September 19th, 2011 15:17 EST
The Maasai Community Has a Rich Culture
Kenya consists of 43 tribes which are divided into Bantu, Nilotes, Cush(i)tes and Semites. Among these tribes are the Maasai`s who are believed to have been the now capital city`s (Nairobi) occupants. The word Nairobi comes from Maasai term `Enkare Nyorobi` meaning the place of cool waters.
Maasai`s are cl(a)ssified under nilotes and mainly reside in Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They are nomadic pastoralists whose lifestyle is characterized by keeping large herds of cattle, drinking cow`s milk and blood and constant movement from one place to another in search of water and greener pastures.
This group of people have a very rich culture. They are among the few communities in the country that still practice their culture. Some of the distinct features of the Maasai`s include: removal of two frontal lower teeth, having stretched earlobes (both men and women), wearing of Khanga and beaded accessories such as earrings, bracelets, anklets and even rings. It is also common to spot them in rubber stripped sandals locally referred to as `Akala`.
Since their chosen way of life involves migrating to different places in search of water and pasture for their animals, Maasai`s rarely have permanent settlements. They build simple houses using timber poles, sticks, cow dung, mud, ash, gr(a)ss and sisal human urine. According to them, building of houses `inkajijik` is entirely a woman`s role. Men on the other hand are charged with taking care of animals. Girls are left at home to help their mothers with household chores.
In this type of set up, getting education is not a priority. It is common to find young girls being married off to older men by their parents. Although times are changing, there are still some rigid Maasai men who only view women as property. They in turn get large herds of cattle as dowry payment. It is however until recently that human rights activists and organizations have taken it to task to ensure these young girls go back to school. This somewhat creates a tussle between culture and modernity. Activists are against such practice saying it lags this group of people behind, while to them, it`s a beautiful rich culture that creates peaceful coexistence between communities involved.
It will definitely take some reasonable time to completely wipe off the practice of marrying off young girls amongst the Maasai community. So far there is some positive responsiveness in terms of number of girls who ran away from forced marriages back to school. But with this, the Maasai`s still stand out as a reserved community and are more often referred as face of Kenya when it comes to diaspora issues.
A Maasai moran helping his cow deliver - Nairobi Kenya