Tag Archives: Maasai

Beauty in Culture

I’d like to believe that everyone comes from somewhere and has a sense of belonging be it in a tribe, a certain culture and so forth. In terms of Fashion and style, it seems that culture is steadily being overtaken in great speeds by different trends which tend to change periodically.

This is causing ripples with people constantly looking out for the new trend in fashion throwing out the original cultural sense of     belonging. We have forgotten how beautiful culture is; for instance in Kenya one can actually pinpoint the few tribal groups that have maintained their culture and style with the Maasai and Samburu         being an obvious stand out.

 

Today we take a step back from the trends and look at some of the most beautiful cultural styles from all over the world. Trends come and go but where we come from shouldn’t..culture and heritage should be widely celebrated.

Celebrate your Heritage!!!

Live Like a Kenyan

Below are some common fun stereotypes about Kenyans and their ethnicity…(not to be tribalistic or anything). These stereotypes normally come up either because of the people’s cultures, economic activities or even how they interacted with the colonialists. Whereas some Kenyans maybe known to have great athletic ability, others are regarded as agile business people, traders and so on…Here are some fun stereotypes for you (true or not).

The Kikuyu

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Everyone has heard the one about Kikuyu women. How they plait their hair, read a novel or knit and placidly inform their partners to cover them when they are through with their business. If one day you return home to find an empty house and your children gone, then you are in the groove with a Kikuyu. They are known to be “packers”. They will pack and go with the children and furniture after 40 years of hard labor on a marriage. A common saying goes “A Kikuyu woman will treat you like a king as long as you have cash, but toss you like rotten mutura (traditional sausage) once you are broke.”

Cynics say Kiambu women are so materialistic! They will kill their marriages to enjoy the wealth alone. One Kikuyu lady coined the following phrases to her defense, “I would rather cry on a Mercedes than laugh on a bicycle. Money is not everything it is the only thing.” But Lydia Wambui comes to her sisters’ defense. “Everyone loves money. You cannot go to your landlord or the headmaster at your children’s school and say, ‘we are in love, please understand us for not paying.’ Love is no substitute for money.” Wags also poke fun at the culinary skills of Kikuyu women. They will mix rice, arrow roots,  sukuma wiki, potatoes, githeri and all imaginable ingredients in one pot. Their men have to always sneak out to enjoy nyama choma or chapati in a smoke-filled joint on their own.

They say all women are said to be schemers but the Kikuyu have perfected it to an art. On the first date, they have you all sized up. Wallet size, level of education, future ambitions. So by the second date, you will be paying their rent.

The Nyeri ones are fabled to be harsh and authoritative. If you have the bad fortune of marrying one, chances of being her punching bag are inevitable. They are the Thatcher’s of Wahome Mutahi fame. Rivals in love will also dismiss them on account of their figures. Below five inches in height, light complexioned, round pretty face with long lovely hair, over-sized chests, voluminous hands, flabby waist lines, ironed out behind, vertical hips all suspended on hockey-sticks-like legs.

They are known to have an undying thirst for white shoes.

Yet even their hottest critics acknowledge that they are so hard-working and organized that their men only come home in the evening to collect cash for their drinking sprees.

Men
The Kikuyu man walks eats and dream more plots, matatus and company shares. The ambitious and hard-working nature of these men dates back to the Wangu wa Makeri era. You are on your own after they give you a ‘mugunda’ a plot.

And most people must have heard the joke about the Kamau’s coming for your hard-earned money in the middle of the night. All the vices such as muggings, carjackings etc are believed to be their preserve.

It does not matter how far the economic ladder a Kikuyu man is, he will always have some “deals” in the name of business. Often these deals will be hatched and sealed in a smoke-filled bar.

But if you think he will have extra money to take you to some posh place, forget it. They are said to be so stingy that they believe leisure and expensive food is for fools. A typical Kikuyu man’s luxury car is a pick-up, and he believes you relax in the countryside weeding your shamba, not frolicking on the beach in Mombasa . Because of this, women think they are unromantic and dull. Their perfect date is taking a woman to dance to Mugithi while you eat nyama choma and mutura.

