Three Cultures, One Dance

This guest post is written by Josephine Walker a Princeton University undergraduate who spent five days studying community conservation at
Soysambu with Paula Kahumbu and Dino Martins.

Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment.

Over the course of our stay at Soysambu, we had the opportunity to meet and talk to people from many different neighboring villages, including groups of Maasai and Turkana women.  We had arranged to meet with both groups at the same place and time, but when we got there the Turkana women had not yet arrived.  When they showed up, they stood apart from the Maasai, and the two groups eyed each other warily.  Both groups were decked out in traditional ceremonial garb.  The Maasai women were adorned with wide beaded necklaces and draped in red patterned cloths.  The Turkana were dressed in more Western looking skirts and button down shirts, but covered them up with stacks of necklaces and beads strung across their chests.  They wore headdresses of yarn and beads, although one woman’s was made of zippers.
A Maasai woman, Agnes with her daughter Sarah

Turkana Women
After we finished asking the Maasai about how they felt about the Conservancy, they moved away and the Turkana women stood in their place to answer the same questions.  Despite differences in the languages they speak and the clothes they wear, both groups are facing the same problems: lack of access to water, employment, and education for their children.  The two groups live near to each other just outside the border of Soysambu.  The Turkana and Maasai women walk between 10 and 20 km to the same water source to fetch water, and carry it home in 20 liter jugs on their backs, a trip that takes the whole day.  Their children go to the same school, a one-room schoolhouse which serves 70 children.  As a result of overcrowding, the children must take turns studying, in two hour shifts.  Since the start of the community outreach program at Soysambu just a few months ago, the women have been allowed into the Conservancy to cut firewood, which they may use themselves or sell.  Some of the men have been hired as casual workers for construction or haymaking.  This is an excellent change from the past, when community members trespassed in order to graze their cattle or poach, and were often arrested for it.  Soysambu is in the process of building a better relationship with their neighbors, but there is still much to be done to help these communities help themselves improve their quality of life.

Despite the hardships they face, the women were energetic and wanted to dance for us after we finished our discussions.  The Maasai women went first, the whole group moving their bodies in synch and singing in a call and response style.  The Turkana songs were rhythmic because the women stomped their feet as they danced.  At first, the two groups went back and forth in a sort of dance-off, but the music was infectious and the women were soon dancing along to each other’s songs in a big crowd.  The women grabbed our hands and pulled us in, and we could no longer stand as observers of the merriment.  Dancing together, I felt a connection to these women that was much more personal than that between interviewer and interviewees.  The women welcomed us to their celebration and the two groups welcomed each other.  The heat of the early afternoon beat down on us, but we all celebrated our different lives in one dance, together.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The Maasai women on the left are joining in with the Turkana’s dance and I am dancing too, which made filming difficult…


Josephine with Turkana Women

5 thoughts on “Three Cultures, One Dance

  1. Valerie Scott

    Thanks for sharing your experience at Soysambu and your observations about the work they do with the local community. I support the Conservancy effort and am pleased to hear about more of their influence in the community. You seem to be aware of some of the many challenges facing the efforts in that community. Great pictures and title. Best regards.

  2. Margery

    Hello, this weekend is pleasant for me, since this time i am reading this impressive informative piece of writing here at
    my residence.

  3. Antwan

    I’m very happy to find this web site. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff on your website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *