…the Masai community stans,they are beautiful people.
But First , a cup of soup to welcome you to our land,
A handful of our beads, to make sure you’ll always remember us.
Welcome to Masai land , where our culture defines us,our heritage distinguishes us from the rest. Our pride is still in our cattle,and our harmonious relation with the wild makes us ‘people of nature.
The masai community is Kenyas cultural symbol. Because of their resistance to norms and culture since their origin ,despite the effect of modernization and the Western culture influence.However, not everyone has withheld onto this culture,some have been modernized.
This culture and society is planned in groups, based on age, called age-sets, for both men and women. For each group, there are certain initiations that will move them to the next level, and this calls for the many ceremonies held by this community. This ceremonies are an expression of Masaic culture and self determination, and every ceremony is a new life.
They include Enkipaata (senior boy ceremony), Emuratta (circumcision), Enkiama
(marriage), Eunoto (warrior-shaving ceremony), Eokoto e-kule (milk-drinking ceremony), Enkang oo-nkiri (meat-eating ceremony), Olngesherr (junior elder ceremony), etc. Also, there are ceremonies for minor boys and girls including, Eudoto/Enkigerunoto oo-inkiyiaa (earlobe modifications), and Ilkipirat (leg fire marks). Traditionally, boys and girls must undergo these initiations prior to circumcision.In noting that in the 21st century, the young women of this community dont undergo circumcision.
Many of these initiations concern men while women’s initiations focus on marriage. Men will form age-sets moving them closer to adulthood.
Women do not have their own age-sets but are recognized by those of their husbands.
In every stage ,there are certain rituals performed, and this is where the involved parties either shave their hair or plait and apply the red ochre.Therefore ,both Maasai men and women shave their head at some point, as a sign of a new beginning after every initiation
.Most Masai women have short hair throughout their lives though, which is mostly clean shaved, especially during initiation such as the night before circumcisio
However, amongst all these ceremonies, circumcision is the most important. Because it symbolizes the end of childhood to adulthood .It has helped the community find their place in the society.
A masai boy’s life starts with this…
The first initiation of a Maasai boy is the Enkipaata, a ceremony occurring before circumcision. A delegation of boys between 14 and 16 years of age, has to go on a journey within their lands announcing their next age set, a journey taken with the company of a group of elders who guide them.
An elderly woman, mostly mothers and grandmothers shave their boys in readiness for them to be circumcised. Before the operation, boys have to take a cold shower to purify themselves and also cut their hair by shaving them completely;; as per the customs, before every ritual of passage, both men and women, shave their head as a sign of a new beginning.
Before the ceremony, boys have to sleep outside the village in the wilderness. And when coming back the next day, they have to wear wide “shukas” and dance all day long. At the end of this last ceremony, the boys are finally ready for the most important initiation: the Emuratta or circumcision.
The healing process will take 3-4 months, and boys must remain in black cloths for a period of 4-8 months. After they are healed,they are shaved ,as they have become a new person and receive the status of of a new warrior.
At the age of about 18 or so, the age-set becomes MORAN (warrior).The next step is to form the Emanyatta (warrior’s camp).
The purpose of the camp is to keep men of the same age set together and fulfill their role as a military force. This is where the warriors learn about the age set brotherhood, the art of oratory skills and animal husbandry.They plait their hair in a special way, smearing it with with ashes, clay, animal fats, and ochre, the red colour that is mostly used to style and colour their heads during special occasions.
Their hair style has lion symbolism, where the warriors’ long “mane” symbolises masculine beauty.It also symbolises protection, strength as it is related African lion’s strength, a great source of pride and confidence to the Maasai men, who once in their life time have had to kill a lion.They will spend upto 10 years in the Emanyatta before the Eunoto ceremony ( senior warriors initiation).
Eunoto- End of Warrior-hood
After 7-10 years of being Morans or warriors, Eunoto, a ritual ceremony is conducted. It is a rite of passage from Morans to senior Morans. Eunoto is the second public ceremony that a Maasai man passes in his lifetime, a ceremony that ends the moran-hood.
This ceremony is observed once every decade when young Morans graduate into junior community elders.It is performed in a selected camp that contains twenty houses or more
, characterized by an overnight session of song and dance.
On the last day of the ceremony, the morans are sent to the river to smear themselves with mud
and are thereafter shaved.
Orngesherr (Elder-hood initiation)
10 years later, they undergo the second ritualised head shaving. Here, as junior elders, mostly at the age of 35 years or so, they are initiated into elder-hood. During the graduation, several rites are observed, which includes, shaving off their hair again.Every one in the age set looks forward to this final initiation. In this ceremony, every man is honored with an elder’s chair. This chair becomes a man’s friend until it breaks or inherited by his oldest son in case he dies before it breaks.In the early morning of the day of the event, he will sit on the chair and be shaved by his wife. If a man has more than one wife, it is the older wife’s responsibility to shave the husband.
After the ceremony, the men become elders who assume full responsibility of their own families. They are now allowed to move away from their fathers’ homestead and form their own homesteads.
Back to the 21st century, the modernized people of this community are exploring new fashion ideas with their clothing and beads….traditionally you’d see women in this..
But now they wear this…
….the story of the Masai community definitely continues, they are quite a community.
Thanks for reading 🙏😊
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