The Maasai Community: A look Into the Kenyan Heritage
Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries each bearing different kinds of cultures. The Africans who are the dwellers of these countries have learnt to live by their African culture and are usually proud to be associated with it.
Different African countries have their own different cultural practices they engage in from the kinds of food they eat,the celebrations they partake all the way to the mode of dressing they use. It is through these three major aspects that most African cultures are known and identified. Today, we focus on the Maasai community of Kenya.
The Maasai community are situated and live in the arid and the semi-arid parts within southern Kenya,along the Great Rift Valley. They are approximately one and a half million in population, although their number is constantly increasing. This community is popularly known in Kenya and all round the globe because of the kind of cultural practices they engage in. Perhaps, they are the most popular community or tribe per se, in Kenya because they are found around the Maasai Mara Game Reserve which receives thousands of local and foreign tourists annually.
The Maasai live in kraals that are usually circular in shape called the manyattas. The manyatas usually,are built by the women in the community because of their pastoralism nature of life. Since they engage in frequent movements from one place to another in search of pastures for their livestock,the maasai women have been left with the obligation of constructing the manyattas as the men hunted for food and protected the rest of the family from attacks from wild animals.
The major source of earning a living among this community is through livestock rearing. The number of livestock one had in the community determined how rich and influential the person was in the society.
Since the maasais are becoming increasingly dependant in the market economy,the emergence of trading activities in their land has continuously grown. Different kinds of livestock products are sold to the other neighboring communities around them for the purchase of beads used for decoration,clothing and for grains. Cows and other types of livestock such as goats and sheep are also traded to generate income to sustain the families.
Traditionally,the maasai people depend on meat,milk and blood from their livestock for proteins and caloric needs. Blood is usually used on special occasions such as the moran festival,birth ceremonies and during the elders’ gathering.
Among this community, circumcision ceremony is the most vital initiation rite of all the rites of passage an individual undergoes. Initially,both the young boys and girls were expected to undergo this practice.However,with the illegalization of female circumcision in Kenya,only the male gender in this community are taken through the rite. The circumcision rite elevates a young boy from being a child into adulthood in the community. The initiates,usually called the morans among the Maasai,exhibited signs of a grown man through carrying heavy spears and herding large herds of livestock.
After undergoing circimsicion the initiates were to remain in black cloths for a period of 4-8 months,after which they are healed and assume the status of a new warrior in the community.
Aside from Kenya,this community is also situated in the northern parts of Tanzania around the Serengeti area.
Popular tourist destinations in East Africa such as the Serengeti,Ngorongoro,Maasai Mara,and the Amboseli Game Reserves are found right in the hearts of the maasai community both in Kenya and Tanzania.