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A Long Walk Home – Jorge Abella
October 13 @ 6:30 pm - October 15 @ 7:00 pm CEST
Opening, 13th October
Open sa & sun 3-7 pm
By Jorge Albella
A Long Walk Home.
It´s the long path that these kids take to return home after the day grazing cattle, the main and only sustenance of their families.
This involves another more important connotation: the way of nomadic or semi-nomadic groups – such as the Maasai – where their life is a continuous journey, through different territories, depending on the seasons, but without the existence of borders or political maps, and where the only “border” used to be is the geography (in the old times). To then always return to the same place, the circle closes. And then it starts all over again.
This leads me to other reflections: the idea of freedom that many people long for in modern societies, where in spite of all the technological advances, we often need that long journey, moving to other places, other cities, other countries, other jobs, other friends. It often also happens that in the end we find ourselves in the same places of origin. The circle closes.
And it starts all over again.
A Long Walk to Nowhere – Facing evictions in their own land
Wandering from north areas of Tanzania, Loliondo, Ngorongoro to Arusha, you constantly meet groups of shepherds, adults or more often kids, roaming freely through the fields, with their herds of oxen and goats, always dressed in their blue or red checkered tunics and skirts (the shuka), a machete at their waist and a wooden stick for protection. It is the beautiful and mysterious image of walkers in the middle of the green meadows or the
enormous plains, where borders do not exist, or at least they do not exist in the minds of these wandering shepherds.
“The land has always been there, our grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents have always grazed there. It is our land, and it is the basis of our people”, Shengena Kilel, counsellor of Olorien village said in an interview with Forest People Programme.
The Maasai people, People-of-Cattle, (or in a strictly connotative sense “Maasai” is said to signify those who say maa-sai / I-will-not-beg, in contrast to those who plead for their lives or for brides by saying aa-sail. A.C. Hollis, 1905-1970), is composed of between 1.3 to 1.5 million people living in Kenya and Tanzania. Originally from southern Sudan, in the last century they have been in continuous legal conflicts, losing their ancestral lands, and being forced to move to other, increasingly reduced areas.
Since 2013 the Maasai villages in the area between Loliondo and the Serengeti have suffered altercations with paramilitary groups of the authorities trying to expel them, it is part of the conflict that has exists since the private tourist company OBC, acquired an area of 1500km² in the Loliondo territory to install a hunting corridor for the Dubai royal family and other millionaire tourists. In 2017 the Tanzanian government stopped the project, giving hope to the local Maasai people, however, at the beginning of 2022 the Tanzanian tourist department resumed the contracts for the construction of the game reserve, and again began the expulsions of the Maasai villages. The pressure of the military has been violent, burning villages, and even shooting at the inhabitants who refused to move.
There is a long legacy of evictions and forced relocations of the Maasai, under the presumption of ecosystem conservation – even while Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports cite pastoralism as enhancing biodiversity rather than harming it:
The Maasai pastoral leaders wrote a letter to the US, UK and US governments asking for their urgent attention and help:
On 1st October 2022 the The regional East African Court of Justice has ruled that Tanzania’s decision to cordon off land for wildlife protection was legal, against the wishes and the voices of the local Maasai communities, and against the legal publications of the United Nations to stop forced evictions. Nearly 150,000 Maasai are now facing eviction from their own ancestral territory in Northern Tanzania, their survival is in danger, and migration to the
cities or to other countries as refugees could mean another humanitarian catastrophe.
On last 4th Sep, this year, the Tanzanian government has denied a delegation of The Greens/European Free Alliance MEPs from visiting the country, despite previously agreeing to allow them in to investigate human rights abuses against the Maasai in the name of conservation. This group of MEPs has called the government’s move “an incomprehensible decision.”
As International Survival explain: “The Maasai have lived for generations in the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania and have shaped and protected these lands, preserving wildlife and biodiversity in areas such as Loliondo, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the now Serengeti National Park. However, they have been violently evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for conservation projects, tourism, and trophy-hunting schemes“:
This exhibition is dedicated to all those who suffer evictions in their own homes, and especially to the ancestral people of the grasslands, who must not be forgotten.
Jorge Albella. Berlin. September, 2023
A Long Walk Home © JORGE ALBELLA, 2023
Jorge Albella is a self-taught photographer from Madrid. Since adolescence he has been involved with photography, however after viewing “Invisible Man” by Jeff Wall in 2001, he decided to immerse himself deeper into his photographic journey. In 1999 he moved to Berlin, where he currently resides.
His photography explores urban landscapes and the social transformations that occur within those areas.
Additional works include a visual experiment conceptualising “travelling and borders” (Behind the Window, 2003 – 2013), as well as aspects of nature, paths and solitude (Camina en silencio, no mires atrás, 2011 – 2013).
2021 „Strange Symphony“, Solo exhbition at PremArts Galerie, Berlin.
2014 „Disapearing Shanghai“, group exhibition. Grizedale Visitor Center (Forestry
Commission), Cumbria, England.
2014 „Disapearing Shanghai“, group exhibition. Atkins CIWEM Environmental
Photography.Royal Geographical Society, London.
2014 Group exhibition. Wyre Community Discovery Centre, Kidderminster, England.
2012 „Reflections“, duo exhibition, Loophole Berlin, Berlin.
2012 „Reflections“, duo exhibition, Die Frühperle, Berlin