Skip to content

How an Underwater Film Inspired a Marine Protected Area Off Kenya’s Coast

People often take things for granted until some sort of event prompts them to realize how fortunate they are. For Kenyans, many view their immense, sparkling coastline as a simple fact of life without giving much thought to protecting this treasure. Thanks to the efforts of filmmaker Jahawi Bertolli, however, a newfound appreciation is developing, and action is being taken. So far, his work has focused mainly on the Lamu Archipelago along Kenya’s northern coast, where his wife Elke Bertolli, also a photographer and filmmaker, grew up. Lamu is a hidden gem, he says, and filming has led to new discoveries. In 2020, Bertolli made a short film about Lamu’s sea life and the conservation traditions of the local fishers. He called it “Bahari Yetu” – “Our Ocean” in Swahili – and began showing it the local community. The screenings were a gamechanger, he says: “When you bring back that imagery, all of a sudden people are like, ‘Oh my God. Wow, this is ours … this is our heritage, these are our reefs, this is what’s happening underwater in our ocean.’”