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The Lost Lands of Tanzania’s Maasai

The Lost Lands of Tanzania’s Maasai

French photographer Éloi Ficat photographed Maasai populations and their environment. Magnificent images taken over the last two years.

From the series Terres Perdues © Éloi Ficat

Dominated by the Ol Donyo Lengaï volcano, “the mountain of the Gods,” this remote region of Tanzania is inhabited by a few Maasai populations who live off the cattle they raise and on which they feed. For centuries these families have tamed their difficult environment, almost blending in with it.

Through the eyes of the Lendiito family, I discover that the beautiful harmony of this people today seems threatened. Their once nomadic way of life then had to adapt and become sedentary, for lack of space and territory. © Éloi Ficat
Magnificent, enigmatic, uncertain, the Ol Donyo Lengaï volcano stands a few steps from the Lendiito family. A guardian who watches over his people but also a threat, he can wake up at any time. © Éloi Ficat

A beautiful harmony created long ago and now in danger. A harmony that may soon be just a memory. In these misty and vast landscapes then emerges a certain nostalgia for wild space and the delicate union between man and nature.

Their former territories are now under the yoke of the tourist economy where it is impossible for them to access them. In 2006 more than 60,000 Maasai living in Ngorongoro, were forced to evacuate these lands, their presence being considered detrimental to wildlife and natural landscapes. On the other hand, tourists, through safaris, can take advantage of this unique reserve. © Éloi Ficat
Lake Natron, near the village, contains water with large amounts of salt and baking soda. Therefore even the slightest contact with water can be dangerous, both for humans and animals. Only the flamingos have an organism particularly adapted to this extreme environment. They appear as strange spectral figures. © Éloi Ficat

These images are part of the series entitled Terre Perdue by the young 26-year-old photographer Éloi Ficat, a travel enthusiast, who is also a cinematographer and colorist in the film industry and whose LuminaryOutrenoir and Éclat series have been getting attention, notably at Vincennes Image Festival and through his gallery, OΔK gallery.

His head held high, his bearing haughty, Meliara claims a preserved spirit of independence, a symbol of a freedom whose flame still burns. This Maasai warrior follows in the footsteps of his ancestors. © Éloi Ficat

Here, between savannah, large lakes and majestic volcanoes, the Maasai peoples must fight against drought, lack of food, the loss of their territory for the benefit of tourists and the creation of National Parks in which their entry is prohibited, as well as the sale of their best pastures by their government to European farmers.

From the series Terres Perdues © Éloi Ficat

It is this loss of space, this emptiness and the silence of these helpless and neglected populations that Éloi Ficat wanted to translate visually in melancholic and poetic settings where man gradually disappears despite his desire to live and to exist. Defeated from their territory, the Maasai people are slowly seeing their ancestors and traditions die.

Day has just dawned in this desert of black ash from the Ol Donyo Lengaï volcano, revealing the silhouettes of giraffes. © Éloi Ficat

More images of Eloi Ficat here.

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