ARP in Kenya: a Maasai Beauty Pageant

Joost Bastmeijer portraits

Hi! My name is Joost Bastmeijer, a photo journalist currently traveling through Africa. This month, I will be taking over the Hatje Cantz Fotoblog. For this post, I’d like to introduce you to 10 fabulous girls I have met on a recent photo assignment for Amref Health Africa. For more of my photography work, you can check out my website.

Joost Bastmeijer masai Maasai Beauty Pageant by Joost Bastmeijer Photography Joost Bastmeijer maasai

In many Maasai communities, female circumcision or ‘female genital mutilation’ (FGM) is a common ritual practice, associated with the transition from a girlhood to adulthood and marriage. ‘The cut’ kills many girls, who can be as young as eight years old when they undergo the ceremonial ceremony. On the eve of an alternative rite of passage (with the festivities, but without the circumcision), I attended a beauty pageant organized to empower the young girls of Maasai tribes surrounding Olentoko, a region in Kenya.

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I asked the girls, filled with self-confidence after their ‘catwalk’ run outside the school building, if I could photograph them in a class room that was used for anti FGM classes earlier that day. The beauty pageant was organized in order to show Maasai girls that they are indeed beautiful, to let them feel appreciated and celebrated by their community. After the beauty pageant, a candle light ceremony was concluded by prayers and blessings from the Maasai elders, completing the first day of ceremonies.

Joost Bastmeijer photo Joost Bastmeijer

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