Reflecting on my BFA Thesis:
Constructing Culture explores the women of the Maasai tribe, a semi-nomadic pastoral people whose land stretches across Kenya and northern Tanzania. Their beauty is emblematic of the untamed allure of the motherland. Residing on the plains of Africa for thousands of years, the Maasai have always belonged to the land just as the lion and the elephant have.
In the face of modernity, this indigenous tribe struggles to hold on to their ancestral legacy. Despite the pressures of the ever-changing world, many Maasai still live in isolation; building their homes and raising their families close to the Earth.
I marvel at the idea of a culture unbroken by imperialism; a culture that, despite the influence of the western world, maintains many of its traditions. Eventually the tides of change will grow too strong and with time, extinction will be an ineluctable fact.
As much as my thesis is about the Maasai customs and beliefs, it is also about the replication and preservation of culture as a whole. How do we remember a group of people after they have perished? When the traditional Maasai are no longer, how will we remember them? We’ll only have photographs.
Photographs are like time capsules, engulfing memories and documenting how ways of life have transformed over time. Wanting to immerse myself in Maasai culture, I began studying their lives from afar. I wanted to honor the preservation of the Maasai tribe’s rich history, so I have created a village in their likeness.
I used Barbie dolls as the foundation for this project. Barbie is an iconic figure in American culture, serving as a representation of our materialism and greed. Although Barbie is a fabricated character, she is often contrived into reality. Barbie provides an interesting juxtaposition to the Maasai way of life; allowing me to examine the traditional society from a western perspective. ©Kelsey Arrington 2015