Photography by: Anja Ligtenberg
Pongezi means congratulations in Swahili. Congratulations to the girls who are now women without being circumcised and to a community that had the courage to break with a centuries-old tradition. This series shows alternative rites of passage, replacing traditional circumcision with education for Maasai girls in Kenya. In the new ritual, the girls are not circumcised but they do celebrate all the beautiful traditional rituals, such as the shaving of the head, the dancing, the drinking, the singing, and the face painting. Instead of the cutting the Maasai themselves choose to give the girls an extra three days of workshops about health, sex education, woman’s rights, self empowerment. Moreover, their parents promise not to marry them off until they have completed their studies. Because the men and the elders are approached first in the process and shown respect, every one in the community accepts the girls as woman, societal change happens harmoniously. This way the whole community gives a positive spin on a century old tradition. These photos pay homage to what dialogue, education, resilience and respect can accomplish when tradition and progress are held in high regard.
Magadi, Kenya, Alternative Rites Of Passage for Masai GirlsKenya, Woman without the knife These Maasai girls are celebrating an alternative rite of passage which replaces traditional circumcision with education for Maasai girls in Kenya. The girls learn new ceremonial songs and dances and combine that with wearing traditional clothes and jewelry.
Kenya, Loitokitok, Alternative rite of passage for Maasai girls, no more circumsicion but girl education.De girl candlelight ceremonie, (A new song is sung, Put out the fire of girl circumcision, Light the fire of girl education
Kenya, Loita, Also the warriors, the morans, come to celebrate which means that they accept the not- circumcised girl as a woman in their community and full woman to marry at a later time.
Kenya, Woman without the knife Maasai girl Setou with her mother inside their house to receive life lessons. She is celebrating an alternative rite of passage which replaces traditional circumcision with education for Maasai girls in Kenya. Her head is festive red painted after her hair is shaved off. It is part of the tradition to shave off the girls hair so the woman’s hair can grow back.
Kenya, Woman without the knife These Maasai girls are celebrating an alternative rite of passage which replaces traditional circumcision with education for Maasai girls in Kenya. Some of the traditional ritual are kept like this one: The girl’s hair is shaved off so that the woman’s hair can grow back
Kenya, Shompole, Instead of circumcision the girls get extra education as part of the ritual and because they van finish their schools. This is the last instruction and motivation right before the start of the new ceremony.