THE MASAI CULTURE.
The Masai also called Maasai people are a Nilotic ethnic group of people inhabiting areas of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Their rich history for centuries can be traced in the great lakes of Africa, living close to famous national parks such as the Serengeti, Masai Mara national reserve, Amboseli among others and this has made them be known internationally.
The Maasai are a Nilotic people indigenous to the African Great Lakes region, but with roots that can be traced back to South Sudan. According to their oral history, they began migrating south from the lower Nile Valley north of Kenya’s Lake Turkana sometime in the 15th century, ultimately arriving in their current range between the 17th and late 18th century.
They have a large population; in Kenya alone their population goes to over one million people, they speak the ‘Maa’ language and they are identified by their dressing attire of red and greet checkered shukas. This culture is interesting from dressing, to eating, music and dances.
The Masai are related to Uganda’s Karamojong in their way of life; they are both cattle keepers and this means they are nomadic, they put on shukas as their dressing attire, both live in or around savannah national parks for example Masai in Masai Mara national park while the Karamojong live near Kidepo valley national park.
The Masai use Kenyan Language (Swahili) and the official language English despite their native language being the Maa. Their language is normally spoken by the elder in the village. This culture is welcoming and by visiting the Masai people you learn a lot including their language, dances and music, lifestyle and traditional dances.
As this culture is cattle keeper, their food is row-blood from cattle. Nowadays they take cow milk with Posho (mingled maize flour). They normally take porridge known as ‘Ugali’ a Swahili word which is a mixture of cow fats like butter and maize flow.
Their culture uses shelter constructed from local materials such as mud, Wattles, cow dung, grass among others. These houses are in either a rectangular or circular shape and their homesteads are termed as the manyattas. A village is enclosed with a fence and built by men using thorny acacia trees. The houses are built by able-strong women as the men take care of the livestock.
The Masai people are easily identified by their body markings, like piercings and stretched earlobes by using thorns, twigs, stones and empty film canisters. Ladies or women wear beads in these earlobes. Also shaving off hair is part of their culture and this shows rites passage from one stage to another. Only warriors have hair not shaved off and it is weaved thinly with braided standards.
Also, males and females are circumcised as a symbol of becoming responsible for the family. In boys, circumcision means passing from boy-hood to manhood and also to ladies. This is done with a traditional ceremony backed up with the slaughtering of animals.
The Maasai people have a patriarchal social structure, with elderly men making most of the decisions for each group and wealth is determined by number of cattle and children a man has. Men often have several wives, each woman with her own house, but the women must build their own houses every five years due to termites.
The Masai people are well known for their music and dance, in which a leader known as the olaranyani sings the melody while others sing polyphonic harmony on call-and-response vocals and make guttural throat-singing sounds to provide rhythmic syncopation. The warriors’ coming of age ceremony, known as eunoto, can involve 10 and more days of singing, dancing and ritual, including the competitive jumping for which the Maasai are perhaps best known.
A safari to visit the Masai culture is worth an experience and our team is waiting for your request to take a Masai cultural tour to either Kenya or Tanzania.