These films were shot in the town of Marsabit, in Marsabit district, 300 miles north of Nairobi at 4,200 feet altitude. The area was inhabited by Boran and other tribes of north-central Kenya, their economy primarily pastoral, with some maize farming in the mountains. See previews of each film below; the full versions are distributed by DER, and are available for purchase here, or may be requested in your local institution’s media center. The essays accompanying each film can be downloaded here.
In the midst of a traditional herding territory, a growing town and a new road encroach upon a once-isolated desert people. The complexities brought about by this modernization are shown as two fathers and their sons confront difficult choices between old ways and new. The first part of the film establishes a baseline for traditional lifestyles and attitudes, increasingly subject to pressures—both intentional and incidental—for change. In its second half, the film follows the life of Peter Boru, a sixteen-year-old former herdsboy who has become a boarding school student. Peter’s life is juxtaposed to that of a traditional herdsboy, Dokata. The question, “Education for what?” is posed when both traditional and modern forces common to developing areas make the economic outlook bleak for young people, even if they are able to complete local educational requirements. (Teaching Guide)
This film demonstrates the time-honored solutions to the problems associated with the Boran’s dependence on cattle for living. Direct government intervention and the indirect impact of modernization are forcing the old patterns to change. The film depicts herding practices, movement patterns, watering strategies, and the lifestyle of the herdsmen. The film has special currency for issues in rural development and agricultural, environmental, and human adaptation. Courses that emphasize the problems of the developing world, cross-cultural techniques of adaptation, the role of the environment in questions of human survival, and the role of government in rural development will find the film useful.
Traditionally confined to the roles of life-givers, nurturers, and homemakers, Boran women of Kenya are slowly realizing the importance of education and the difference it can make in their lives. They attach great importance to the traditional role of women in a herding society and perform dawn to dusk tasks with little deviation from customary ways. Remarkable, though, is the obvious independence they demonstrate in performing tasks which normally would fall into the male domain, like building their own houses. The film is principally observational with occasional segments in which the women speak directly to the camera. (Link to the full film and Teaching Guide)
Harambee (“Pull together”)
Harambee, a traditional Swahili chant meaning “heave-ho” or “pull together” is the slogan for a united Kenya. Harambee Day or Independence Day is celebrated in this small town in North Kenya with political speeches and an auction at the native school. The film shows how North Kenya—isolated for years—tries to adapt to the new concept of nationhood. Government officials from South Kenya are appointed as ambassadors to spread the idea of national unity to a people unaccustomed to it. (Teaching Guide)
The 1972 film production in Kenya included a still photography project in both black and white and color. The original negatives are held at the Smithsonian. Below is a selection of these photographs, capturing both the agricultural Boran and nomadic Gabra people. Click on the galleries below, sorted by people, then subject, to view the photos. Captions will be added in the future.
- Kenya Boran: Part I (33 minutes). Filmmakers David MacDougall and James Blue. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- Kenya Boran: Part II (33 minutes). Filmmakers David MacDougall and James Blue. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- Boran Herdsmen (17 minutes). Filmmakers David MacDougall and James Blue. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- Boran Women (18 minutes). Filmmakers David MacDougall and James Blue. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- Harambee (Pull Together) (19 minutes). Filmmakers David MacDougall and James Blue. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.