Meet The Maasai People “Kings of the African savannah”
Meet The Maasai People “The King of the African Savannah” is one of the famous of Africa and nomadic pastoralists people renowned for their remarkable trackers with generations of knowledge of their lands and its wildlife. The Maasai also spelt as the Masai are nomadic and pastoralists and belong to a Nilotic ethic group inhabiting in the selected but large parts of northern, central and southern Kenya and across the border in Northern Tanzania.
The Maasai people are impressive warriors, calm and courageous in dangerous situations, the Maasai people are always in bright red robes and always have a spear in hand for worriors. These semi-nomadic pastoralists live by herding cattle and goats which they still do up to today.
Colourful herdsman of the Masai Mara
In Kenya, there are over fifty tribes of native people originally. However with the development and technology, the Maasai are one of the few tribes in Kenya that have managed to stick and retain their traditions and keep their culture alive which has not come easy. According to the Maasai history, the Maasai tribe originated from North-West Kenya, North of Lake Turkana in the lower Nile Valley. Later on they migrated south and settled in the Great Rift Valley and the Dodoma and Mount Marsabit region.
The Maasai people are nomadic pastoralists depending on their livestock, when they migrated into the new area. The residents were scared of the Maasai for raiding cattle as far as the Tanga Coast in Tanzania, these proficient warriors excelled in use of shields and spears but they feared most especially for throwing their clubs known as “Orinika”. The Maasai Warriors were known to be able to through the Orinka with expert precision across a distance of up to 100 meters.
The Maasai were once Kenya’s dominant tribe until the early 20th century when the British troops drove from their lands, despite the fact that the British were able to defeat the Maasai , they utterly impressed by their fighting spirit, tactics and courage. The British forced the Maasai to leave their most fertile lands in Kenya and in turn were forced to live in some destitute parts of the country, currently the Maasai’s entire population in Kenya is approximately 900.000, the Maasai communities speak Maa language but also speak Swahili and English the official languages in Kenya. Due to the nomadic lifestyle of the Maasai people, they live very non-permanent and traditionally built houses commonly referred to as the Bomas, in their traditional setting it is the duty of the women of the trib to build the homes and these house were built in their a circle or loaf shape. The men of the community are then tasked with building a larger fence around the homes to defend their village.
Social setting: The Maasai have a very patriarchal society where the Maasai men and the elders make all the important decision in the Masai community and tribe, a man’s wealth in the Masai Community is measured in terms of the number of children a man has and the heads of cattle the more wealth one has.
Diet: The Masai diet traditionally consists of the raw meat and milk got from their cattle, at times blood from their cattle is included in their diet most especially in times of drought. The hides from the cattle are used to make furniture and the bones are used to create tools such as knives, pangas among others.
Dressing: The Maasai clothe themselves in colorful swatches of cloth known as “Shuka” in Maa language, clothing in the Maasai community varies by sex, age and a place. Young men wear black for several months after their circumcision. Red is a favored color among the Maasai, howver blue, black and checkered and stripped cloth are also worn.
Entertainment: the Maasai people have a very colourful culture of music and dance, the women are known to recite lullabies, hum and sing songs of praise about their sons. There is always one song leader known as an Olaranyani who leads the group in the song.
Coming of age
The Maasai traditionally hold “#coming of age” ceremonies held to commemorate boys turning into men, during this ceremony the horn of the Greater Kudu is used to summon all the males coming of age, the initiates to the ceremony. The coming of age ceremonies last ten days or more and involve quite a bit singing, dancing and flirting.
During this ceremony young men line up and chant towards a line of singing women standing across from the them which is a very unique and interesting sight to see, in some parts of the Maasai traditions have changed in recent years. To mark, the coming of age tradition, all boys who wanted to become Masai warriors is required to single-handed slay a lion with a spear.
Custodians of the Masai Mara
Since the establishment of Masai Mara national reserve and the conservancies of Masai Mara, the Masai people have played an important role in the conservation of Mara region. The Masai landowners living in the conservancies leased their private lands to safari operators who in turn practice sustainable eco-tourism. The safari operators pay a monthly fee to the Maasai land owners, also they contribute to the Maasai community programs and hire Masai people as wildlife trackers and for positions in the safari camps owned by the Kenya safari operators.