Eliamani´s Homestead

Vanessa Wijngaarden
Deutschland 2014 | 20 Min. | OmeU
Zu Gast: Vanessa Wijngaarden

Eliamani’s husband has left her behind at their cowdung home on the Tanzanian savannah in order to look for work, and she has not heard from him for a long time. There has been very little food in the house for weeks, and she and her child have not eaten anything the whole day. All of a sudden Eliamani’s brother-in-law Paolo walks into her homestead with a group of Dutch tourists. Will she and her friend Pendo be able to make some money and buy their families a meal?

This 20-minute single-shot ethnographic documentary allows the viewer an intimate real-time experience of the negotiations taking place between several Maasai ladies, two Maasai guides and a family of Dutch tourists, who meet each other in the context of a locally owned cultural tourism initiative. The rough camera movements give the feeling of ‘being there’ as another tourist, who is observing through the camera’s eye. However, this is a privileged view with access to all four languages spoken, giving insight in the astonishing accuracy with which people from completely different worlds are able to read each other’s intentions, but also how they at the same time do not understand each other at all.

While the Maasai ladies try to sell some of their beaded jewelry, the tourists are busy shooting the images they have envisioned bringing home. The mistrust and embarrassment become increasingly tangible on both sides, even though the good intentions, politeness and empathy never completely disappear. When Eliamani turns around to look straight into the filmmaker’s camera, complaining about being filmed too much, the filmmaker and thus the viewer are confronted as part of the ‘problem’ of cultural tourism as well. However, the film also shows how finally both sides are not simply occupied with obtaining their material desires: Concerns about inflated prices and what kind of pictures are taken flow from the importance Maasai as well as tourists attach to the perception ‘the other’ has of them.