The Last Maasai in Maji Moto

Climate change and globalization threatens another tribe’s culture.

By Ephemera documentary

Angelo Chiacchio

Land in Maji Moto (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

While the tribes near Mt. Kilimanjaro are just beginning to notice water scarcity, it’s a familiar problem to those who live further down the valley in the Arusha region. Compared to the mountain’s green slopes, it is dryer and lacks vegetation. There, you will find the ancient Maasai tribe in a village called Maji Moto. They’ve been struggling for quite some time.







Aerial view of Maji Moto by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In February, 2018, Photographer Angelo Chiacchio - on his journey to the world's most fragile places - visited the village of Maji Moto.

Women in Maji Moto (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Maji Moto sits on a large, dusty plane. Local women endure heat and physical strain as they spend their days carrying grass and water back to their houses.

Girl carrying water (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Like many young girls in the village, Amidah is tasked with fetching water for her household. She treks the long distance to the well multiple times each day before and after school.

Girls carrying water by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Water is scarce. It lies 70m underground and can only be accessed from a central well.

Maasai family in Maji Moto by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The Maasai founded Maji Moto. But climate change has begun to disrupt their traditional lifestyle, which is largely based on raising cattle. 
This old couple is but a few of the last authentic Maasai living in the village.

Maasai woman in Maji Moto by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Outside influences, population increase and loss of cattle from waves of disease. The Maasai have been forced to make many changes. They now cultivate maize and other unfamiliar crops in order to survive. 

Masai man in Maji Moto by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Their clothing has changed as well.  Even the older villagers now wear modern polyester vests and hats with the traditional cotton robe.  The earliest form of tribal dress was once made from animal skin.

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3D scan of Maasai Inkajijiks house (21th Century) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Maji Moto was known for its “Inkajijiks.” The Maasai word for “house,” these iconic circular dwellings were built using sticks, grass, mud, animal dung and cow urine. It is more common now, however, to see the industrial metal roofs of modern homes.

Modern house in Maji Moto (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Today, a typical house in Maji Moto looks no different than houses in other parts of contemporary Africa.

Kids playing in Maji Moto by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Conclusion

The Maasai have adapted to a changing world while struggling to keep to their way of life. Thankfully, Maji Moto still vibrates from the sound of its children playing and running in the streets. Can they build a future here in their ancestral home or will they have no choice but to move to the city?


Terra by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Explore more

To learn more about Tanzania tribes, see also the story about "Life on Kilimanjaro"

Partnership by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

This story was created with the support of Art Works for Change, a nonprofit organization that creates contemporary art exhibitions and storytelling projects to address critical social and environmental issues.

Credits: Story

Written, shot and produced by Angelo Chiacchio
Copy editing: Al Grumet, Rajesh Fotedar

With the support of: Google Arts & Culture, Art Works for Change

Thanks to: C-re-aid, Freya Candel, Fleur Weber, Loth Elias Mollel

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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