PHOTOJOURNAL: THE YOUNG FACES OF HAMAKUYA VILLAGE, SOUTH AFRICA

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By Michelle Bulterys
Senior Editor

This past summer I was fortunate enough to conduct medical-anthropological research in the HaMakuya Village in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. During my stay, I spent the majority of my time playing soccer and learning the traditional dance from the wonderful children of the community. The following photos depict a few faces of the many children that had such an incredible impact on my life. They are captioned by quotes which were said in Venda (the local language) at the time the pictures were taken.

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“Mpo! (Gift)”

The child in the picture is named Mpo, which means “Gift” in TshiVenda. He is six years old and dreams of being a professional photographer. Mpo is also the name I was given by my host mother upon arriving in HaMakuya Village. I earned the name by chasing a chicken and serving it to the family for dinner.

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“I dani (Follow me)”

Her name is Blessing, and she is only two years old. She is the sassiest girl I have ever met. She became very bored as her father, my host father, gave me a tour of his traditional healing garden. The garden had a myriad of flowers, barks, roots and leaves that each had a healing purpose (for example, chewing Tenu bark has the ability to make you become irresistible to your spouse). Blessing tugged on my shirt repeating, “i dani,” meaning, “follow me”. She guided me to a dead wild cat, which had been trapped overnight. Her father explained that he uses the jaw to hang as a necklace on his children when they sleep to prevent them from grinding their teeth.

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“Ndi A Awela (Sit down)”

Whatever Blessing wanted, she got. The five of us children had stepped just 20 feet out of our home on the way to the watering hole before Blessing pulled an empty tin from the wheel-barrow and instructed all of us to sit. She always hated the four-mile trek to retrieve water every day. I quickly learned that she loved the trek if she got to sit in the wheel-barrow while I pushed her and made car sounds. I grew very strong arm muscles.

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Zwino (This moment)”

I looked into Tati’s eyes and asked her, “When are you really happy?” Her response was “zwino,” meaning “this moment,” or “right now”. I took a picture for us both to remember the moment, and developed it for her when I went into town one day. I was one of the few foreigners to have ever come to the village. I helped her with her schoolwork at night, and in exchange she taught me how to skin mpani worms and make fire with sticks.

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“Ndi Ani Funa (I love you)”

This photo of Thanyani (age 7) and Zembe (age 8) was taken just after our soccer team won a game on my last day in the village. They had become my brothers, and on that day would always say “Ndi ani funa” to me, which I later found out meant, “I love you”. The soccer field in HaMakuya Village was slanted and had three trees in the middle, and was where we spent the majority of our days.

PHOTOJOURNAL: THE DAILY LIVES OF THE MAASAI PEOPLE IN MOSHI, TANZANIA

By Rebecca Benest
Staff Writer

While living in Tanzania over the summer and working at a grassroots organization to prevent HIV/AIDS, I was given the opportunity to go to a Maasai village and learn about their culture and lifestyle. The Maasai are semi-nomadic peoples in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. They are inhabitants of some of the national parks that are common stops on Safari tours, and are well-known for their distinctive culture, dress and language. Although there are some aspects of their culture that have been Westernized, partially with the encouragement of the Tanzanian government, they still retain a large part of their culture and their population continues to grow as an indigenous group.

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As part of the opening ceremony and dance, the Maasai men slowly walked into a cordoned area that was once a corral for their cows. They typically wear very traditional clothing during the ceremony, which is still significant in Maasai tribes. However, many of the younger Maasai dress in Western clothing when they go into town.

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This is their dancing ceremony. While the women sing, the men take turns stomping rhythmically and jumping in the middle of the circle (at seemingly shocking heights). Afterwards, all the children are given a chance to get involved and try jumping while the women continue to sing and stomp to the rhythm.

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They also showed us a traditional fire-making ceremony. Although this is not used as often anymore, especially as items such as matches become more prevalent, it is a ritual still used in ceremonies. By grinding a stick into a plate of wood, a spark is lighted, which they turn into a full flame with dry grasses. Because the ceremony took quite a while, the men in this photo would take turns grinding the stick.

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The woman in this photo, although she might’ve been the mother of the baby she’s holding, probably wasn’t. The Maasai women tend to take a more collaborative approach to childcare, meaning that the women all helped with the children, and the children didn’t seem to prefer their “real mother” over the other women. The older children also were very active in helping to take care of younger children and babies.

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This woman exhibits two of the cultural practices common among the Maasai. First is the piercing and stretching of the earlobes, which I saw among all of the women. They stretch the ears with wood, among other materials, and hang jewelry through the holes. The second is the circular mark on her cheek. This is made with wooden branding when the Maasai are still children; women receive a circle, whereas men receive two lines on their lower forehead. Although it objectively seems painful, she said the pain passes quickly and she doesn’t remember it; however, the practice is quickly falling out of use.

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The medicine man of the tribe took us around their land to show us the various trees and plants used for a wide variety of medicines. They were used for everything from remedies for malaria to paste made from a specific plant to give men more “energy”.

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This is one of several mud huts in which all of the families live. Inside the house are three rooms, with an additional room that can be completely sealed off where they keep and take care of baby goats. The beds are also made of the same mud as the walls, with blankets lying on top.

