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Cultural Anthropology





Maasaiis an ethnic group that inhabits the Eastern part of Africa. Maasaipeople are found in two east African countries. These countries areKenya and Tanzania. In Kenya, they live mostly in southern part ofthe Great Rift Valley whereas in Tanzania, Maasai are found in theNorthern part of the country. Maasai is an ethnic group that fallsunder the category of plain Nilotes. They were known asplains/Eastern Nilotes or Nilo-Saharan. In Kenya, Maasai areneighbours with tribes like Kikuyu, Samburu, Kuria, Kalenjin andTaita. In Tanzania, their neighbouring tribes are Chagga, SukumaKaguru and Gogo. Maasai people practice nomadic pastrolisim amongother things (Coast, 2001). This paper will be exploring the Maasaiand their way of living.

Tobegin with, Maasai people are very interesting people to be around.As said in the introduction part, they live in Southern Kenya andNorthern Tanzania. These areas are part of the Great Rift Valley. InKenya, they come from the county of Kajiado and Narok, formerly knownas Kajiado and Narok districts before the devolution government.Their main towns are Narok, Kajiado and Namanga (which borders theneibouring country, Tanzania). Maasai land in Kenya consists ofvarious forests, a national reserve and a national park. The reserveis called Maasai Mara National Reserve and the park is known asAmboseli National Park.

Acoordingto Finke (n.da) , Maasai ethnicity is so diverse. They have variousdialects within the ethnic group. They are known as plain Nilotes orEastern Nilotes. They are also called Nilo-Saharan. Initially, Maasaiwere grouped as Nilo-Hamitic. `The Hamites came fromNorthAfrica, and have been proposed as one of the lost tribes of Israel`(Maasai People Traditions &amp Culture, n.d). They are not calledNilo-Hamitics anymore because the Hamite group is not acceptedlargely. Maasai split from Samburu whom they were related closely.When it comes to language, Maasai language is called Maa (Ol Maa,Maasai or Kimaa) (Payne, 2008). Maa is a Nilotic tribe that Maasaishare with the Samburu people. The Kenyan Maasai languages comprisesof matapo, Damat, Loitai, Moitanik(who are also known as Uasin Gishuor Wuasinkshu), Loitokitok, Purko (which is the widely Maasailanguage), Kaputiel, Keekonyoike, and Siria. In Tanzania, Maasaidialects are Kisonko, Baraguyu and Arusa, who are currently calledArusha (Payne, 2008).

Maasaiare semi-nomadic. Apart from being semi-nomadic, they also practiceagriculture, hunting and even horticulture (Finke, n.dc). They arewell known for rearing herds of cattle, sheep and goats and movingwith them from place to place in search of pasture and water. We canas well say they are nomadic pastrolists. They rear these animals formeat, milk, blood as well as for wealth purposes. A Maasai is knownto be wealthy by the number of cattle, sheep and goats that he has.They value their animals so much. Maasai also practice small scalefarming like growing food crops such as maize, rice potatoes andvegetables for food. They never sell their farm products. Cattle arethe main source of income (University of Iowa, n.d.). Cattle providemilk, meat and blood. Blood is drunk only during special occasions orin time of sickness (Finke, n.dd). The blood is mixed together withmilk or sometimes they take just blood alone without mixing milk. During occasions like circumcision and marriage is when mostly bloodis drunk. Cattles are sign of wealth in Maasai community. They alsokeep donkeys for carriage of luggage.

Marriagein Maasai people is such an interesting ceremony. First, any time aMaasai man identifies a girl that he wants to marry, he showers herwith praises together with a gift of a necklace. After a word of hisintentions to marry has gone around the village, the man gets honeyand gives it to the women of the clan (Finke, n.db). The women wouldbe living in his bride`s house. Afterward, women hands over the honeyto the bride`s mother. If the bride`s mother accepts the honey, shetakes butter and smears it on the bride`s stomach. After all this isdone, the man brings fermented honey that is used to make beer to the`enkang`. The beer is given to the bride`s father, old men and womenof the clan as well as the man`s age mates. When the agreement isreached, the bride is taken to the groom`s house. She will come backto her mother`s house with young cattle, a copper wire which is usedfor making necklaces and earring, honey and young female goats (Jones&amp Miller, n.d.).

Thegroom pays five herds of cattle to the bride`s family as a brideprice for the young woman. He is helped by the brothers to his brideto be. They are then joined by old men and women when they arrive. Inthe evening, when the sun sets, the young woman`s father and the manwith his people come together in the middle of the house. This isdone so as to make sure that everything is in place for the marriage(Kenya Tourist Board, n.d.). If not, the man carries the burden ofmaking sure nothing is missing. The bride is then given words ofwisdom by the father while the mother advices the groom. Very earlyin the morning, before sunrise, the bride`s father is given a goat.Her body and clothing’s will then be anointed before she leaveswith the groom to his house in company of two elderly members. She isnow married! If the man has no house of his own, the woman goes tolive with the in-laws until her home is built (Maasai Association,n.d).

Asnoted by Southworld (2013), Maasai women are not allowed to marryoutside their tribe. This practice is called endogamy. Men areallowed to practice exogamy. There are those men who marry just one.Other men practice polygamy. This means they can have more wives.Strange enough, polygyny is accepted in some Maasai people. This is apractice of more than one man sharing one wife at the same time. Thewealthier and older men have more wives. Typically, no more than sixwives are seen in a household.

Asnoted by African Crafts Market ( n.d.), when it comes to family typeand household organization, Maasai have unique family structure. Theydo not need to be related to be part of an `enkang` or clan. Theirform of family is nuclear, extended or any other form. Men becomewarriors and tend cattle. On the other hand, women`s work is to cook,milk cattle, fetch water as well as firewood for cooking. Women arealso responsible for giving birth and bring up children.

Politicalsystems of the Maasai people are rooted in their age. Elderly membersof the community are separated from young men and women. When a girlbecomes an adolescent, she is married off to a wealthy old man. Butbefore she is married, she is allowed to have sexual relationshipswith young men from the `enkang`. A woman still has sexualrelationships with former boyfriends even after she is married. Thewomen are married off immediately they hit puberty stage so as toavoid illegitimate children. Men must only marry after they haveaccumulated wealth (Brockman,n.d.).Non-penetrating homosexual relationships are okay for warriors whoare away from females for an extended period of time. No oral oranal penetration is accepted. Non-circumcised girls can have sexualrelations with junior warriors as long as they do not get pregnant. Married women are allowed to have sexual relations with other men,and if a child is born from this, the husband takes in the child ashis own and is not looked at being any different from his biologicalchildren. The community is ruled by the counsel of elders.


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