|by Village Galleries,
||Dec 5, 2007
It was almost two years ago when an idea ‘clicked’ in the minds of a group of teachers from Toronto, Canada.
After watching an Academy-award winning documentary titled ‘Born into Brothels’ – a story about children in the ‘red light’ district of Calcutta who are given cameras and taught to take their own photographs, the teachers were sparked with enthusiasm.
As serendipity goes, the teachers were introduced to Amani ECCD, a group doing early childhood education with the Maasai communities in Tanzania. Amani expressed a deep need for cultural preservation of the Maasai and with the teachers, determined that the idea of photography could effectively be a cultural preservation enabler. After a further meeting with a fund-raising Toronto businessman, Village Galleries was hatched. A fund-raiser, attended by 300 people followed and the project deliverable was finalized!
In early July of 2007, a team of 8 Canadians and 1 representative from Amani ECCD, landed in the small town of Monduli, Tanzania (a 2 hour drive from Mt. Kilamanjaro) with the purpose of teaching photography to many Maasai villages. This initiative was in collaboration with the Monduli Pastoralist Development Initiative (MPDI), a not-for-profit group working in Tanzania. MPDI’s mission is to effectively improve the standard of living of the Maasai in Monduli District, while preserving the rich culture of the Maasai people.
The trip was a huge success! In total, photography was taught to close to 500 Maasai from 9 different villages with a resulting 5,000 photographs! 15 teachers from the local school system were taught photography and the skills that were transferred to these teachers enables the Maasai to teach other villages and sustain the project well into the future. In all, Village Galleries left behind 48 cameras and printers, 4 laptops, plenty of ink and paper and many smiling faces!
At the heart of the project was the goal of helping the Maasai preserve their culture. The Maasai are a strong, massively warm, smart (the speed with which they learned was remarkable) and proud people, who are very committed to progressing, but are equally committed to progressing without deterioration to their culture and beliefs.
At all teaching session and photographic workshops, quality time was spent on photographic story telling. This was a time when several Maasai would stand and present one of their printed photographs and explain why they took the picture they did. These were usually insightful, emotional and fun times. Please enjoy a few of the stories of how photography can help a village, as well as enjoying the many photographs taken by the Maasai and Village Galleries:
• A young man held a picture of a community toilette, a large partially covered hole, and as he waved it passionately for all to see, he spoke with equal passion on how he was going to show it to all the villagers and encourage them to use the toilette at all times in order to prevent the spread of disease!
• A female teacher showed a picture of a young student and described how she would take pictures of all her students. If one of her underage students became claimed for marriage and dropped out of school, she described how she would take the picture to the local authorities and demand her return by telling them “this girl is too young and must be in school to complete her education”.
• A village elder showed a picture of a man claiming to be 600 years of age. The elder told his group that with photography, he could now prove that no one lives to 600!
To see the photographs on TakingITGlobal visit:
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sustainability Katherine Assad
| Jul 13th, 2009
I think it's great that you ensured that this program was able to continue once you left Tanzania.
| Dec 27th, 2007
Very inspiring piece of work in progress..
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