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The Maasai children were very involved in the rituals showed to us by their elders. They wore more Western clothing, as opposed to the more traditional robes, although this may be a transition that comes with age. They were very interactive and enjoyed holding our hands, singing and dancing with us. Between our limited Swahili and their limited Swahili (their first language is Kimaasai), they were very excited to hear our names and tell us all they knew about “Obamaland”.

All images by Rebecca Benest, Prospect Staff Writer.

TAIWAN: FROM SUNRISE AT ALI MOUNTAIN TO SUNSET IN KENTING

Dome of Light in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

By Kirstie Yu
Staff Writer

My previous photojournal invited the reader to traverse Taiwan through its cuisine. There is so much else Taiwan has to offer, including impressive architecture, wondrous nature, and many simply unforgettable sights. I wanted to capture Taiwan’s most enticing tourist spots outside of its capital Taipei in this sequel.

Ali Mountain (阿里山)

Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區) in central Taiwan is best known for its cloud sea and sunrise, which we woke up at 3 a.m. to catch. Although the sunrise usually attracts throngs of tourists, we were fortunate enough to arrive slightly before a typhoon warning closed off the mountain road. We were thus able to watch the sunrise from a perfect vantage point without having to fight too many other tourists for the best viewing spot.

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We took the first train of the day to the sunrise viewing location. The Alishan Forest Railway is a 53-mile network that was originally constructed by Japanese colonialists in 1912 to transport wood down the mountain. The trains themselves are famous as well, and there is even an Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park (阿里山森林鐵路車庫園區) for retired trains in the city of Chiayi (嘉義) at the base of the mountain.

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Xitou (溪頭)

Also in central Taiwan, the Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區) was established for research purposes for the National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學). President Chiang Kai-Shek famously posed for a photo with college students on the bamboo bridge at University Pond (大學池) within the recreational area. I found the bridge itself to actually be quite steep.

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Within the Forest Recreation Park (森林遊樂區) are many unique natural creations, including a tree in the shape of a heart (pictured below) and a 3,000-year-old cypress tree called Shen Mu (神木) or “God Tree.”

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Within Xitou is a small Japanese-inspired Monster Village (妖怪村) built in 2011 that has eccentric monster statues, red lanterns and hidden secrets throughout. The village, which contains a wide array of themed souvenir shops and restaurants, is eerily pretty when the lanterns are lit up at night.

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Jiufen (九份)

Jiufen, only an hour away from the heart of Taipei by bus or train, attracted attention in the late 1800s due to the discovery of gold in the region. With the vibrant and bustling Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) and hillside town speckled with houses, it is not hard to understand why director Hayao Miyazaki drew inspiration from this town for his film “Spirited Away.”

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Yilan (宜蘭)

The Lanyang Museum (蘭陽博物館) showcases the geography and history of Yilan county in northeast Taiwan through its Mountains Level, Plains Level, and Ocean Level permanent exhibitions, as well as other special exhibitions featuring the culture of Yilan. Inspired by the cuesta rock formations in the region, the architecture mimics a rock or mountain rising from the earth.

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Tainan (台南)

In southern Tainan, remnants of Dutch and Japanese rule in Taiwan still remain in the form of preserved architecture. Fort Zeelandia (熱蘭遮城) was built in the early 1600s by Dutch settlers and still stands today as a museum filled with history about Dutch rule in Taiwan. It was fascinating to see something so European in Taiwan.

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Formerly a warehouse owned by British trading company Tait & Company established in 1967, the Anping Treehouse (安平樹屋) has since been taken over by banyan trees that have turned the warehouse into a fairytale-like building due to years of neglect. Roots and branches snake along every wall, and trails and stairs were built in 2004 to allow visitors to explore every inch of the mysterious building.

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Kaohsiung (高雄)

Public transportation is extremely convenient, accessible, and cost-friendly in Taiwan. Taiwan’s transportation includes the MRT (mass rapid transit) a.k.a. metro system in Taipei City and Kaohsiung, train, HSR (high-speed rail) that runs from Taipei in the north all the way to Kaohsiung in the south), city bus (a low-cost comprehensive bus network), Taiwan Tourist Shuttle, and taxis galore. Formosa Boulevard Station (美麗島站) is the central station where Kaohsiung MRT’s two lines meet, and it houses the Dome of Light (光之穹頂), the largest glass work in the world.

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Kenting (墾丁)

Kenting’s unbridled natural beauty and year-round tropical weather always attracts visitors to Maobitou Scenic Area (貓鼻頭), the southwestern-most tip of Taiwan, and Cape Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻), the southeastern-most tip. I saw the bluest cerulean ocean water I’ve seen in my life at Maobitou, which means “cat’s nose.”

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Eluanbi Lighthouse is called “The Light of East Asia” because it is supposedly the brightest lighthouse in Asia, or at least in Taiwan. Eluanbi means “goose’s beak.”

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The Kenting Night Market (墾丁大街) bustles with life after dark with locals and tourists alike eager to snack on traditional Taiwanese food, win prizes in a variety of games, and buy souvenirs from the numerous vendors after a long day at the beach.

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Finally, one cannot leave Kenting without going to Guanshan (關山), a seaside hill that was named one of the top sunset spots by CNN last year. I have been to Guanshan to see the sunset twice, and the colors and aura of the sunset are never the same each time. Pictures do not do the sunset justice, so this definitely must be seen in person when visiting Taiwan.

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All images by Kirstie Yu, Prospect Staff Writer