Watha Project

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Msee (Elder) Badiva Kirbai, age 78, demonstrates archery technique with a very heavy draw bow.

Our Mission

The Watha are people of an ancient culture who, until a single generation ago, were living as hunter-gatherers in Galana, Kenya. Despite being legendary master hunters of the bush, the Watha have rarely been documented. Our mission is to educate the world about the Watha by producing a ethnographic film about their culture. Just as Watha culture revolves around the African Elephant, the film will highlight the intertwined relationship between the fate of the African Elephant species and the fate of the Watha cultural heritage.

Background

The Watha traditionally were hunter-gatherers. Presently they are caught in a changing world of population and modernization. Their staple way of life was outlawed with the founding of Tsavo East National Park in 1948 upon their ancestral hunting grounds They became even more disenfranchised when in 1974 Kenya imposed a blanket hunting ban. The tribe currently lives a teetering existence made up of subsistence farming, subsistence poaching and commercial ivory poaching. They now struggle to determine their destiny and retain their identity.

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The Wazee (Elders). The last generation to experience the full hunter-gatherer lifestyle of their youth.

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Benson Badiva and his lovely wife. Benson drew on his cultural heritage and school education to become an anti-poaching ranger. He works far from his home village in the north of the country and is greatly valued as a tracking instructor by his employers.

Our Project: The Last Dance

We are supporting the production of The Last Dance, an observational documentary about the Watha Tribe of Galana, Kenya. The film will document this ancient tribe’s culture that has been little understood even by neighboring people. Our story revolves around the family of Elder Badiva Kiribai Wario. It will explore their history, traditional intertribal economics, folk traditions and intricacies of the culture. The film will highlight their incredible survival methods and bush-craft skills, which include bush medicine, gathering, and of course the tracking of large game animals for which they are renowned.

Who We Are

The filmmaker of The Last Dance, Gareth Roriston, had his initial introduction to the Watha community of Galana while working in the capacity of Acting Warden for the privately owned Galana Wildlife Conservancy (a 65 thousand acre wildlife conservancy). He first ventured into the Watha village, with armed law enforcement, on the trail of a notorious elephant poacher.
Guyo Badiva is is currently studying law in Nairobi. He is the first in his community to receive a higher education. His primary motivation is to represent his people in matters of civil rights.

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Guyo Badiva (right) interviews Msee Balaga, a bowyer and blacksmith. The shelter behind is where Balaga sleeps. Since his youth he has never slept in a walled dwelling, likening it to being buried alive. He rebuffed a sturdy hut built by his sons. In Guyo’s words: “He is a real Watha!”

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Msee Balaga sits outside his house showing the fruits of his labor. The arrow wood is harvested from only four species of tree.

What We Need:

With your help the filming will take place at the Galana Ranch in Galana Kenya starting January, 2016. Galana Ranch is a 1.6 million acre area located on the outskirts of Tsavo East National Park. We are asking for you to be a part of this important project. We need help covering the production costs of the film which we estimate to be $36,000.

 

To learn more about the project please visit:  www.thelastdance.weebly.com

Support the Watha Project

The Watha Project estimates production costs of $36,000 for The Last DanceYour donation of $100 can help support the Watha community in their journey toward self-determination, preserving an ancient culture while sharing its wisdom with the modern world.