I spent the last 12 days in rural western Kenya with these guys, as I did something I have always dreamed of:
I helped to document the changing culture and language of a tribal community.
Linguists Michael Marlo and Michael Diercks, both professors, are part of a 7-scholar team that is undertaking the first comprehensive and professional documentation of four small African languages — Maragoli, Tiriki, Wanga and Bukusu.
THey are creating dictionaries, grammatical outlines and other texts that will be available to scholars and also the community.
I photographed Maragoli and Tiriki community everyday life, people, changing customs and traditional practices still part of the culture.
It was amazing!!!
A real dream come true. i still can't believe what i was able to do and intimately experienced.
They were all amazing.
Alulu, the young guy in the Marines shirt, was invaluable as the planner, making arrangements and organizing people to seeing house smearing and potters... Moses was literally my right-hand man (he's not here in this photo).
The dad, Hardley, wound up doing the translation for the potter and also was my guide for the market days, invaluable again, as the forerunner, getting permission from people I wanted to shoot.
I wrote them all thank-you notes last night after I packed, thanking them for all their assistance and making me feel like I was part of their family and for making my dream to be doing this sort of thing, with this sort of project, in this sort of place, amazing. They are so awesome.
I learned how to make ugali, Busu showed me how to roast corn on the traditional fire, and I made a mean chapati when it was said and done.
I sometimes forgot and used my fork or thought I'd spill on myself and used it, but I've been waiting my whole life to eat with my hands so that was a tiny added bonus of Kenyan culture too. :-)
I guess I did ok because Hardley told me twice that he could not believe I had never been to Africa, because I wasn't afraid of anything and was trying everything and in the forest, I was just going along and Alulu was afraid of snakes. Ha!
Rose, the grandmom, was so nice. She apparently does tie dye and also made necklaces from traditional beads and materials with the women's group, and last night gave me a headband she made and also a string of fish bones for beads, which is so appropriate, as I love fish and fish skeletons for art, and so it's perfect.
Here are some photos to show I was well taken care of (and I think I gained 5 pounds but we won't show that!)
Rose and I with the tie dye she gave me, after i figured out how to wear it
Lydiah teaching me how to make ugali, the traditional staple of maize flour and water, cooked together.
Moses making chapati. I rolled a mean chapati. They cooked over an open traditional fire. Abby is here teaching us.
Lydiah and their house help, Abby, prepping vegetables. They love bitter green veggies.