Monduli, Tanzania is a community located within an hour of the tourist hub of Arusha. Common problems are those found throughout the developing world – lack of access to clean drinking water, poverty, corruption, and failing educational models. Despite these issues, Monduli is an undeniably warm and vibrant community, where various religious faiths are accepted, and where traditional Maasai life in the surrounding hillsides interweaves with locals in the streets, markets, and schools.
Maasai culture is one of adaptation – from their strictly nomadic roots, many Maasai in Tanzania and Kenya have shifted to building permanent communities in which they carry on the traditions of livestock herding and agrarian land use. With access to the internet and television more widespread, many Maasai youth are influenced by popular culture in the outside world. Ultimately, they must choose between carrying on the traditional ways, leaving for work in urban centers, or getting an education as a vehicle to carve out a distinct life for themselves, within or without the communities where they were raised.
I traveled to Monduli in 2012 to visit the Orkeeswa Elementary school, run by the non-profit IEFT (Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania). The goal of the organization is to break the mold of government schooling and rote learning by actively engaging Maasai children with a more Western style of student-centered learning. As I wasn’t visiting the school on assignment, I found that my greatest benefit for the organization was to photograph a cross section of Monduli‘s Maasai community, to give a sense of the environment where Orkeeswa’s students were coming from. These photographs were then printed, exhibited, and sold in New York City to raise money for IEFT’s ongoing efforts in the community. It is my hope that through viewing these photographs, IEFT’s patrons will come away with a better understanding of the context in which this new educational model is being implemented.
Brendan Bullock is a freelance documentary and portrait photographer based in Maine, USA. More images from this series and other international work can be seen at http://www.brendanbullock.com
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Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania