The first thing you notice in Pwani Mchangani is the seaweed washed up with the tide, a huge expanse of green colouring the white sands. Then you start to see the red clad figures all along the shore line. These so-called “beach boys” are seasonal inhabitants of the island, mostly migrating from Kilimanjaro or Arusha to Zanzibar every season.
The locals refer to them as the plastic Maasai — a harsh reflection of their circumstances and the imbalances of a globalised world. The plight of the Maasai people has put them in the international spotlight, making them probably one of the most recognised tribes in the world. It’s somehow “more special” to see someone dressed in traditional clothing — tourists need spectacles, performances, and these beach boys provide that. In this sad reality, they are often only fulfilling a role. In many cases, they have been doing this for so long, they are often skilled in speaking several european languages, including German and Italian.
Walking down the beach was sometimes overwhelming, like navigating a field covered in land mines, only it was not mines you were on the look out for, but people. Relentless competition fuelled by the basic instinct and need for survival. They make a living for themselves and their families back home, by selling handcrafted bead and wood work to tourists.
Despite having interacted with so many of them as the days passed by, I pushed out visiting their stalls to our last day on the island, the outcome of which was this series.