Mile 46: Face to Face in Maasailand

Mile 46: Face to Face in Maasailand



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608877522
Publisher: Palace Publishing Group, LP
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Joni Binder received a BFA in photography from California Institute of the Arts, where she now serves as a trustee. She also served as a trustee at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and as the president of the museum’s Modern Art Council. Joni has provided leadership as an arts education advocate in California, serving as one of the subcommittee chairs for the CREATE-CA Task Force, and nationally as a Fine Arts Committee member and Education Committee co-chair for the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. She serves on the Leadership Circle for Futures Without Violence and is currently helping lead a campaign in partnership with The Representation Project in an effort to raise awareness about healthy masculinity and its role in eliminating domestic violence, particularly in professional sports.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 7 excerpt from Mile 46:

16 May 1988, Kimutai’s boma
Maasai live in harmony with nature. I can see how they could look down on other peoples, especially the hunter-gatherers. Maasai today would never kill anything for food that they could not be responsible for replacing with another life. Cows and goats are raised and slaughtered, and nothing goes to waste. The blood, bones, meat, fat, marrow, hides, and organs are used; even some parts of the gut are used for beadwork. They use dead old thorns from the acacia for toothpicks and another, nameless plant’s twigs to clean their teeth by peeling its thin bark to reveal a frayable, brush-like center.

I am so sick I don't even know where the energy to write is coming from. My face, head, and body ache severely and I have a fever. I think I'll try to see a doctor.

17 May 1988, Kimutai’s boma
Things are really depressing around here. Naserian was bitten by something, we aren't sure what, but her arm has been swollen for three days now. Sintamei has been bleeding for over a week, and Kimutai won't give her money for the doctor, so she's really upset. I feel sick but the real problem is that we are out of water, no rains forecasted. It feels like death. Because I'm sick, I can't drink chai or milk. My head feels like it is going to explode.

The Tanzanians Kimutai hired to do grunt work are being belligerent. One of them is telling the rest of them not to listen to the women, especially the mzungu (me). I never ask them for anything, anyway. And they're trying to convert Santamo, Kimutai's eldest son, into a "real" Maasai. He hasn't been going to school, disappeared for a few days, and has been wearing dirty shukas. There's something going around, and the children are sick, dirty, covered with flies, and vomiting everywhere. Naserian's husband gave her a black eye. I think I'll stay in bed today and maybe take some codeine.

I should go to the doctor, but I dread the matatu ride out of here. "At least the Maasai don't smell." That's what Kimutai said. He said the Kambas really smell "here," pointing under his arm. He claims Maasai don't have any body odor. This is supposed to make me feel better about getting into an overcrowded, shock absorber-less car with strangers on top of me and feeling me up and putting their packages on my head while I feel like I am going to die. Kimutai also said that if a large pack of Kikuyu just happened to kill a Maasai (unlikely, as by Kimutai's estimate it would take fifty Kukes to kill one Maasai), they would send the Maasai's penis to Japan for medical analysis. He says it's big money.

Another sensorial note: If I never hear another donkey wail it will be too soon. It's as if they're bellowing for their sorry, ugly lot, but the irony is that their bay makes them all the more hateful and pathetic. Everything cries in Maasailand, except the Maasai, who have their own miscellany of curious noises.

The donkeys wail while the flies buzz a perpetual hum; the goat kids keen while the children vomit. Every night, the boys from the next boma come from miles away to watch themselves sing in front of the mzungu’s mirror and into my cassette.


Parts of my experience are missing from the journals. I wasn’t writing everything down so certain ideas and memories didn’t surface until I after I’d left Kimutai’s boma. My entries while I was there went from musings to deadpan observations to proclamations; as my mood changed, so did my writing style. Still, I remember broaching difficult and likely unresolvable subjects over and over again, mostly with Sintamei. I was having difficulty accepting a woman’s lot in Maasai society, especially the atrocities of physical abuse that I saw or knew to be occurring when I wasn’t looking. But Sintamei and Kimutai were my providers, my caregivers. I was in no position to be strident, scolding, or judgmental. On the contrary, the only right attitude to take was to be respectful and gracious, and I was treated this way by my hosts. I was living in the small social environment of a boma, but all the while I was very lonely: I couldn’t work out with anyone why certain things bothered me. My voice echoed in my head and on the page.

Table of Contents

Foreword Darius Himes 11

Preface 17

Prologue 29

1 The Beginning 33

2 California 47

3 The Butcher and His Boma 55

4 A Weekend with Mama Simu 67

5 Arriving at Mile 46 77

6 On Maasai Culture 87

7 Enkiama and Emuratare (Wedding and Circumcision) 103

8 Nairobi 113

9 Contradictions 119

10 Katheka-Kai 129

11 Then and Now, Here and There 149

12 Renirning Home 157

Afterword 167

Acknowledgments 175

Glossary 177

Maasai Culture and History 185

Recommended Reading 188

About the Author 191

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