Watoto Wote Wazuri

Visit to the Maasai Village

Posted in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 02/13/2010

Although we went to Kenya primarily to work with AIDS orphans, we did also go on safari during which we also visited a Maasai village. Over the course of our travels in Kenya, whether it was during this visit, during the time spent in Nyumbani village which is primarily composed of a Kamba tribe, or just generally through day-to-day life in Kenya, we learned a tremendous amount about the culture. I didn’t have a chance to post about this while there, but wanted to be sure to share a bit about our visit to the Maasai village on Maasai Mara. I regret that I didn’t have my video camera (or my own camera) but I was able to take some pictures with Tom’s camera. It would have been great to have the opportunity to video since we were welcomed with a traditional song and dance by both the men and women.

Maasai women welcoming us with a song

What is most interesting about the Maasai is that they are a tribe that has continued to preserve most of their original culture and way of life. They live in a group of huts made of branches covered with cow dung that are not meant to be permanent as they are nomadic and move as land and weather conditions demand. The women are responsible for building the houses which together form a village referred to as a manyata (?sp). We were able to go inside a hut which was comletely dark except for a very small hole to let in light in one wall so it was a huge contrast to the very bright sunlight we expereinced outside.

Maasai manyata

The women are also responsible for making elaborate bead work like the “wedding necklace” shown on the woman in the next photo.

The Maasai are herdsmen and it is the responsibility of the men to care for the herds which are primarily cows who also provide the primary staple diet of milk and blood for the Maasai. Men and often young boys are seen out during the day herding the cows who are brought into the manyata and the actual huts to sleep at night. As one Maasai man told me, “We dream with our cows at night”. I thought that was an interesting concept. The traditional color of the Maasai is red which they described as being recognized as safe by animals and easily identified as Maasai to each other.

Out with the herd.

Young boys have responsibility for the herd also

There is a very strong tribal tradition of ritual and celebratory male circumcision at age 14. Prior to this, boys undergo “pain training” to learn how to endure this without any sign of flinching or crying out since to do so is considered a great disgrace. Following this ceremony boys are considered warriors and can earn the title of “brave warrior” only by slaying a lion. We met several brave warriors. After 25-30, brave warriors become “elders”. Another male ritual is the jumping dance of the Maasai warrior which is quite amazing to watch since they are able to jump quite high starting with their feet flat on the ground.

Maasai Warrior jumping ritual

The manyata that we visited was a relatively small and newly built one which consisted of three families who were all related but had broken away for the larger manyata in the area. It was quite interesting to hear how this had come about and that one of the factors was that they had begun to question some of the traditional practices such as excluding women from education and were clearly speaking out against traditional female circumcision which occurs at age 12. The chief warrior of this manyata, Nelson, had been college educated and was very devoted to the idea of starting a school. It became clearer as we spent with them that separating from the parent manyata was a courageous step and we were clear to wish them good luck and support them in starting a school. We also did the latter by shopping from their homemade crafts which included beaded jewelry, carved wood animals and masks, and many other things. While there I was also happy to meet some of the children as well as the midwife in the community.

Maasai midwife

Maasai children

We were particularly fortunate to have Nelson as our guide since he was very welcoming of questions and willing to discuss all aspects of the culture including the practices that he and the others in this manyata were questioning or wanting to change. Visiting the Maasai village was one of many very rich cultural experiences which we enjoyed in Kenya and it was a really fascinating exposure to a very different lifestyle.

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  1. nashipai said, on 07/04/2011 at 12:58 pm

    am proud to be a maasai


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