With the fast pace of civilization and technological advancements, several African cultures are paying the dear price of cultural decay, moving more and more towards the Western prescription of doing things. All these in a bid to ‘’fit in” with the rest of the world. Fortunately for the Masai tribe, global influence has not infiltrated their way of life.
The Masai tribe is believed to have its origins in the Nile valley and can be found in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The proximity of the Masai tribe’s residential areas to many game parks of the African Great Lakes has earned the tribe much popularity.
The tribe’s popularity is also as a result of their extraordinary attires and distinct custom. Being based in Kenya and Tanzania, the Masai people are proficient in both Swahili and English, which are official languages of Kenya and Tanzania. In addition, the tribe also speaks the Maa language.
Language is a crucial domain in the culture of the tribe. Likewise, the warrior is significant in Masai culture as he is a source of pride to his tribe. Boys are taught by older men, often leaders in the tribe, what the responsibilities of the warrior are. To be a Masai means to be born into one of the world’s last great warrior cultures.
The responsibilities of the warrior include the provision of security to their families and community, building kraals i.e the equivalent of a house, and to protect their animals from human and animal predators. The warrior also has to go through circumcision which is used as a platform to pass on knowledge from the elders of the tribe to the boys and train the boys to be great warriors.
It is not only the warrior that can take on the responsibility of building the kraals as the women in the tribe are well versed in the art of kraal construction, it is however the sole responsibility of the warrior to fence the kraal using acacia thorns so that lions are unable to attack the cattle.
The warrior also has to participate in a coming of age ceremony, known as the Eunoto. This ceremony involves ten or more days of singing, dancing and ritual. The warriors perform a kind of march that is sometimes accompanied by the Adumu, i.e. ‘’the jumping dance’’, which is performed by non-Masai people.
The Inkajijik is a type of Masai shelter. The shelter is loaf-shaped or circular shaped, made out of material such as wood, cow dung and grass, as well as indigenous technology and is built by women. Women are also tasked with the duty of taking care of their families and producing as many offspring for their husbands.
As mentioned before, the Masai tribe is popular for their attire. The clothing in the tribe varies according to age, place and sex. Blue, black, stripped and checked cloth is worn, although red is the preferred color in the tribe. The Shúkà is the cloth used to wrap around the body. After circumcision, young men wear black for several months.
The Masai people rely on their cattle for food. They drink the milk, eat the meat and on occasion, drink the blood of the cattle. For ceremonies and special occasions, the tribe will slaughter lambs, bulls and oxen for meat. The by-products of the cattle such as the skin will be used for bedding and the cow dung for building.
Although some of the people in the Masai tribe have moved away from the homelands to the urban areas to secure jobs and participate in global economic activities, it is quite clear that the traditions and practices of the Masai people will continue to thrive even in the most influential times of civilization.