The Maasai are one of the youngest and smallest indigenous ethnic group in Africa of semi-nomadic people settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania. They have a rich distinctive culture and lifestyle and are most well known for their brightly coloured clothing and beaded jewellery, their music and dance.
The Maasai have age-old customs and speak their own language (Maa).
On this page we would like to explain you more about the life of the Maasai to give you an insight in the daily lives of the children and families who are supported by our projects.
The Maasai live in a boma, an enclosure, with different houses and a separate corral for the cattle which is a big circle in the middle of the boma, with branches to protect their cattle against wild animals.
Their houses are surrounding the corral of the cattle How many houses the boma has, depends on the number of people who live in the boma.
Orkisima Village Boma
A Maasai house is made by the women with a foundation of wooden poles and branches. Branches are then woven to make walls which are plastered with mud, sticks and cow dung. The roof will then be covered with thatch. Little holes serve as windows and give the possibility for light to come in.
Culture & Traditions
Ceremonies are an expression of Maasai culture and self-determination. Every ceremony is a new life. They are rites of passage, and every Maasai child is eager to go through these vital stages of life. Following is where a boy's life begin in the Maasai society.
Enkipaata, Emuratta, Eunoto, Eokoto e-kule, Enkang oo-nkiri, Olngesherr, are the most popular rite of passages and ceremonies in the Maasai society.
Of all initiations circumcision is the most important rite of passage in the Maasai society.
Emuratare (Circumcision) ceremony is the most vital initiation of all rite of passages in the Maasai society. Both men and women of the Maasai society are traditionally eager to undergo through circumcision. This initiation is performed shortly after puberty.
It is important to note that with the rising challenges of the 21st century in the Maasai society, many young Maasai women no longer undergo through circumcision.
Young men are still eager to be circumcised and become warriors. Once the boys become warriors they resume responsibility of security for their territory. Up until recently, the only way for a Maasai boy to achieve warrior status was to single-handedly kill a lion with his spear.
Traditionally, circumcision initiation was a way to elevate an individual from childhood to adulthood. This rite of passage helped Maasai persons to find their place in the society
Music & Dance
Dances are a big part of Maasai tradition. There are dances for all kinds of important social occasions. Men and women prepare for the dance by painting designs on their faces and bodies with a red, earthy pigment called ochre. They wear intricate, colourful beadwork necklaces and shawls. One at a time they go to the centre, jumping in time to the rhythm. It’s important to keep the body as straight as possible and heels shouldn’t touch the ground between jumpsThe women dance too, mothers others sing about the courage of their sons and the girls sing to encourage their favourite warrior.
Maasai music traditionally consists of rhythms provided by a chorus of vocalists singing harmonies while a song leader, or olaranyani, sings the melody. Women chant lullabies, humming songs, and songs praising their sons. Both singing and dancing sometimes occur around ceremonies and involve flirting.
Arts & Crafts
The Maasai make beautiful artworks like painting with landscapes and silhouettes of warriors and women that represent their culture and traditions. The Maasai community are known for their distinctive dress and decorative beaded jewelry, their intricate work is very elaborate since all of it is hand made. Different Maasai sub-groups can be distinguished by the color combinations of their beaded jewelry including necklaces, earrings, headbands, wrist and ankle bracelets.