to the life of the tribe.
Fast forward to 2017 and the image on the bottom. As we passed through the Highlands again, I stopped to shoot this image, but without realizing it was from the same vantage point as my photograph from 13 years prior. I filed it away until a few weeks ago; when browsing through my galleries, I realized I had the two images and could compare them to see any changes. What is most notable to me is the re-organization of the village and the shift in the measure of wealth. The newer image shows that they moved the livestock corral to the outside of the fence of the main village. A similar corral replaced it, but this one is for tourists, and it takes up the entire center of the village. Notice the circled wall of colorful necklaces.
I do not know how village life has changed or if the Chief we met was responsible for shifting toward the western concept of money. Indeed, this ancient culture is changing from barter, subsistence farming, and nomadic movement to a cash basis for trade. The primary measure of wealth is changing from livestock to money in the bank. Although the money helps buy the things they need, such as antimalarial medicines and educational tools, it also marks the beginning of movement from traditional Maasai village life to life in a bigger city.
I cannot judge or predict whether the people who live there view this as progress or the evolutionary destruction of their traditional way of life. Soon I'll return to the region to see and learn for myself. With any luck, I'll once again connect with the proud tribal Chief for another personal tour and a celebration of their progress - whatever they consider that to be. Pictures to follow.
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