The Maasai, Kenya & Tanzania

The Maasai

Culture Education Centre
Culture and Education Centre
The Maasai | Reciprocity | Jimmy Nelson Foundation | Sankale

A life in harmony with nature

Maybe it is one of the most iconic African communities. As semi-nomads, the Maasai wander freely across the vast land, following rainfall in search of food and water for their cattle. Ancient ceremonies and rituals initiate the Maasai to their life journey, beautifully decorated with beads and jewellery.

How long this free roaming and celebrations will last for is the big question. Drought, fencing and even schooling are developments that threaten the survival of the Maasai culture.

Back to Nature Foundation

With our local partner Back to Nature Foundation we support the construction of the Maasai Cultural Education Centre (MCEC), where wisdom about life in harmony with nature can be shared with a new generation earth keepers. Together we can safeguard the continuity of this beautiful culture, which is rich for the survival of human mankind.

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The Project

Local Partner NGO

The reciprocity projects support local communities in their quest to preserve and pass on their heritage and knowledge to future generations. The projects always originate from community members themselves.

To ensure a successful outcome, all reciprocity projects are done in close collaboration with the community and the local NGO partner. We always work with NGOs with resonating missions and visions which we encounter on our photography journeys.

For our reciprocity project with the Maasai we work together with our local partner Back to Nature Foundation.

The Story

The Maasai

Maybe one of the most iconic African communities with their tall slim bodys, their colourful costumes and handmade beaded jewelry. To be a Maasai is to be born into one of the world’s last warrior cultures. Through rituals and ceremonies starting from circumcision, Maasai boys are guided and mentored by fathers and elderly on how to become a warrior. Besides the warrior culture, the semi-nomadic lifestyle follows patterns of rainfall over vast areas of land in search for food and water for their cattle.

The Maasai measure whealth by the number of cattle and children a person has. The entire way of life is historically seen, dependent on their cattle. Their houses, the so called Manyatta’s, are naturally made from a wooden frame covered with a mix of clay and cow dung every three to four years, when the grass and thorny bushes are gone and the caravan has to move on. Nature and livestock provide the Maasai with everything they need to survive. Age-old traditions and rituals are what connects them with each other and with nature.


The increased importance of education, rise of religion, demarcation of land, relocation to cities for business are some global developments that have a huge impact on the continuation of the traditional life of the Maasai. How to become a fearless warrior as an adolescent when you are going to high school in the city instead of living in the bush for 7 years and learn all about surviving amongst the vegetation and animals around. Or how to herd the cattle when you have to move to the city for work and making money? Globalization also means that people themselves let go of certain traditions, because it does not fit in with the environment they moved to. Particularly physical appearances have to suffer, such as the traditional shuka’s, the big earrings and the pooled front teeth. All have meanings in the traditional life, but what about today’s life?

The complexity of development and urbanisation has its effect on continuing living the culture concerning the language, dress code, natural food, social cohesive bonds, ceremonies and many other aspects. Both developments as traditions are important for human mankind to evolve and stay part of the world. Balance between development and tradition is what the Maasai are searching for.

Maasai | Tanzania | 2010
It’s not how much we do, it’s how much love we put in actions to live in harmony with nature. - Chief Sankale Ole Ntutu

In harmony with nature

he Maasai traditional way of living in harmony with nature, is a great example and inspiration for the rest of the world who mainly exhaust our planet. Together with the local community, the Back to Nature Foundation has developed a project of constructing the Maasai Cultural Education Centre (MCEC), where ancient Maasai culture and wisdom can be shared with new generations earth keepers. Content of the program for instance, are the components of the ecological systems like medicinal plant species and wildlife. Also language and ceremonies are of major importance for the Maasai survival and will get great attention in the centre.

Leading a harmonious life intertwined with the environment, means maintaining the ability to ‘read’ the environment on what it can provide and what it needs. The creation of a special preservation place to record and share all their wisdom about nature, rituals and traditions is what the Maasai are working on.

Back to Nature Foundation

Out of love for the community and the environment that nourishes them, Maasai community chief Sankale Ole Ntutu and his Dutch partner Manon van Oldenbarneveld have founded the Back To Nature Foundation. At the start of the foundation back in November 2019, the first priority was to open-up migration paths for wildlife and livestock. The Back to Nature Foundation is active in the south west of Kenya, where the area is called Loita Hills & Plains and is part of the Mara Ecosystem. Together with the local community (the Maasai tribe) the foundation has developed several projects to restore and conserve life in harmony with nature. In all the projects reflects the love for nature and the local rituals and traditions.

As the founders and the troops on the ground, Sankale and Manon hold meetings with the community. For every project a Community Based Project (CBO) Group is formed with community members who are closely involved in the set up and execution of the projects and who report the developments to Sankale and Manon.

Besides from building the Maasai Community and Education Centre, together with the community the foundation supports awareness on life in nature by questioning in groups the challenges and developments. Another running projects is Garden of Eden where they challenge the demarcation and offer new opportunities to landowners with the construction of water spots in return to defence the area. All projects perfectly fit the foundation’s vision of sustainable living in harmony with nature.

The Project Journal

Maasai Culture & Education Centre

Preserving life in harmony with nature is for the benefit of all of us. Nature is what nourishes us, so let us take care of nature in return. We can learn a lot from the Maasai, who still live close to nature and how they are facing today’s challenges. Stay tuned on this journal and you will be part of this immersive adventure of creating the Maasai Culture and Education Centre. All updates and developments will be shared online, so you may want to keep an eye on this page.

Let love rule, 2001-2015

Out of love for adventurous travels through East Africa, Manon van Oldenbarneveld has founded African Touch, an adventurous travel agency for off road experiences. It was during one of the exciting cycling trips through Kenya, that Manon came across Sankale ole Ntutu. Sankale is a Maasai Chief and professional nature guide. Besides sharing their passion for nature and the idea of organizing bush expeditions in the Loita Hills, an untouched piece of wilderness in the south of Kenya, they later on also shared the love for each other.


Jimmy meets the Maasai in 2010

Let’s go back to nature, 2019

Since the time Manon started living with Sankale and the community, she has witnessed the daily challenges of the Maasai. Climate change has a huge impact on the available amount of fresh grass for their cattle. But she also sees how land is being sold to investors and more and more nature is being fenced. Animals kill themselves accidentally in the wires of the fences. Life in harmony with nature, Maasai unity and togetherness are disappearing and being replaced by individualism and separation. Manon concluded that a precious culture with so much wisdom about medicinal plants, earth keeping and respect for nature is seriously endangered. She shared her worries with her friends in The Netherlands and started the foundation to restore and conserve life in harmony with nature.


Discover the undiscovered, 2020

The Jimmy Nelson Foundation meets Manon and Sankale. During a 3 week visit in Kenya, there were interviews and meetings with the community to observe and learn about the daily life, their culture and the challenges that come along these days. This beautiful acquaintance showed the demand of the community to create a Maasai Cultural Education Centre to conserve their precious culture.

Warm welcome at Amsterdam, 2020

What a surprise! When Jimmy is not on site, communication with the communities and NGOs usually is done remotely via whatsapp and email. So the visit of Chief Sankale to the Foundation’s office was a very special one. The first chief and community member at Jimmy’s couch. Since Sankale is maried to the Dutch Manon, he is already familiar with the Dutch temperature and nature (which is far from bush life). A very special intimate conversation between Jimmy and Sankale about community life, how Sankale became chief and his vision on this role now and in the future.


Finish, 2025

We plan to finish the project in September 2025!