Ushirikiano
noun (Swahili): partnership, collaboration, or community of shared interest

This year I was honored to be chosen for the Prix Pictet Commission, which took me on a thousand-mile safari in a part of Kenya that most tourists never see. There I encountered a confederation of NGO’s working closely with local tribes to create a sustainable way of life based on principles of environmental stewardship, wildlife conservation, and peace. Despite enormous adversity that includes poverty, drought, and wildlife poaching, and some dubious intrusions of outside religious, commercial, and educational culture, this quiet mini-revolution, led by a council of tribal elders, is bringing peace and stability to a huge area of Kenya. Ironically, their chances of success in the long run depend largely on whether the so-called first world can shift our own paradigm, as this part of Kenya increasingly is being ravaged by the effects of global climate change.

Our twelve-day exploration traversed a wild, dry-baked landscape of red soils, thorny bushes, lions, hyenas, and isolated tribal villages with no paved roads or electricity for several thousand square miles. There I had the privilege of meeting communities of indigenous people who had seen few, if any, people from my part of the world, and I found myself humbled again and again by the trust, relational openness, and easy grace that these ancient people brought to our encounters. The challenges faced by the rural villagers of Kenya are like a microcosm for the rest of the world; like us, they are called on to join in new forms of collaboration if they wish to survive and thrive in these turbulent times. I hope my photographs convey at least a small fragment of the complex story of Ushirikiano that is emerging in this remote part of Africa.

~cj, August, 2011