They also love moving in cliques and speaking their mother tongue everywhere even if you, a non-Kikuyu does not understand their language. Women say Kikuyu men assume that all light-skinned women are from their tribe. So they will talk to you in their mother tongue. If you express displeasure, they will sneer and tell you “wacha kujiringa!”

Then they are known to have parallel families. Word has it that a Kikuyu man will not marry a second wife, but will have mistress or two tucked away somewhere. It is only when he dies, that the other family surfaces. The joke is that, your kids and those of the mistress will have been born at the same time. If you have four children, she will also have her four. If you are thinking of ignoring the mother-in-law, then steer clear of this man. Kikuyu men are mama’s boys. So the way to his heart, is through his mother.

They are also said to be poor dressers and lack refined mannerisms. A must-have in every Kikuyu man’s wardrobe includes Savco and Freezer jeans preferably brown, Chicago Bulls T-shirts, North star sneakers and an over-sized leather jacket.

The Kamba

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The myth of the sex athlete goes back a long way. Kamba women are known to be a force to reckon with. That is why they are hot material for barmaids. By the time she is 30, she is in total control. It is said that they are given a thorough briefing by their aunts and grandmothers as part of their initiation rituals. And yes, many of these women are unbelievably stunning in looks. She gives you a killer smile, giggles knowingly, and you want to marry her there and then. So why do Kamba women marry in the military? Army men’s weddings are full of glamour and endless feasts. They also love celebrity. However, for them, serious business is popping up juniors year after year.

And if you want to feed numerous dependents, then marry a Kamba. By your third date, her cousins, grandparents, sister’s boyfriend…are on your miserable payroll. And of course there’s the joke about colour clashing. You know, a mix of screaming orange and luminous green is a God sent match for them.

Men
Like their women, Kamba men are said to be athletes of sorts. Kamba men are born and bred to follow instructions. Starting from their mothers to their employers. For this reason, they make perfect domestic workers and messengers.

They are dismissed as being clueless about their future, their only ambition being to work in the army or at least get related to someone in the army through marriage. Kamba men have small features, which people say is because of the persistent droughts in their motherland. But if you were thinking that this would give you express liberty to be unfaithful, then forget it, they make jealous spouses and can be extremely possessive.

The Coastal People

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A police friend once informed me that their officers are given a firm warning when they get transfers to the Coast. You will need all your wit and guile to resist the coconut women. Love potions come in handy. Once the man is fixed with it, he is transfixed to her for life. You are her boi (boy) eternally. Critics say these women are so idle that they spend the whole day applying henna all over their bodies, prepare elaborate weddings and cook biryani the whole day as they gossip.

Stories have it that these women are well coached in the art of pleasing their husbands. No one understands better that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – chapatis and pilau (which they are experts in making) do the job. On the looks department they are endowed with dashing looks and mellow voices. The Taita are said to make exemplary, humble wives. But when they make up their minds that a relationship is headed for doom, they are known to vanish back to their parent’s faster than you can say ‘mdawida’.

Men
Coastal men are said to be smooth talkers but lazy to the bone. For any hard labor, look for a ‘mtu wa bara.’ With their mastery of the Kiswahili language, they can even talk Osama from his hideout.

They are the classic example of what a gentleman is supposed to be. With their use of flattery, and their love for speaking in low, husky tones, many women confess to being transfixed to the Swahili man. But in the words of one lady, “they talk too much; like they have swallowed a tape.”

The Taita are most humble. They fancy cooking mouth-watering dishes for their women. However, their Swahili counterparts are said to love living off the sweat of their women. And they are betrothed from birth.

The Luo

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Lakeside women are said to stick to their men like glue as long as they suspect love is in the air. But don’t you dare look at another woman! If you do, she will have you and the other woman by the neck. They are in love with first impressions. You have to have class.

If you wear moccasins on the first date and drive a pick-up, she will dump you like rotten fruit. And you better talk English (never Kiswahili) with a rounded twang. Big words (especially the ones she does not understand) make a lifelong impact. And the restaurant better be classy, not necessarily expensive. If you fulfill all these, by the tenth date, you will spot her clothes in your wardrobe. She has moved in.

Luo women are prided to have “drop dead gorgeous” bodies – with ‘Adhiambo sianda’ being their brand name. True African figures, they say. They are also known to be good cooks and bewitching lovers.

Men
Luo men are said to be romantic lovers and big spenders when they have the money. Whether it’s shopping in Dubai, being taken to posh restaurants or flying you off to some exciting location, the man to give you a good time is a Luo man.

Women are unanimous that these men from the lake will treat a lady like a queen, but only as long as a lighter complexioned woman does not emerge on the scene because then you will immediately be past tense. No wonder all Luo songs sing of ‘kalando’ (the brown one.)

Bar room chat is rife on the suave flamboyance and extravagance of a Luo man. For this man, tomorrow is a long way off. Life must be lived to the fullest today. Spending all his money on a cool Mercedes and parking it outside a grass-thatched hut in the village means nothing to this man. The important thing is to be seen driving the car.

When it comes to courtship a Luo man will not stammer in shyness when he approaches the woman he wants to be acquainted with and will not bat an eyelid when promising a non-existent heaven. He will insist on speaking to you in English because he cannot converse in Kiswahili.

They dress in flashy, expensive suits, shoes and ties. They will talk about their attractive young wife, the last trip overseas, the expensive car, furniture, electronics and mobile phones that they own. Listen to Poxi Presha’s ‘Otonglo time’ and the famous “Do I say line” will tell you everything you want to know.

Many Luo men from the older generation love old Lingala music and football. The younger ones love cricket and rugby. Cricket because it is still a mystery to many Kenyans and rugby because of the macho image.

It does not matter how vast your experience or how much wealth you have, without a degree, you are nobody. Count the number of professors from this tribe at any of our universities and you will know what I’m talking about.

But despite all this, a Luo man will not think of investing his money in anything substantive. Women from other tribes believe that even if he marries a non-Luo, this man will eventually marry from his tribe.

The Luhya

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These women are known to be modest and to have austerity. They cannot stand extravagance. A Luhya woman would rather stay at home and drink numerous cups of tea than have you take her for an expensive dinner. But as long as there is constant supply of ugali and Ingoho (chicken), she is yours for keeps. Then they are known to be in the business of making children. If she is not breast-feeding, she is pregnant.

The Internet caricature paints her as a being born-again, and forever busy. She is the village chairperson, treasurer of your kids kindergarten PTA, secretary of the women merry-go-round, weaves baskets in addition to being out every night for church Keshas. And if you are thinking of meeting the boys over a Tusker…then this is the wrong type. Luhya ladies are protective. And with their strong physiques, you would rather follow mummy’s advice than have your bones broken.

Curly kit hair is their distinctive look. They love it so much that every Luhya woman who prides herself as having a distinguished style will have her hair roasted for this look.

Men
Though hard-working especially manually, Luhya men are said to be very content with what they have. Their rivals say this is lack of ambition. That is why the shamba boys, watchmen and cooks joke comes from.

Those in the know say the Ingoho (chicken) men are intimidated by the modern woman. They’d rather marry a girl from the village who is happy to stay-at-home. But if you get married to the man, be ready to take care of his children from his teenage days to date.
Luhya men never leave their children behind. In addition, you will always have a full house. These men have many dependents. So start by investing in many utensils and big sufurias.

Unlike many men, you can always tell if a Luhya man is unfaithful. If he has not brought home a child from an illicit affair in five years, then relax, the man is an angel. And if you do not want to have a live-in mother-in-law, learn to cook ugali and mrenda before you marry this man. If you cook him rice or githeri for supper, he will still be waiting for dinner. The one about Luhyas and their addiction to salaams clubs and small portable radios is an old cliche now.

The Kalenjin

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My colleague informs me, that if you are bombarded with unsolicited information about her many prominent and rich relatives in the previous government, right after the first kiss, then you have nabbed a Kalenjin lady. Promise a Kalenjin woman marriage and she is yours for keeps. If you play your cards right then you can take her home on the second date.

Strictly missionary. They are agreeable and submissive, but rather like their alcohol. Nagging they are not, but their tempers are legendary so why do they say if you come home after three days, smelling of a strange perfume and with red lipstick all over your white shirt, a kalenjin woman will not utter a word?

If they discover their man is unfaithful, they will kill themselves and drown the children. Kalenjins like to joke that Nandi women are lazy, Tugen are rude and the Marakwet violent.

Men
If you are looking for a generous man then look no further. A Kalenjin man will be elated to spend his money on any lady and her extended family. For them, expensive is best. The joke doing the rounds is that if a Kalenjin man takes a lady shopping, he will beseech her to select the most expensive dress in the shop. They are also said to be very cold and remote. They always manage to look vague when so much is happening around them. But this does not hinder them from the desire to date classy women.

It is said that Kalenjin men have misplaced priorities. They will build a stone house for the combine harvester and the cows and surround their homes with beautiful fences while their houses are grass-thatched and mud-walled.

Kalenjin men do not carry their spouses to town. They leave them in the rural home to look after the shamba.

Kaunda suits, preferably a maroon one and a cardigan worn with a suit is a must-have for any self-respecting Kalenjin man. Men from the Kipsigis sub-tribe are reputed to be quite handsome.

The Maasai 

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Maasai women are unquestionably obedient. They will never dream of correcting their men folk. They still view their husbands as “lord of the house” People believe Masaai men are still glued to the custom of planting spears outside their age group member’s manyattas to warn the husband that serious business is taking place inside the manyatta.

Their women toil like oxen. They build the manyattas; graze the cattle, cook, and farm in addition to rearing children. They are also generous with their husbands. Even if their husband married the 7th wife in three years, they will not object. In fact they encourage their spouses to marry – you know, to share the work. They can be astoundingly beautiful.

Men

Maasai men are said to be fierce, courageous but unreasonable. You do not argue with one because you will provoke him to a feud.

A Maasai man will do anything to marry a beautiful woman. However, to them, wives are lower in rank than children. You will find them playing ajua the whole day as they await the return of their wives and children from grazing the cattle.

For a Maasai man, serious business is getting an extra wife year after year.

The Kisii

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Once a Kisii woman has it in her head that you make her world rock, then you have a lifelong attachment. She will never leave, even if you hire ten bulldozers to evict her from your house. They are also well-known for their fiery tempers. Recent cases in the media about battered husbands involved Kisii women. As for money, they are the reverse of Kikuyus – money and posh cars do not impress them much. And when it comes to dressing? Those in the know say their dress sense is not the most impressive

Men
The description “tall, dark and handsome,” applies to the Kisii man.

They are also known to be charming when the fiery tempers take a back seat. But like all gorgeous men, they have several other women on the side apart from you.

They are said to be so emotional that they will cry as they are beating you up.

The Meru

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If you are head over heels in love with a woman and are sure she loves you secretly, but she is playing hard to get by the 30th date, then you have struck a Meru.

Bar room talk has the Meru woman so faithful and agreeable that they will fight divorce to the bitter end.

They are traditional and remote, with the village never coming out of them.

Like their men, they are reputed to be hot-tempered and can shred you to pieces if you cross their path. In the looks department, a Meru woman will hold her own against any beauty queen.

Men

For a die-hard Meru man, it is against taboo to enter the kitchen. He would rather starve to death than enter this domain which he believes to be strictly a woman’s.

A Meru man’s temper is unmistakable. If you dare to provoke him, he will very easily smash you to pieces.

No matter how well exposed or versed in the Queen’s English he is, the Meru accent will never go away.

They have an attitude problem and take everything personally. They are also said to be quite bossy in a relationship. What he says goes.

Source: Fans of Crazy Monday’s

Maasai cricket warriors: Find out why these Morans are trading spears for Cricket bats

With their latest venture having been geared towards advocacy against poaching, the now acclaimed Maasai warriors took to the field to do what they know best; cricket. Not so long ago, the unusual Maasai cricket morans (unusual because unlike any normal cricket team, the morans play the sport in their colourful garb instead of the traditional cricket whites) faced the Ambassadors of Cricket; an Indian cricket team, in a T20 cricket match at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

feature1The event’s main goal was creation of awareness against poaching of elephants and rhinos in Kenya; an issue that has increasingly exacerbated overtime. Ol Pejeta was selected as the initiative’s venue for the simple reason of being home to some of the endangered species i.e black and northern white rhinos.

imaging.ashx imaging.ashx11 imaging.ashx65The Maasai Cricket Warriors have awed many in their years of existence (believe it or not they have a decade under their belt as a team) not only for the sassiness they bring in the game of cricket (their sport attire is colourful; made up of colourful shukas, beads and sandals made from tyres alias akalas) but also for the main reason behind their playing this gentleman’s game. Its a peculiar sight coming across a Maasai whom instead of a spear holds a cricket bat. However, this peculiarity has a noble drive behind it; the warriors main mission through this is to empower youth by targeting social problems in order to bring about positive change in their Maasai communities.

The Maasai warriors cricket team, to quote an old Pepsi tag line, has nothing official about it – and that’s where the beauty lies! The team consists of 11 men (plus another 14 reserves) – each one striving to be a role model in their community. Their campaigns are targeted against traditional female circumcision (FGM), child marriages, and HIV/AIDS among tribal youth.

Maasai Cricket Warriors.

feature2The Maasai community is male-dominated and the women have very few rights – even to their own bodies. The Maasai women also grapple with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) where girls as young as 6 are circumcised facing pain, psychological trauma, considerable health problems as well as high-risk of infection since materials used are not entirely sanitary (the girls are circumcised with materials that have been used over and over). HIV is also rife here and the victims face a lot of stigmatization. Another major challenge is child marriages where in some cases children are married off in return for livestock or alcohol. The cricket warriors feel that education and change is the only way to secure the health of the community, provide equality to their society, and as a result protect their future.

[photo/funsterz.com]It is a tough challenge to accomplish what they are going for seeing as the Maasai elders fear changing their traditions will herald the end of the Maasai. However, with great drive and determination, they continue to make a difference – one step a time. The warriors are also spending their time trying to stop cattle rustling a practice that has now degenerated into a militarized activity among the Pokot, Turkana, Maasai and Samburu communities. Today’s incidents of cattle rustling are driven by hatred, political instigations, unscrupulous commercial activities, general crime, and availability of firearms. The warriors plan to curb this through proactive engagement of the youth from the pastoral communities in this region and also with cross-district involvement in sports, such as cricket while at the same time reawakening and revitalizing the traditional mechanisms of peace building among the different communities. The community elders will also be facilitated and enabled to carry out traditional peace building and conflict transformation strategies.

[photo/dailymail.co.uk]The Maasai cricket warriors have come a long way and are not planning to call it quits anytime soon. They dream of reaching England and playing in the Last Man Stands World Championships – a pilgrimage of sorts to the ‘home of cricket’ – not only because they genuinely love the game, but also because they believe it will give them a status to positively influence the future of their village.

