EBONY TALES - Misty Morning

Maasai Market - June 2015

I woke up to rain this morning. I had hoped to get an early start to the weekly Sunday Maasai market but as often happens during the rainy season in Tanzania the weather had other plans. Instead I spent the morning curled up with the dogs drinking coffee and listening to the rainfall. By noon the rain had stopped and by two the fog had burned off giving way to a beautiful Sunday. I hopped in the car and picked up two friends, Julien who is great with the camera and Adam who speaks the Maasai language, and headed north to the market. While Swahili is spoken by everyone in this part of East Africa every tribe has their own language or languages. While I could have gotten by at the Maasai market with Swahili, I figured having a native speaker would give me a different, perhaps more unique, perspective as well as the unusual possibility to document this unique experience by taking pictures which is a delicate subject for the Maasai tribe. 

We’re approaching the end of the rainy season and after three months of rain the landscape is lush and verdant. We drove alongside the rolling hills of coffee plantations and banana farms that characterize the stunning landscape here surrounding Arusha. The barely visible peak of Mount Meru looming in the background serves as a perpetual reminder of something larger. Something indecipherable. A discrete turnoff brought us to a narrow, winding road saturated with bustling bodies and the omnipresent “dala dala’s” and “piki pikis” public transport of Tanzania, meaning “mini vans” and “motorbikes” We parked the car and descended upon the market.

Encapsulated by towering Flame trees in full bloom, the air of the market was rife with the confused smell of blooming flowers, damp wood smoke and dried fish. I go to markets in the area often as I find them great places not only to stock up on supplies for my workshop but also to observe and learn from the crafts and handiworks of the locals. From ladies selling the Kitenge fabric that I use for my "one of a kind" Kitenge Collection, to young men adorned head to toe in glass beads which I carefully select to create the Morani Sandal Collection, everyone in the market seems to have a service to offer.


Today I was especially struck by one individual, an older gentleman who looked like he has always been sitting at the same spot on the market in between fabrics and beads, working a manual foot-powered sewing machine. One of the many things that I love about this country is the beauty that is demonstrated in the functioning of technologies that have been long forgotten in the Western world. where we are designated to use electricity. As I imagine he has done for his whole life, the gentleman worked the foot peddle blindly while his fingers delicately maneuvered around the dancing needle. Images like this, an old man sitting on a red clay road effortlessly practicing his craft, are one of the reasons why I live in Africa. Where everything seems to be possible, without limitation, only the forces of nature can predict what the day will bring. 

Stay tuned for more Ebony Tales soon to come!!