“Every time a cow crossed into colonial settlers’ lands, the community would be punished by taking more of their lands and animals”, John Kisio, 82 years. Following one of many historical injustices that affected Kenya during the colonial British rule, “Red Soil” is a documentary photography project that utilizes black and white digital images, to showcase the contemporary effects of that period of history on the Maasai people. Uprooted into different reserves, this indigenous population lost its freedom of movement to pursue its semi-nomadic lifestyle. The project focuses on Maasai communities north of the Great Rift Valley, where people are fenced off from accessing grabbed ancestral lands. Large-scale ranches and farms, wildlife conservancies and government settlement schemes surround those communities. Population pressure, drought and bad governance compound the everyday life of a tribe that strives to maintain its traditional ways. Resulting poverty and insecurity are pushing some community members into less lucrative alternative livelihoods. A tribe once known for its adaptability and vast influence across borders, is now fragmented. Across the border, the Maasai of Tanzania are about to face a similar face for the second time. They were pushed in the 1950s to create Serengeti national park. Now, around 80,000 people are facing loosing their ancestral lands for luxury tourism and trophy hunting by external investors.
About the Photographer
Rasha Al Jundi (b. 1984) is a Palestinian visual storyteller and documentary photographer. Born in Amman, Jordan, she grew up in the UAE, after which she pursued Masters degree in Community Nutrition from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. During her seven year stay in Lebanon, she volunteered with the Lebanese Red Cross and worked with academic research organizations coordinating rural development and environmental programs in the country. Since leaving Lebanon in 2009, she worked with many international development and humanitarian organizations in the Middle East and Africa. The year 2018 was a turning point when she was exposed to the power of documentary photography through one workshop with Jack Picone and Stephen Dupont. Since then, Rasha decided to invest in her passion for storytelling through visual storytelling, which she believes is universal in promoting healing and reconciliation. Her Palestinian roots and the history of forced displacement that has been affecting her family, inspires her to connect with people from around the world who may have experienced similar injustices. Her work generally follows a social documentary pathway. She aims to focus on decolonizing oversimplified narratives around historical injustices, and their contemporary impact on individuals and marginalized groups. Rasha is a 2022 graduate of the Documentary Photography and Visual Photojournalism program at the International Center for Photography in New York.