Post developed by Kelly Askew and Katherine Pearson
Maasai Remix, a documentary directed by the award-winning team of filmmaker Ron Mulvihill and anthropologist Kelly Askew, follows three Maasai individuals who confront challenges to their community by drawing strength from local traditions, modifying them when necessary, and melding them with new resources.
The three subjects of this documentary live in different settings. Adam Mwarabu advocates for Maasai pastoralists’ rights to land in international political spheres. Evalyne Leng’arwa pursues a college education in the U.S., having convinced her father to return 12 cows to a man contracted to marry her. Frank Kaipai, the village chairman, faces opposition as he promotes secondary school education and tries to save the village forest. Sharing a goal of Maasai self-determination in an ever-changing world, Adam, Evalyne, and Frank innovate while maintaining an abiding respect and love for their culture.
In a companion film produced by Kelly Askew entitled The Chairman and the Lions, the focus was on the many challenges faced by Parakuyo Maasai, including marauding lions, landgrabbers, illegal loggers, male youth out-migration and lack of education. By contrast, the message of Maasai Remix is one of hope and innovation, and of connected yet individual initiatives in addressing communal challenges. It champions the use of tradition as a mode of community development and as such offers a rebuttal to the widespread view that culture is always and only an obstacle to development initiatives. Quite the contrary, Adam, Evalyne and Frank illustrate through word and deed how traditions can be deployed as tools of empowerment. Thus, integrating their culture with modernist goals in a manner, not unlike the remixes of hip-hop DJs, Maasai Remix celebrates the achievements of these individuals and the lifeways of their community.