Maasailand In Black & White

desert date mulului tree 001

I do not think of Africa in black and white, and when we lived there during the 1990s it was still in the days of conventional photography, and only colour film was readily available. So I am rather intrigued by these monochrome edits from the old Africa photo file.

They were taken in August – in the cool, dry, gloomy season, and the time of the wildebeest migration. We had driven down to the Maasai Mara from Nairobi under lowering skies, taking our visitors, Chris and Les, on safari. The roads were dusty and the bush country parched and dreary looking for mile after mile.

Amongst other things, the first photo shows how empty the landscape can be of wildlife,  or indeed of people. In the distance is the Oloololo Escarpment which forms  the north west boundary of the Mara Triangle. The tented camp where we were staying was on the Mara River outside the park, and part of the Mara Conservancy, a reserve managed by the Maasai themselves.

The lone tree is a Desert Date (Balanites  aegyptiaca ), and is typical of the open savannah where its presence is highly valued by humans and grazing animals alike. It fruits under the driest conditions. The tree has also long provided traditional healers with remedies; like the baobab, Balanites is one of Africa’s tree pharmacies. The fruit’s outer flesh was used for treating skin diseases, and preparations of the root and bark were used to combat malaria.

The oil within the fruit in fact has a host of remarkable properties. It has long been known that it kills the freshwater snails that carry bilharzia and the water fleas that are vectors of guinea-worm disease  (Trees of Kenya  Tim Noad and Ann Birnie). It has also been studied more recently by Egyptian scientists who reported their findings in the the 2010 Journal of Ethnopharmacology.  Their laboratory tests revealed anticancer properties for certain human carcinoma cell lines, as well as demonstrating selected antimicrobial, anthelmintic, and antiviral activity.

An all round useful tree then.

The shape of the trees in the photos is also typical. The result of having their canopies nibbled by passing giraffes, although there are none in sight here – only wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle.



Black & White Sunday: typical

39 thoughts on “Maasailand In Black & White

  1. “I do not think of Africa in black and white.” It’s almost a metaphor.😊
    And yes, your depiction of Maasailand is fresh and arresting!

  2. I love your posts about Africa and the last shot is beautiful, typical trees and gazelles gazing at your camera. I must admit is was rare for me to put a black and white film in the camera.

      1. The trouble was that once you had put one in the camera you then had to take the whole of the film in b&w and films lasted ages then!

      2. Same with panoramic prints. Cheaper to take the entire roll in panoramic mode than to mix it up. But that meant you really needed two cameras!

  3. I’m really fascinated by both photos , even if so different one from the other…
    More mysterious the first one , with those sunbeams piercing out from the clouds , while more typically African the second , where you can perceive the real colours of the landscape , through the monochrome version…..
    Both exceptional anyway!

  4. I didn’t know this shape was the result of grooming by giraffes! It’s certainly a tree that says Africa. And you sound so plaintive: ONLY wildebeest and Thompson’s gazelle indeed. I love your African posts (and all your others too of course)

  5. That was going to be my question for you – whether you remember Africa in colour or monochrome. The season might have been arid, but the stark contrasts in your shot make it look very appealing. Beautiful photographs, Tish.

  6. I agree with the old movie thinking – really beautiful. Interesting about the tree – there are so many good things of old that we have forgotten or do not use enough in today’s world.

  7. Anything B/W is the 50’s and any image of Africa is the grasslands of Kenya, parchment and wind-blown. Neither is true. Portraiture, for example, is brilliant in B/W and Africa is a vast continent; my own experience, Equatorial West Africa forests and laterite.

  8. Interesting that you should not think of Africa in Black&white. 🙂 But then in the 90’s all photos were colour films if I recall.
    Back in the 60’s, a good share of our films still were B&W. Cheaper than the colour ones.
    Thank you for the Safari Memsahib.

    1. Yes, you could only get colour film in Nairobi. And definitely our 60s family photos tended to be b & w, mostly taken by me. When I was seven or eight a family friend gave me a Box Brownie – oh, the joy! Though only around 8 shots to the film. We’re spoiled with our snap-happy digitals.

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