I never feel so much a part of something bigger than myself than when I am here, in this wide open red soil, under this vast African sky. Completely out of my context, but totally in my element. I’ve nothing here but a few personal belongings in my backpack, my cameras, and enough Kiswahili to be politely useless. What I have in abundance is the friendship of the people around me. Whatever else is lacking here, it is not love.
I’m on the last stretch of tarmac heading north, Nairobi now days behind us. The Land Cruiser in front of us carrying Semedgi and Aribo, our friends and security, the barrels of their AKs sticking out of the windows.
I’m going home, to a place I’ve only been once, but to which I return often in my dreams. I’m heading to Ongeli, a small Rendille village of nomadic pastoralists scratching out a living on the edge of the Kaisut desert. A village that two years ago, for reasons beyond my understanding, adopted me, giving me the name Akeno. He who brings good.
It was Ongeli that heard of my accident in Italy sent prayers up, through the canopy of the acacia tree, mixed with dust, for the healing of a stranger thousands of miles away. They sent the gift of a rungu, a war club, to my hospital bed in Canada. Whatever the intended message I heard them whisper, You’re one of ours, Akeno, keep fighting.
I’m returning to Ongeli. To photograph them again. To bring a camel, to slaughter it and celebrate with them. Perhaps to dance with them under the full moon in a few days. But mostly to say thank you and spend some time with these astonishing people.