Njemps Village, Lake Baringo, Kenya
One day in the Rift Valley we took a boat across the lake to a remote island village. We visited the Njemps village on Lake Baringo in Kenya. The island was small enough that when you stood at the center you could just about see the entire village.
Some sources say that the Njemps tribe are originally part of the Maasai or Samburu clans. They were once a pastoral group, but they gave up their nomadism to settle down at Lake Baringo. The Lake is fresh water, and about 50 square miles and slightly over 3,000 feet deep.
When our motor boat arrived, we stepped out onto their island and a few villagers greeted us, helped us out of the boat. Their branch-constructed fishing boats dotted the grassy village entranceway. Apparently, in the Lake community they are well regarded for these boats, in which they fish among the Nile crocodiles and hippopotamus.
An English-speaking village representative walked with us along the acacia tree paths and told us of their way of life. We were shown their mud and dung huts, with clean-swept dirt floors and crowded sleeping quarters.
The people here eat plenty of fish, and farm goats. I watched a woman sitting on a five gallon bucket of cooking oil, fry tilapia on an open fire. Some industrious villagers had polished their handmade gourds and jewelry to sell to us.
There was a shy hush across this small village as our group of ten respectfully and quietly walked through. The little children were quiet and hidden behind their parents, and the adolescents and young adults kept their distance, warily watching from the shade of the huts.
I’d like to say that even without a common language, they welcomed us with the universal language of warmth and kindness. But that would be overly sentimental and untrue. Because although they opened their community to us, mostly they just stared at us, and waited for us to leave; and I understood this.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander