Cultural Analysis Maasai Community

Cultural Analysis: Maasai Community

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Cultural Analysis: Maasai Community

Background

Maasai community is one of the semi-nomadic and pastoral tribe in the East Africa. Their lives are mostly dependent on herding cattle and goats. They are one of the few tribes who have kept their tradition despite the revolution and westernization adapted by other tribes. Some of the cultural practices which have been maintained as identified during a cultural background research of Olempai, a Maasai young man, from an ethnographic field trip in the Maasai remote community are:

The Maasai religion form is monotheism. They worship one God whom they call Enkai who is dual; Enkai Narok (Black God) who is benevolent and Enkai Na-nyokie (Red God) who is vengeful (Amin, 1987).

The Maasai have two main family clans or totems: the Oodo Mongi, the Red Cow and Orok Kiteng, the Black Cow who are further divided into clans or family trees. They also have a totemic animal who is a lion who can also be killed. Killing a lion in the Maasai culture earns one honors in the community.

They have a central human figure called laibon who is responsible of divination, prophecy, war success, adequate rainfall, healing and shamastic.

In the community, a man’s wealth is measured in cattle’s and children which makes even the wives part of the property which is different from other communities view as a companion.

The food or a Maasai is dependent on the cattle. They eat meat and drink the daily milk. The cattle blood is during an occasions as well as slaughtering of lambs and goats.

The Maasai have piercings and stretched earlobes as the ears are consider as the most sacred part and also for married women as a sign of beauty. They use thorns, twigs, stones and empty film canisters to do the piercings and earlobe stretching (Adams, 1996).

Circumcision in the Maasai community is done to both girls and boys as a sign of transition from childhood to adulthood. The men are expected to bear the pain in silence as expression of pain showed weakness and brought shame on the man. The ladies undergo excision which is called emorata which initiates them to adulthood and ready for early marriage. A woman who has not undergone the rite of passage is seen as immature (Shell-Duncan, 2013).

The most common diet of Maasai consist of raw milk, milk, honey and raw blood.

The Maasai clothing consist of black, red, white, green and even pink. The colors are mostly stripped and are worn at different stages and occasions. Most of their clothing’s are ‘shuka’ or kikoi.

The Maasai shelter is called a Manyatta which was made of twigs, grass and cattle dung.

Interview Questions

In order to understand the cultural background of the Maasai community, a research is conducted. The main source of data is an interview. Below are the interview questions which will be asked to the interviewee during the data collection;

What is the culture of the Maasai community?

What are the challenges faced by the Maasai while maintaining their culture in the current world?

What are the marital condition for a Maasai man or woman?

Can a Maasai man or woman have more than one wife or husband?

Why do Maasai eat and drink raw food and blood from cattle?

What is the essence of a Maasai killing a lion?

Why are most the Maasai tall?

How are Maasai children named?

Which Maasai cultures and traditions are being wiped off or forgone in the current world?

What has maintained the cultural practices of the Maasai irrespective of the world revolution?

Findings

Culture in the Maasai community is what keeps them together and differentiates them from other communities. The Maasai are among the few communities worldwide who up to the 24th century still uphold their culture strongly irrespective of the civilization and westernization in the world. The Maasai are mostly semi-nomads and pastorals. In most cases, the herding is done in groups by young men in the community (Melubo, & Carr, 2019). Their clothing’s which consist of red stripped blankets and colorful jewelry makes them stand out which is part of their culture. Their culture consist of warrior ship training and fighting competitions using arrows called Orinka.

The culture of the Maasai is facing turns with the changes taking place in the current world. Introduction of education, migration, westernization, diseases and drought are some of the factors contributing to forgoing some of the Maasai culture. Some cultures that have been affected with the current changes include; elimination of girls rite of passage which is called Female Genital Mutilation. The current system discourages female circumcision or clitoridectomy which makes the ladies who do not agree to the right be viewed as outcasts and immature in the community. The early marriages are also prohibited lowering the wealth target of the Maasai men. All the changes have been brought about by education and civilization. Migration of people has also limited land for herding which has resulted to zero grazing of animals. Diseases and drought have resulted to death among many Maasai as their main source of food has been greatly affected.

A man is allowed to marry as soon as he undergoes circumcision ceremony. A woman was also married off at a young age after circumcision to the betrothed. A Maasai man is allowed to marry as many wives as he can. The children and the wives are considered as wealth in the community (Coles, 2008). A Maasai man with many children is considered wealthy as they are a source of cattle especially girls. A first group young woman is allowed to have more than one sexual relation with young Moran’s and choose one main. The rest are to take part when the main man is not available.

The raw blood from cows during occasions like child birth, circumcision, or a girl’s marriage. The blood is also given to the men to reduce hangover and intoxication. The blood is mostly mixed with milk. The pastoral nature of the Maasai result to their practice of eating raw meat as they survive on hunting along the journey. The hunting also could be done as a sign of bravery and confidence especially when it involved killing a lion. In order for boy to be transitioned to manhood, the rite of passage involved killing a lion.

The Maasai are considered to be among the first three groups of the tallest people in the world. Their diet which is rich in calcium contribute to their long limbs which make them so tall. Their dancing styles which constitute of high jumps also make them seem taller. The Maasai child is not named on birth but he or she is given a temporary name called embolet. After period of time, depending on the clan, the naming ceremony is held called Enkipukonoto Eaji (coming out of seclusion period). Both the mother and the child are shaved the long hair which had grown during the seclusion period as a symbol of a fresh start. If the embolet name has not caused any harm to the child, it’s made permanent.

Some cultures and traditions of the community are slowly but surely vanishing as times goes by. As the world changes and so are people’s mindsets and lifestyles. Some of the cultures that are being wiped out are; the female circumcision. As much as the practice seemed as a transition process, the current education and health practitioners are educating against it. The practice seem to cause more harm to the girl child than good. The government is also providing education to the Maasai leaders to help them understand the danger of the practice. Early marriages are also being forgone as the children are still in school by the time the tradition ripe age is attained (Melubo, & Lovelock, 2019). This gives the children a chance to mature and make personal spouse choices. The polygamy culture, pastoral practice and dress code is slowly being influenced by the western culture. The civilized Maasai no longer marry many wives and they don’t consider them as property but partners. The Maasai are also adapting zero grazing which is substituting their nomad life. Currently, ‘shukas’ are not their only clothes but they are adapting to putting on clothes just like other tribes. Their shelters are also being modernized unlike the traditional manyattas.

The culture of the Maasai has been mostly maintained by their strong leadership among the clans. The passing down of information in the family trees and the fathers acting according to the traditions have made the Maasai not lose themselves in the world revolution. This strong uphold and culture maintenance has made them stand out as one of the communities in the world who still uphold what their forefathers made and they are considered unique.

Conclusion

Cultures and traditions differentiate communities and tribes. For the uniqueness of a community, their cultures and traditions are the main contribution. The Maasai uniqueness is an example of it. People should appreciate and embrace their cultures and tradition and forgo the life endangering cultural practices.

References

Adams, E. W. (1996). A primer of probability logic.

Coles, J. (2008). How the formal education system in Kenya is changing the culture of the Maasai community.

Melubo, K., & Carr, A. (2019). Developing indigenous tourism in the bomas: critiquing issues from within the Maasai community in Tanzania. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 14(3), 219-232.

Melubo, K., & Lovelock, B. (2019). Living inside a UNESCO world heritage site: The perspective of the Maasai community in Tanzania. Tourism Planning & Development, 16(2), 197-216.