We Don’t Only Play Cricket – It’s Our weapon to Eradicate Social Evils

 

Kenya’s Cultural Symbol; The Maasai Tribe

Performing the adamu (the jumping dance – performed when a circle is formed by the warriors, and one or two at a time enter the center to begin jumping while maintaining a narrow posture), they stand tall and slender in somewhat stylish long ochre-dyed hair with Shúkà attire (red sheet-like material with hints of other colours e.g blue wrapped around the waist or over the shoulder) completing their overall look. On other occasions you’ll spot them with a spear clutched on one hand and right foot hooked on the crook of the knee of the left leg; these are the stereotypical images we’ve become accustomed to when it comes to the Maasai in the tourism world.

Masai_Mara_Kenya zuru kenya

Maasai_Dance. zuru kenya

Maasai Warriors Dancing zuru kenya

They are undoubtedly the most known Kenyan tribe outside of Kenya, having grown into a brand in itself  not only for Kenyan tourism but also steadily for global fashion.  The maasai brand is all over; maasai carvings and merchandise are in display in numerous curio shops, the maasai market has also overwhelmingly grown overtime, the maasai themselves stand on display at many hotel entrances as an attraction to the guests, even the high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton has a maasai line that includes; hats, scarves, duffle bags and beach towels. The distinctive Maasai beading and decorative jewellery has become a fashion item in the West, and remain one of the most popular items taken home by visitors to Kenya. So popular has Maasai beading become that many modern functional items, including watchstraps, belts, handbags and even mobile phone covers are being produced in Maasai designs. There are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the maasai image or name; showing just how big a brand the maasai have become. Sadly though the ‘Maa’ speaking people aren’t part of the trade – anyhow, that’s a story for another day . But who really are the Maasai?

Louis-Vuitton_Kenya_Masai_1_zuru kenya

Maasai fashion zuru kenya

Louis Vuitton maasai inspired fashion

Over the last one week, renewed effort has been put in, both in print media and on international websites such as BBC, on the pertinent issue of Who Really owns the Maasai Brand? The debate goes, Maasai brand is currently everywhere globally, and it is big money – but the community itself is receiving little benefit from their own brand. To quote from today’s issue of Daily Nation’s DN2 Pullout, “there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
Over the last one week, renewed effort has been put in, both in print media and on international websites such as BBC, on the pertinent issue of Who Really owns the Maasai Brand? The debate goes, Maasai brand is currently everywhere globally, and it is big money – but the community itself is receiving little benefit from their own brand. To quote from today’s issue of Daily Nation’s DN2 Pullout, “there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
“there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf

Predominantly a warrior tribe, the maasai are a semi-nomadic group whose lives revolve around cattle. They cherish these animals so much so that “I hope your cattle are well” is regarded a common greeting among the maasai. They speak ‘maa’, a language family related to Dinka and Nuer and they also have a common ancestral tie to the Samburu and the Njemps. The Maasai have a strong belief that God entrusted cattle to them and therefore to them, wealth is measured by how many herds one owns. This very belief is what has seen result to many cattle raids among the ‘maa’ speaking groups as they believe that stealing from other tribes is okay seeing as cattle was given solely to them by the creator.

Maasai zuru kenya

Maasai warrior standing on the edge of Suswa crater

Maasai warrior standing on the edge of Suswa crater

The Maasai as a cultural people, have managed to retain their beliefs and lifestyle despite modern world temptations to change and adapt with new technologies. They live in small settlements in Kraals, surrounded by thorn bush fences. Their manyattas ( traditional house/hut) are made out of  branches, grass, twigs and cement made out of cow dung and urine. Animal skin and cushions of dry grass serve as interior decor for the huts. For survival, the Maasai rely on cows blood, meat and milk although recent times have seen them adopt agriculture as well. The blood is obtained from the jugular vein of the cow using an arrow and after drawing of the blood, the animal is cared  for ’till it heals.

