Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Masai....

On this day, we were so fortunate to be invited into a small Masai village.
This was an unplanned stop for us and fulfilled one of my real hopes for this trip...that I would be able to meet authentic tribal people, living in their natural way of life.
It's hard to imagine, in our fast paced life, that people do live this way.
There is a way of being about these people that is so grounded and powerful that you can feel it even when you view a lone figure, far off in the distance, walking with a graceful connected to the earth.

What do you suppose he is thinking, behind those eyes........?

We were welcomed into their small village.
Masai villages are circular, with low mud houses surrounding large livestock pens.
Cattle and goats are very important to the Masai culture, so the livestock are kept in the pens at night to protect them from predators. The thorn brambles serve as a fence for the cattle pen.

The men are famous for wearing a red-checked shuka ( Masaai blanket ) and carry a distinctive ball ended club. For Masai, red clothing stands for power. Many Masai wear simple sandals, sometimes soled with pieces of motorcycle tires.

A Masai boy is circumcised, in a ceremony in the center of the village, when he is 14 years old.
He then goes with other boys who took place in the ceremony, out into the wilderness for a
period of 3 years. In the past, every young Masai warrior had to kill a lion before he would be considered a man.
Today, they have made a concession to modern times and send out a group of young men to kill only one lion between them.

Blowing on this horn produced a very low haunting sound.

The men of the village greeted us with their traditional dance. From a virtual standstill, they jump straight up in the air a couple of feet. The higher they jump, the more they can demand in cows, for their bride.
We were then treated to a warrior dance which consisted of singing and energetic jumping. Most warriors have as many as five wives in their lifetime, and with each new wife, they get richer and have more cattle and belongings. This is because with each wife comes a dowry consisting of goods provided by the family.

The huts are traditionally built by the women. The village moves about every 9 years, as that is the amount of time the hut can withstand the intrusion of termites.
The structural framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung, human urine, and ash. The cow dung ensures the roof is water-proof. The enkaj is small, measuring about 3x5 m and standing only 1.5 m high. Within this space the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socializes and stores food, fuel and other household possessions.

I can't imagine what life is like in this village during the rain season.

The doorway is kept small so as to keep the cattle out.

This is the interior of the hut. Very small, with a side alcove for the bed.
The fire is in the middle of the room with a very small window for the smoke to go out.
It is very water, no electricity.....just the fire where the cooking of the meal is done.
Traditionally, at the age of 3 yr. a small child will go to live with the grandparents.

Everywhere in Africa, I saw women easily balancing everything on their head.

The women came out to sing to us and welcome us to join them.

This is the plant that they use for toilet paper.
It felt quite soft, actually. :)

When males become "morans" ( warriors) around the age of 14, they traditionally dye their hair red with ochre and fat.

Maasai are pastoralist and have resisted the urging of the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. They have demanded grazing rights to many of the national parks in both countries. The Maasai people stood against slavery and lived alongside most wild animals with an aversion to eating game and birds.
The piercing and stretching of earlobes is common among the Maasai. Various materials have been used to both pierce and stretch the lobes, including thorns for piercing, twigs, bundles of twigs, stones, the cross section of elephant tusks and empty film canisters.
Fewer and fewer Maasai, particularly boys, follow this custom.
Women wear various forms of beaded ornaments in both the ear lobe, and smaller piercings at the top of the ear.

I will never forget this experience.
On the plane home I read the book "The White Massai" by Corrine Hofmann.
It is the true story of a Swiss woman who fell in love, and married a Massai warrior. An amazing story!

Tomorrow we drive into Tanzania and Mt. Kilimanjaro reveals herself.
If your heart is saying "Yes" to Africa, here is the link to Purposeful Tours.

1 comment:

Lisa Gatz said...

The huts remind me of the skin of an elephant. You know, I've been reading The Poisonwood Bible which takes place in the Congo...don't know if you've read it. Anyhow, it's great to see your posts because I have Africa all around me!

The Masai are some of the most physically beautiful people I have ever seen. And the colors! Wow! But I'm sure that it's all nothing compared to their gorgeous spirits!