Can you imagine an European girl falling in love with an African warrior in just a split second, while she is on vacation with her boyfriend in Kenya? This is what happens in the movie “The White Massai”, based on the autobiography of Corinne Hofmann. However, this astonishing love story does not last forever. The two lovers have grown up in totally two different worlds. In fact, cultural clashes arise, which slowly ruin their relationship. Carola, a white girl, well educated from Switzerland, and Lemalian, a Maasai warrior from a remote village in the poorest part from Kenya, need just one glance to fall in love.
It is as you call it: love at first side. Despite, Carola is together with her boyfriend, Stefan, she cannot deny the strong love she feels for Lemalian. As a matter of fact, when Carola and Stefan are on their way to go back to Switzerland, she decides to stay and leave him behind. In a moment, nothing and nobody else mattered. Carola listens to her heart and desires to see Lemalian again as she is sure he would feel the same about her. After a difficult and long search, she finally finds him again. As she hoped, their love is true.
Carola follows Lemalian to his hometown, a place in the bush, with just a few shelters and some trees; no houses, no shops, no bathrooms en toilets. Lemalian is a warrior from the Masaai tribe, a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people. His world is completely different from hers. However, Carola feels she can live there; she is happy – at least for now. After some time, Lemalian asks Carola to marry him. She accepts but first she is going back to Switzerland to tell her family the news. Furthermore, she must sell her shop she used to have.
Her family thinks she is out of her mind and they believe Carola is making a huge mistake. However, Carola is not interested in their opinion and returns as soon as she can to her new life. Then, Lemalian and Carola get married. In this tribe you don’t get married alone but together with several others. The marriage is based on a traditional ceremony. When Carola starts to discover these traditions she finds out that they are very different from what she is used to. As a consequence, the first cultural clashes arise.
In fact, the morning after they got married, a 15-year-old girl got circumcised by some of the woman rom the tribe. Carola is totally shocked and calls Lemalian for help. Lemalian cannot help her and explains that this is their tradition and she must accept it. In this way the young girls become real woman and gain respect. Other clashes come to the light when Carola wants to open a shop. Lemalian thinks there is no need for a shop as they have always lived without. Furthermore, it would disturb their way of living. However, Carola does not listen to Lemalian his thoughts and opinion. She is business minded, believing they need the money and cannot imagine a life without it.
Once the shop is open, Lemalian gets extremely jealous. Carola, in order to sell her products, is talking to other men and smiles to them. Lemalian feels he is not respected and accuses her of cheating. Carola is really frustrated and can’t understand his reaction and the way he treats her. In the mean time, Carola gets pregnant. To make the situation worse, Lemalian starts drinking the beer from the shop. He can’t handle the way Carola is treating him and other men. Lemalian is a warrior of the Masaai tribe representing the primary authority figure. He is used to hold the authority over the woman and children.
Carola, instead, is going her own way as she is used to be independent and learnt that woman should earn their own money. Lemalian feels ashamed and not respected, shouting at Carola that the baby isn’t his. However, later on, Lemalian apologises. The problems between the German girl and the Masaai warrior become stronger and stronger. When Carola comes back from the hospital, after having given birth to their child, she finds her shop empty, without any money left. Lemalian had given the money away for protection, and had given extra credit to friends and neighbours.
He does not understand the logic behind the business. Everything Carola had worked for was gone. Their relationship is falling apart. One night, Lemalian gets so angry that he hits Carola. For Carola that was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. She hits him back and embarrasses Lemalian’s reputation in front of the whole Masaian tribe. The next day Lemalian cuts his hair and dresses up as a European and asks Carola if she would respect him now. She decides to leave the country with her child, telling the Masaai people she wants to show her daughter to her family.
Lemalian knows she is not coming back and lets her go… This incredible story caught my interest from the beginning until the end. It is really fascinating how a girl from Switzerland gives up her relationship for a Masaai warrior, wearing almost no clothes, just a short loincloth, having long red rasta hair – a man she does not even know and barely talked to. That short glance, the first time they have seen each other, was enough to fall in love. I respect Carola as you must have a lot of courage to make such a step and going to live a totally different life, leaving her old life, family and friends behind.
Unfortunately, this relationship was not able to survive, as they are too different. As already mentioned before, the traditions of the Masaai tribe is hard to understand for Carola. On the other hand, for Lemalian it is difficult to understand the way Carola behaves and thinks. Furthermore, they try not to be cultural sensitive. In fact, they look the world from their own frame of reference and do not try to imagine the other world from that point of view. This movie is the perfect example of how difficult it is to accept somebody’s culture, way of life, values and behaviour.