child-in-the-maasai-manyattaImage credit; towelspacked

maasai zuru kenya

MaasaiVillage_zurukenyaThe Maasai tribe constitutes a highly developed system of initiation and age-sets. The highest ranked being the Oloiboni – a spiritual leader, who also takes the role of a political leader. Along with Oloiboni is alaigwanani, holding the political leadership role only, confined within clan parameters unlike the Oloiboni who has an added religious role that goes beyond clans to a larger community setting in Maasai land. The Maasai also consult diviners; Loibonok whenever misfortune hits the community who also double up as physicians treating diseases. The tribe’s clans are lead by Laigwanak (heads of clans) whose roles include settling land disputes, resolving conflicts between Maasai communities and other tribal groups, as well as serving as intermediaries between the Maasai community and the government.

 maasai elder zuru kenyaMaasai elder

The first initiation stage that the maasai go through is circumcision of boys who are considered junior moran afterwards. They then grow their hair into long braids, usually decorated with red ochre, which is also used to slather their upper bodies. A huge task that the morans previously undertook afterwards but is no longer in practice for wildlife endangerment reasons was lion hunting; Olomayio. This served as a testing for how courageous the young morans were and was a very daunting and daring task having to fight a lion and escape with their life. The victorious warriors would then perform a dance called Engilakinoto.

Maasai morans zuru kenya

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Age-sets to the maasai are an integral part of the society. These are derived during circumcision where a group partaking in the exercise together form an age-group. Each group has a specific role in the community. For instance, boys (age six and seven) begin to learn herding from their older brothers before undergoing circumcision. There are four age groups in total; junior warriors, senior warriors, junior elders, and senior elders. The junior warriors learn about warfare under the tutelage of the senior age group, prepping to be defenders of the land. They also learn about the customs and traditions of the Maasai people as it will be their duty to pass it on to the next generations. The senior warriors on the other hand assume a tremendous responsibility of defending the land from all sorts of enemies. These two groups serve within a time period of about twenty years until another group gets circumcised. There are no age groups for women, instead they automatically fall into the age group of the men that marry them.

maasai rituals zuru kenya

maasai rituals zuru kenya

Women are the heart of the Maasai tribe, having to carry out many of the chores in the community. Aside from building manyattas; a task that takes them a period of about seven months to complete, the women fetch water and firewood, milk cows, pick calabashes and gourds decorating them with leather and beads, look after their homes amongst many other duties. Even though women in this society have a strong voice in their culture functioning as religious leaders and educators, they are on the other hand, considered a minority. They have no right to own neither cattle nor land and are represented by their fathers when it comes to sensitive matters and tough decision making and later on after marriage, their husbands. If unfortunately one doesn’t get sons in her marriage, the poor woman will be left on her own with no money, possessions or anyone to take care of her.

Masai Ladies in Manyatta zuru kenya

Masai-Tribe zuru kenya

The Maasai are not only known for their traditional beliefs but also for their exquisite artistry. To some of us it appears simply as fashionable but what many do not know is that beading to the Maasai is actually symbolic. This tribe has about 40 types of bead work that mostly feature the colours red (colour of the Maasai), blue (Godly and reflecting the colour of the sky) and green (colour of God’s greatest blessing, fresh grass after rainfall). The bead work is done by the women but is worn by both genders of the community. Unmarried women adorn one of the beautiful pieces created; a large flat disc that surrounds the neck, made up of rows of beads threaded onto wire, secured and spaced with cow hide strips. Married women on the other hand, wear long blue beaded necklaces, and also decorate their earlobes with long beaded flaps. This amazing bead work has gained the Maasai a large market for their creations with locals as well as tourists serving as big customers.

maasai woman zuru kenya

maasai jewellery zuru kenya  maasai woman zuru kenya The Maasai tribe is crippled by a number of challenges today; competing with wildlife for their land, natural calamities such as drought causing loss of herds, illiteracy is another thing that short changes the community and constant cattle raids leading to loss of life and property. Despite being seen as a rigid society for preserving their traditional ways, their conservatism has undoubtedly gone a long way in bringing the Maasai a lot of fame overtime.  Today, they are revered as a community of beautiful culture that has earned worldwide respect.

