Learning in Kianyaga / by Art Zaratsyan

Last December I traveled to Kenya to shoot a project for Photographers Without Borders. The subject of the project was the work of Elimu Impact Evaluation Centre, who are conducting a research on the impact of legal aid on the development of the local population in the Kianyaga region, on the foothills of Kenya mountain.

The local population is mostly composed of small scale farmers, and like most farmers, their legal issues revolved around land ownership and succession. Exacerbated by corruption in the Land Registry and in the courts, their legal problems are immense and hopeless: the rich folks can bribe their way through any hurdle, while the poor folks have nowhere to turn to. Even the lawyers of Elimu were often unable to navigate through the maze of bribery, "lost" paperwork, delays and the general incompetence of the legal system of the area.

Despite all this, I saw a lot of strength and beauty in the faces of the locals. Even though life threw a lot at them, they went on with their lives with heads held high. And what surprised me most was their optimistic outlook, the will to keep fighting even when the lawyers told them they had no chance, and their smiles... Their big, warm and beautiful smiles, that made me wonder if I was really the one who was the less fortunate, and they were the ones who had the real wealth.

Experiences like these make me want to rethink everything about my own life. Family, love of the ones around us, these are things most of us have left behind in the "developed" world. Globalized, mobilized, we're often far from those who we love, those who love us. We're roaming around lonely, chasing wealth, finding no happiness...

The longer I'm on this Earth, the more I understand that the things we were taught when we were kids, the importance of family, love, and friendship, these are the things that carry the most real value, they are the things we should hold on to, and never let go.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy looking at these photos from Kianyaga, Kenya as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Peace.