Author:Peter Biella (San Francisco State University)
Paper short abstract:
The Maasai leader of a Tanzanian village battles many lions that threaten his community — corrupt lawyers, land grabbers, migration and lack of education. Chairman Frank Ikoyo's new ideas reveal the current world of Maasai—burdened with problems that traditional practices are unable to overcome.
Paper long abstract:
The Chairman and the Lions presents a biography of Frank Kaipai Ikoyo, a charismatic Ilparakuyo Maasai who, at thirty three, is the leader of his Tanzanian village. As Chairman, Frank battles many lions that threaten his community - corrupt lawyers, land grabbers, exploitative contracts, migration, and lack of education. Frank's life provides a glimpse into the current world of Maasai - full of cattle and ritual but also burdened with problems that traditional practices cannot overcome. A new demand has arisen for literate, world-savvy leaders, and Frank, like other indigenous chairmen, understands education to be a double-edged sword, a contradiction between modern knowledge and indigenous identity. Frank advocates schooling as the most necessary step toward self-determination in his village, despite the fact that it can produce "educated criminals." The film also depicts vignettes of Frank's other duties as Chairman - interrogating spies in a law case against the legitimacy of his village, fighting exploitive contracts, and protecting his community's forest against illegal clear-cutting for agricultural production. Frank also promotes the reemergence of old rituals. In doing so, he solicits the help of a renowned elder to train young warriors in the art of lion hunting.
DVD NTSC; 47 MINUTES, MAA AND SWAHILI WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES; DIRECTED BY PETER BIELLA, 80 NORWOOD AVE., KENSINGTON, CA, USA 94707; TEL 510-620-4129