Kenya, a Photographer’s Playground

by Jennifer Chiappardi, Penn Museum Photographer

jen_smallJennifer traveled to Kenya in March 2009 while Penn Museum African Section Associate Curator Kathleen Ryan and Penn undergraduates continued research on the Penn Museum research project: The Arrival and Expansion of Pastoralist Economies on the Laikipia Plateau

Interacting with modern Maasai groups and learning about their lifestyle was an unforgettable experience. We traveled through southern Maasailand, visiting families in occupied settlements and also seeing the remains of abandoned homesteads in which the Maasai used to live.

I was honored to be granted permission to photograph the elders, their families, and the insides of their homes. I was given a rare opportunity to interact with the elders’ wives and curious children. All seemed to enjoy seeing their photos on the back of my digital camera. These photos were later sent to the families in Africa.

Going back in time and envisioning the lifestyles of prehistoric pastoralists thousands of years ago in Laikipia, I was able to recognize the similarities to present day Maasai settlements. There is so much to learn about archaeology, surveying, preparing and digging a site, and examining surface materials. I also learned about the environment in which the early pastoralist used to live and present day Massai now live. I saw firsthand the cohabitation of wildlife and humans in which both have to find ways to survive in a constantly changing and harsh environment. Since my return to the US I am actively participating in raising awareness of the dangers that are posed to both humans and wildlife in this region.

These images, brought to you by Jennifer Chiappardi, offer a glimpse into Kenya today from a photographer's perspective.

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