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In Life Is Short, News & Stuff, Postcards From..., Travel by David23 Comments

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.

Comments

  1. Brenda

    Thank you for sharing the beauty of people I would not otherwise see, expanding my vision.

    I think “he who brings good” is well-christened. Looking forward to stories from this visit with your family.

    Grace.

  2. Owen

    Loving the post on these portraits. Is there a slight split tone going on or just a straight black and white conversion? Lovely work David.

  3. Will

    You have amazing journeys and encounter incredible people. I thank you for sharing these experiences as it gets me out of my own little world and thinking and dreaming bigger; even if its just for a moment.

  4. Isaiah Brookshire

    Whoa, love to see how your style is evolving. I’m tempted to say that this is some of your best work but then I’m a sucker for an olde-timey/classical look in portraits.

  5. Gary Halby

    The photographs are absolutely stunning. They show joy and wonder. The black & white are so effective. I look forward to seeing more. I am a loyal fan. Best, Gary

  6. Jean-Francois

    Hi David,

    I am amzaed by the experience, the journey and the pictures. My mother died a month ago, Professional outlook looks like sh… And does not interest me anymore. A pair of Merrell, a Canon and a planete should rectify that… I hope. I alson hope our paths will cross, eventually.

    Very sincerely

    JF fron Montreal

  7. Michal

    was lookin’ forward to hearing from you David… and finaly here it is 😀 these portraits are amazing… very true and your new name… .. is perfect… think there is no better for you :) good luck!

  8. Kathy Karn

    I know first hand how Kenya and its people can crack open one’s heart. These are beautiful photos. Asante Sana.

  9. Tom Kostes

    You know what I love about these photos? The mainstream media seem to show only the negatives about the African continent.

    You find the beauty, love and especially the smiles, here and in your books.

    Thanks for that.

    PS: I also love the B&W treatment of the images, perfect! So moving.

  10. Kit

    Beautiful words, David. I can visualize every bit of what you are saying. Such a profound experience. Such basic humanity stripped to its essence. Happy to hear that Uhuru wasn’t successful booting you our of your accommodations in Loi. 😉

    1. Author
      David

      He can get in line. :-) We had a truly wonderful time, and talked about you both often. You were missed!

  11. Gary Dowd

    The Rendille are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, inwardly and outwardly. If you happen to run into the Swanepoels, please give my regards.

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