The Masaï , Massaï or Maasaï constitute an ethnicity of stockbreeder S and warriors semi Nomade S of East Africa, living mainly in the center and the south-west of the Kenya and the north of the Tanzania.
Masaï belong to the group of the nilotic tribes and emigrated since the south of the Sudan about the 15th century, accompanied by their domestic cattle.
The fact that it occupies of many animalist parks of East Africa probably contributed to do of the people masaï one of most known of the general public. Masaï maintain their traditions cultural while taking share with the economic forces, social, and political contemporary, in the area and beyond.
The country masaï
The country masaï extends on each side of the border which separates the Kenya from the Tanzania, between the mounts Kenya and the Kilimandjaro (more high summit of the Africa with 5.895 m). The climate is hot and dry there.
Masaï are southernmost of the nilotic speakers of languages and are directly related with the Turkana and Kalenjin living close to the Lac Turkana in the north of Kenya. The archaeological oral tradition masaï and data indicate that they migrated since the north of the lake Turkana, namely the Vallée of the Nile in Egypt and with the Sudan. They moved north in the south, involving the migration of other groups, until being established in a long area going of the north of Kenya with the center of Tanzania.
An important part of the grounds masaï was conquered by the British colonists at the end of the 19th century, helped by the bovine Peste and the Variole, then by the dominant African ethnos groups with the assistance of the government at the time of independence. Part of the grounds was also transformed into reserves and national parks (Amboseli, Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Samburu, Nakuru, Manyara, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Tsavo)
Masaï are seminomad and have a pastoral economy exclusive. They resisted the incentives of the governments Kenyan and Tanzanian aiming making them adopt a more sedentary lifestyle and at adopting the Agriculture. They acquired the right to make graze their cattle in many parks of the two countries and are unaware of the borders regularly when they move their large herds of cattle through the Savane during the changes of season.
Their resistance contributed to generate a romantic vision of the masaï lifestyle, considered as an example of harmony with nature. Their conservatism is undoubtedly also at the origin of the attraction which they exert on the Western tourists.
Towards which water point, which camping, move in an ordered haste the herds of the people massed on the lake drained and covered with dust Amboseli? Without horses nor dogs, the African pastors admirably disciplined their animals. Masai still live in the reserves of fauna of which they are the first organizers. Not driving out, if not the lion for rites of initiation, they preserved the wild animals; and their fires transformed a not very penetrable bush into a regular low grass carpet. The reserves are not unaware of animalist and tourist overpopulation. In Amboseli especially, near to Nairobi, which offers in premium to the visitors the superb backdrop of Kilimandjaro. Kenya knows also the misdeeds of the poaching.
PopulationThe estimates of the populations masaï of Kenya and Tanzania vary from one source to another. They are made delicate by the nomadism and the fact that the groups can circulate freely through the border.
According to the estimates, the population masaï would be included/understood between: 300000 and: 880000 people.
Masaï are divided into five groups: the Arusha, the Baraguyu, the Kisongo, the Purko and the Samburu. An important population masaï was established in the districts of Narok, Trans Mara and Kajiado, in the province of the valley of the Rift in Kenya.
HabitatMasaï build temporary circular small houses by using intersected branches, covered with dung of cow and mud. This mixture dries quickly with the sun to become as hard as cement.
The houses all are built in the same way: a part where the guests can discuss, a part for the animals, the principal part where there is fire to cook food and the plaits to sleep, posed by ground. There are no pieces of furniture.
A group of house in circle, girds by a formed fence of thorny branches, forms a enkang . The herds are gathered in the center of this circle during the night in order to protect them from the predatory ones. A whole of dwelling forming a village is named boma . When Masaï must migrate, they completely destroy by fire their old village.
The women build the houses and deal with the life of the village (maintenance of the houses, meal, clothing,…). The men take care of the safety of the camping and deal with the cattle.
CattleThe traditional life of Masaï is organized around the cattle, which constitutes their independent source of food. They believe that their god their entrusted his own cattle so that they are occupied some. The richness of Masaï is determined by the number of cows which its family has.
Each masaï family has ten oxen, goats and sheep. Each animal is marked of a sign which indicates to which it belongs. The men take along their herds to feed in the reserve of the animals, for several days. It is the most former warrior masaï who guides the herd through savanna. Masaï occupy a territory as a long time as the cattle can nourish itself there.
FoodMasaï nourish especially dairy produces and of blood. They can indeed take the blood of the young bovines without killing them, by incising them on the level of the neck of a drawn arrow in the jugular vein. A bowl of blood mixed with milk constitutes basic food. The meat is more rarely consumed and must never be mingled with milk; it is reserved for certain ceremonies or particular occasions.
