Art & Culture

A Journey into the Hinterlands of Magnificent Maasai

Maasai

The Maasai tribe is one of the oldest inhabitants of East Africa who still cling on to traditions and believe people in cities are an unhappy lot

David Rudisha, a two-time 800 meters Olympic gold medallist, the face of Maasai people, once remarked, “If Maasai say ‘yes’ it’s yes, if ‘no’ it’s no.” This in a way sums up the mental fabric of the community that inhibits grazing lands from central Kenya to Tanzania which is approximately a distance of 778 kilometres.

The tribe follows an enchanting lifestyle, and in spite of living in the wilderness they are always in the news. Of late a number of reports surfaced that the Kenyan Government used the tribe to contain people from roaming in the streets during COVID-19 curfew. It was later established as fake news.

Living in the wild and tending to cattle is what they are more adapt to but it is the outsiders who intrude. When the fashion brand Louis Vuitton got a Maasai Line and sold beach towels, scarf and duffle bags, it rightly angered the African tribe. Their permission was not sought and none from the community was benefitted.

Colour, Thy Name is Maasai

Brown, green, red and purple complement the surroundings they live in. Nature accounts for their fashion statement and constitutes a chunk of what Maasai wear.  Animal hide is dried using vegetable pigments and made into clothes. The bright line of jewellery was made using stones, dried grass, sticks, shells and seeds. The art of beadwork is mastered by both men and women alike. Unmarried women wear broad bead discs around their necks during dance performances. Married Maasai women put necklaces in blue beads.

Maasai tribe is an indigenous ethnic group in Africa who rear children to become warriors at an early age. They speak in the language Maa, drape themselves in pure cotton and practice singing for the rain.

Cattle Herders

The life of a Maasai is surrounded by tending to cattle which has been the case for centuries. To this day, majority still live the life of pastoralists while a few have moved to urban centres. A traditional Maasai village consists of several small huts made of wood, mud and cow dung. The men only bring the material and it is the women who build the huts.

Diet of Milk and Blood

Traditionally, the community stick to the diet of meat, milk, blood, tea bark and honey. Interestingly, Maasai people have practiced the art of drinking milk with cow blood for centuries.

Loss of Maasai Land

As Europeans took over Africa ruling in the 15th century, Maasai lost acres of land to the colonizers. To this date, Maasai people are steeped deep into debt and poverty after losing lands to urbanization. Often government and the tribe are at loggerheads about preserving forests lands and cattle. Although cattle contribute to soil erosion, they also feed hundreds of farmer families belonging to the community.

 

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