Click here to view this artwork, Massai Elder | Kenya, and its currently available sizes.

I love that there can be a mystery when gazing at this image of a Massai elder I made in Kenya. Is she grimacing in pain having stepped barefoot on a rock, or laughing uproariously at a joke shared with someone just outside the picture frame? Or is the reason behind her expression something practical, like simply squinting to protect her eyes against the arid desert’s windblown sand? Perhaps her teeth benefit from a gritty scrub?

Soon, a flood of deeper, meaningful questions follow: Did it hurt to have her earlobes stretched in the style customary to the men and women in the semi-nomadic, pastoral tribe of which she is a member? What is the significance of the strikingly colorful attire—her bright shúkà, the cloth wrapped around her body, and the rich purple, red, yellow and white of her beaded earrings and necklace? And oh my, what stories might this woman tell about her life, family, the land, the tribe’s precious cattle, the passage of time and wisdom gleaned during her many years. What brightens her day and what brings on the shadows?

That last thought causes nearly all mystery to dissolve, for I am asking about her the same things I ask myself. I try daily to orient and design a life in which the brightness is enough to balance unavoidable shadows. In this endeavor we are sisters and bond with all seekers of joy, ritual practices, ancestral homage, respect for the land and peaceful co-existence with other sentient beings. I would adore sitting with my elder sister and together, sharing secrets and yet, holding onto a few of our mysteries for the next time we might meet. By the way, she is laughing…


18 x 39 inches (45.72 x  99.06 cm)

24 x 52 inches (60.96 x 132.08 cm)

30 x 65 inches (76.2   x 165.1 cm)

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