The Maasai people of kenya

Maasai are Nilotic speakers and are linguistically closer to the Turkana and Kalenjin who live near Lake Turkana in Kenya. According to Maasai history and the archaeological record, they are said to have originated from somewhere near Lake Turkana. Maasai are pastoralist and have defied modern trends to lead a more sedentary lifestyle. They have demanded grazing rights to many of the national parks routinely ignore private or public boundaries as they move their great cattle herds across the open savanna with the changing of the seasons. This has led to a generally accepted view that Maasai are more in tune with nature and nothing can divorce them.

The life of the Masai tribe revolve around cattle. Virtually all social roles and status derive from the relationship of individuals to their cattle. The more cattle one has the higher their status in life. Cow's milk, together with blood, is the staple food of the Masai. Grain and fruit are rare in their diet. Young men are responsible for tending to the herds and often live in small camps, moving frequently in the constant search for water and good grazing lands. Maasai are ruthless capitalists and due to past behavior have become notorious as cattle rustlers. At one time young Maasai warriors set off in groups with the express purpose of acquiring illegal cattle. They believe they have a God given right to own cattle and can possess (steal) without considering it a crime.

Maasai are best known for their beautiful beadwork which plays an essential element in the ornamentation of the body. Beading patterns differ among the different age sets. Face and body painting is also art among the Maasai’s. Young men, who often cover their bodies in ocher to enhance their appearance, spend hours and days working on ornate hairstyles and patterns.

Maasai community politics are low key. In the recent past however they have feature prominently in the media where land issues are concerned. They have also been featured fighting for compensation over alleged raping of their wives and daughters by the British.

Maasai diviners (laibons) are consulted whenever misfortune arises or when seeking for divine intervention over certain issues in the community. They also serve as healers, dispensing their herbal remedies to treat physical ailment and ritual treatments to absolve social and moral transgressions. ‘Laibons’ are easily found peddling their medicine in the urban centers.

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