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Brand Maasai: Why nomads might trademark their name

Imagine a Maasai warrior, or a Maasai woman adorned with beads – it’s one of the most powerful images of tribal Africa. Dozens of companies use it to sell products – but Maasai elders are now considering seeking protection for their ” brand”.

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Dressed in smart white checked shirt and grey sweater, you’d hardly know Isaac ole Tialolo is Maasai.The large round holes in his ears – where his jewellery sometimes sits – might be a clue, though.

Isaac is a Maasai leader and elder. Back home in the mountains near Naivasha, in southern Kenya, he lives a semi-nomadic life, herding sheep, goats, and – mostly importantly – cattle.

But Isaac is also chair of a new organisation, the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative, and it’s a project that’s beginning to take him around the world – including, most recently, London.

“We all know that we have been exploited by people who just come around, take our pictures and benefit from it,” he says.

“We have been exploited by so many things you cannot imagine.”

Crunch time for Isaac came about 20 years ago, when a tourist took a photo of him, without asking permission – something the Maasai, are particularly sensitive about.

“We believed that if somebody takes your photograph, he has already taken your blood,” he explains.

Isaac was so furious that he smashed the tourist’s camera.

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Twenty years later, he is mild-mannered and impeccably turned out – but equally passionate about what he sees as the use, and abuse, of his culture.

“I think people need to understand the culture of the others and respect it,” he says.

“You should not use it to your own benefit, leaving the community – or the owner of the culture – without anything.”

“If you just take what belongs to somebody, and go and display it and have your fortune, then it is very wrong. It is very wrong,” he says.

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Olivia_Palermo_Maasai_Project_Campaign_010Olivia Palermo ambassador of the Maasai Project 2013 for Pikolinos
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According to Light Years IP – an NGO which specialises in securing intellectual property rights in developing countries – about 80 companies around the world are currently using either the Maasai image or name.

These include Land Rover, which has a range of accessories called Masai; Masai Barefoot Technology, which makes speciality trainers; and high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton which has a Masai line, including beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.

Light Years IP is involved in a niche – but growing – area of development policy, known as “intellectual property value capture”.

The argument is that intellectual property rules offer the potential to provide a valuable source of income for people in developing countries, who tend to get only a small sliver of the profits made on their goods on the international market.

If the Maasai ” brand” were owned by a corporation, it would be worth more than $10m (£6.6m) a year – perhaps even “tens of millions”, according to Layton. How much of this the Maasai might be able to claim would be up to negotiation.

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MAASAI5-655x430Features of the HIGHLY ENDANGERED: THE MAASAI awareness campaign.

“It’s time the world sat up and took notice,” says Lord Boateng, a member of the UK’s House of Lords, whose grandfather was a cocoa farmer in Ghana. “It’s an idea whose time has come.”

Boateng is on the board of directors of the newly-created African IP Trust, which has taken on the Maasai as one of its first cases.

“They are not getting value. Their image is being abused,” says Boateng.

“The Maasai are an ancient and sophisticated people – they know they are being ripped off and they want this to stop.”

It is not yet certain that the Maasai will choose to pursue intellectual property protection – Maasai elders like Isaac ole Tialolo want to be sure that the whole community is on board first.

Together with Light Years IP, he has been travelling around Maasai areas holding meetings and workshops.

It’s a huge task – according to some estimates, there could be as many as three million Maasai, in 12 districts, spread across a vast swathe of Kenya and Tanzania.

So far, they have reached about 1.2 million people.

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Once the consultation is complete – and if the Maasai choose to go forward – the plan is to create a General Assembly of Maasai elders, trained in IP, who would act as a legal body specifically on this issue, negotiating with companies via a licensing agent, on a case-by-case basis.

For the moment, the Maasai are not going after any companies – though they have written to a number, in cases where they have found the use of their name or image to be particularly offensive.

-BBC