The “pastoral ideal” masaï the conduit to reject any food of vegetable origin and any agricultural activity or Hunting with food vocation. They consume neither fish, neither bird, nor wild game except for the Buffle and of the éland, resembling their own cattle.
Other sources indicate that Masaï consume important quantities of plants. According to a study undertaken by Timothy Johns, “to prepare milk, Massaï add to it plants, roots, barks, a heap of plants. And they always have a bubble of pastures and barks, which they mix with the meat. It also sometimes happens to them to clean the teeth with pieces of wood, to suck roots to extract the juice from them or to chew gum of trees, the such Myrrhe provided by the Balsamier. However much of these plants are medicinal. The other tribes of the area only use them to be looked after, while Massaï make an almost daily use of it. ”
Age groups and social organizationThe company masaï is patriarchal and more or less gerontocratic, the old ones making the decisions for the whole of the group. The spiritual leader, oloiboni or laibon (anglicized form), act like an intermediary between Masaï and them God Enkai . He is the holder of traditional knowledge concerning the medicinal plants and can practice the Divination and the magic.
Masaï are divided into patrilineal clans and into. The men pass successively in five age groups: children, young people warlike, warlike adult, young elder then elder. The passage from one class to another is accompanied by initiatory rites.
InitiationThe old ones deliver with the children of knowledge concerning the plants, the animals, but also the uses and the history of their people.
The boys masaï become young warriors or morane towards the fifteen years age. Old will teach them the handling from the weapons, the battle songs, the traditional dances. Various initiatory ceremonies accompany the passage by the male Masai young people at the adulthood. Most important is the Circoncision, which can be practiced at the same time for many individuals. These people belong consequently to the same age group. The young boys should neither make noise, nor to move during the ceremony.
It was known as that each young person was to kill a lion before his circumcision: it is about a myth conveyed in particular within the framework of tourism industry. It is true however that to kill a lion allows to acquire celebrity and prestige within the community.
After the rite of circumcision, the young warriors leave food groups some in a village especially built for them ( manyatta ), far from the female universe. They will be able to marry only once they will have become adult warriors.
The access to the puberty of the young girls is marked by a ceremony during which the old women practice the Excision those. The Kenyan government and different ONG tried éradiquer this practice.
MarriageThe Mariage S of the girls are often negotiated by the fathers before their birth. The relations except marriage of the girls before puberty are regarded as natural. The new family structure is founded during the birth of the first child. The women can marry only once during their life. The men can marry several times and to even have several wives if they have sufficient cattle. The women cannot have more than ten children.
ReligionMasaï have a single and benevolent god, Enkai or Ngai , creative god appearing through the rain and the sky. His wife, Olapa , are the moon.
They believe that Enkai gave all the cattle to Masaï, and thus that whoever has herds must them have formerly stolen in Masaï. This belief led to some conflicts mortals with other close tribes during the centuries spent, at the time of attempts intended to recover what they regarded as their property.
LanguageMasaï thus generally speak the maa that the Swahili, common language of the East Africa, and sometimes, nowadays, English.
See also: Maa (language)
Ornament and body ModificationIn addition to the circumcision or the excision, the children of the two sexes formerly underwent an ablation of one or two lower Incisive S.
The men and the women also have the ear lobes bored and often distended by discs. The women carry out jewels in pearls which play a crucial role in the body ornamentation masaï.
The taste for red clothing of Masaïs contemporaries echoes the more traditional use of Ocre of this same color. The morane braid the hair and dye them in red. Masaïs like to carry jewels (collars, bracelets,…).
DanceThere exist various forms of dances masaïs; one of most known is a form of competition opposing the men, those having to jump highest possible while preserving the feet togethers , .
PlaysThe In Gehé is a traditional play which occupies an important place in the company masaï of the north of Tanzania. It is hold with the men, it is the play of the warriors .
See also: In Gehé
Masaï todayMany Masaï gave up their traditional lifestyle for the Western lifestyle. Certain young people emigrated in Europe or North America, so in particular continuing higher learning.
Since the colonial era, Masaï were dispossessed of an important part of their traditional grounds, either by private farmers, or within the framework of governmental plays or creation of national parks. The governments Tanzanian and Kenyan indeed tried to set up development projects aiming at modifying the traditional lifestyles of Masaï and with the sédentariser so that they respect the borders. These attempts showed a generalized impoverishment of the populations masaï, which until there managed their cattle effectively.
Since 1993, movements are organized to put an end to the sales or the seizures of ground in Kenya, or to take part in the administration of the regional Academy of Ngorongoro and in the defense campaign of the crowned mountain Endoinyo Ormoruwak in Tanzania.
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