The Kenyan artist who is taking the Maasai to space

Story highlights

  • The spirit of free movement of Maasai inspired Njeri to take the herders up to space
  • Njeri cites Spanish artist Pablo Picasso as an influence

(CNN)Maasai elders may seem an improbable choice to navigate a spaceship, but for digital artist Jacque Njeri, the semi-nomadic nature of the tribe makes members the perfect candidates for space exploration.

In her art project dubbed MaaSci, a play on words, Njeri recreates Tatooine city -- a fictional sparsely inhabited desert planet from the movie series "Star Wars" -- while incorporating elements of Maasai culture.
    In her striking images, Njeri depicts women as cyborgs with colorful beads around their necks and elders clutching their sticks on board a spaceship.
    Traditionally, members of the community in East Africa are cattle herders -- often crossing borders between Kenya and Tanzania. Njeri was inspired to take them farther by sending the herders up to space.
    "I imagine a lot. I observe things around me or on a picture and off-piste the scenario. I sketch, then come back to the idea later and augment it. Sometimes an idea is triggered by a word. The word MaaSci was my main inspiration for this project," says the 26-year-old Kenyan.
    "I greatly admire their aesthetics (the Maasai)," said the artist, adding she is inspired by the late Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.
    Afrofuturism is portrayal of cultural aesthetic through tech, science and fantasy themes. While Njeri doesn't call herself an Afrofuturist, she says she has been drawn to the aesthetic for quite some time.
    In MaaSci, Njeri says she used the people to "provide that rich cultural aesthetic to the different science fiction themes represented in the compositions.
    "They [Maasai] represent our culture, our country, but what if we still progressed intellectually without losing bits of what makes us truly Africans"
    Njeri's work is primarily on her Instagram account. She says the reception to the project was "overwhelming."
    The artist is currently working on a follow-up project called "The Mau Mau Dreams," an imaginary portrait of what Kenya would look like if it had not been colonized, with the leaders of the Mau Mau rebellion and other Kenyan heroes as the main subjects."