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MAASAI STORY AND A SONG FOR YOU

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MAASAI CIRCUMCISION

 

 

Is dedicated to all cultural tourism eco-tour guides

As to bettering their performances in cultural tourism activities

 


Article by

Yusuph Hussein

And an Eco-tour guide at cultural tourism programme

E- mail yusuphkus@yahoo.com

www.kajabukamafamily.co.tz

2004

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Heralding the beginning of adult life, circumcision is regarded by the Maasai of Kenya as a rebirth, a new road to the ways of maturity.  They believe that the male or female youngster who undergoes the agony of such an ordeal with courage will be able to endure the challenges of life and uphold the proud reputation of the Maasai people.

 

For both male and female initiates, circumcision takes place at dawn.  A boy, usually between fifteen and eighteen years old, undergoes the operation outside the main gate of his family’s cattle enclosure. Taunted with insults by his friends to build up his resistance, he must endure the cutting without flinching to prove his bravery.  If he cries out, he will bear the shame for the rest of his life.  A girl, between the ages of twelve

And fourteen, undergoes a clitorectomy inside he mother’s home.  Without anesthetic, her clitoris and labia minora are cut away by the female circumciser, but, unlike a boy, she is permitted to express pain without dishonor.  Both males and female go through a healing period of up to six months, a time that serves as transition into adulthood.  The girl remains in seclusion, and the boy joins the collective activities of his age mates.  Following this period of recuperation, males become warriors and females enter married life.

 

A Maasai warrior may not marry until he graduates from warrior hood, in his late twenties or early thirties.  Prior to this, he may only have sexual relations with uncircumcised girls between the ages of nine and thirteen, who cannot become pregnant.  For the Maasai, pregnancy out of wedlock is strictly taboo.  At the onset of menstruation, girl are circumcised and must leave their warrior boyfriends to prepare for marriage with older men who are selected by their parents and may be twice the girl’s age.

 

The Maasai has practiced a highly controversial issue in contemporary western society, female clitodectomy for centuries.  Without undergoing his painful ritual, a girl will not be considered a woman, will not be permitted to marry within Maasai society, and will not be able to bear legitimate offspring.  A Maasai girl who refuses this rite of passage will be ostracized from her community and alienated from her cultural tradition.

 

ON THE THRESHHOLD OF MANHOOD

 

The initiate rises just before dawn and bathes, using water that has been kept outside all night in a bucket containing an axe head to make the water colder.  His body numbed, his age mates to toughen him for the ordeal that lies ahead insult the boy relentlessly by his age mates.  As a parting gift from his mother, he has been given the hide of an unblemished ox, on which he will sit during the cutting. Accompanied by his father, the boy walks to the entrance of the family cattle kraal.  Already in attendance are the initiate’s close male relatives and the circumciser, who has been brought in from the Ndorobo tribe especially for the occasion.  He will be paid one goat for every operation he performs.  Women are forbidden to come to the cattle kraal for the duration of the ritual.

 

 

 

 

THE FIRST CUT

 

Seated securely between the legs of the back supporter (left) so that he is prevented from making even the slightest movement, the initiate prepares himself. The circumciser throws a libation of the chalk and milk over him and calls out, “one cut” so as not take the boy by surprise. He then puts a knife through the boy’s foreskin, and when the cutting is complete, a flap of skin is left beneath the head of the penis – a unique feature of Maasai circumcision. With the entreaty, “Wake up, you are now a man,” the circumciser indicates that the initiate is free to leave.

 

Still in great pain and weak from shock, the initiate is carried is carried back to his mother’s hut to nurse his wound and rest. He receives a ritual calabash of fresh cow’s blood to restore his energy. Treated like woman recovering from childbirth, he is carefully looked after by his family and restricted from performing certain tasks. As a reward for his bravery, his father may give a cow or a goat. This experience will serve to remind him of his youthful courage for the rest of his life.  After healing, the initiate is allowed to have sexual relations for the first time.

 

A CROWN OF BIRDS

 

From neighboring camps, the age mates of the initiate arrive to celebrate his entry into manhood. Each guest wears as headdress of colorful stuffed birds and has his face painted with white markings to indicate his intermediate status between adolescence and warrior hood.  When the initiate has healed sufficiently to be able to walk, he goes out to hunt for small birds. Shooting them with a bow and blunt arrow, he eviscerates the carcasses, stuffs them with ashes and dried grass, and ties them to a circular frame, which he wears as a ceremonial crown.  If he has withstood circumcision unflinchingly, he may wear colorful birds, symbolic of courage, but if he has cried out, his crown will be drab.  It may take up to forty birds to complete such a headdress.

 

Dressed in dark blue, an initiate paints white chalk designs on the face of a recently circumcised age mate.  For protection during this vulnerable period of transition into warrior hood, both young men wear their mother’s coiled brass pendants against their temples.

During the healing period the newly circumcised boys roam Assailant, chasing young girls and shooting them with blunted arrows.  Each time an initiate hits a girl; she must five him one of her beaded finger rings to wear on a band around his head or on a finger. The greater his collection of rings, the more admired he is as he enters the most exciting period of his life being a Maasai warrior.

 

 

THE CRY OF PAIN

 

Ritually shaved and washed, a young girl sits in the darkness of a hut before a female circumciser, surrounded by her family.  A especial curved blade is used to cut away her clitoris and labia minor.  No anesthetic is given; the only concession to the girl’s pain is that, unlike her male counter part, she may cry out without disgracing herself.

During the cutting, she screams in pain and appeals to her relatives to let her go but they continue to hold her down, believing the procedure to be in her best interests.  The excision competed; the girl rests in her family hut. At the end of the day, she inspected by the female elder.  If the circumciser’s work has been carried out satisfactorily, the girl is free to resume her recuperation; if not she faces a repeat of her earlier ordeal.  During her weeks of recovery, she is secluded with her family and other initiates.   Dressed in dark blue and wearing a beaded band around her head she is not allowed to be seen or spoken to by men, other than immediate relatives.  She receives gifts of livestock to honor her new status and can now look forward to marriage and children of her own.

 

 

 

JAMBO JAMBO BWANA

 

HABARI GANI? MZURI SANA

WAGENI MWAKARIBISHWA, TANZANIA YETU

HAKUNA MATATA

 

TUIMBE, TUIMBE SOTE

HAKUNA MATATA

 

TUCHEZE, TUCHEZE SOTE

HAKUNA MATATA

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X2

 

AFTER YOU COME THE GUIDES WILL TRANSILATE FOR YOU

 

POWER OF WARRIORHOOD

 

Preceding pages: Glistening with red ocher, warriors gather for the Red Dance, which is dedicated to the hot, fiery aspect of warrior temperament.  In song and dance they celebrate those who have distinguished themselves by successfully killing a lion armed only their wits, their courage, and their spears.

In celebration of their impending graduation, the warriors launch themselves into a leaping dance known as empatia.  With natural grace and ability, they seem to defy gravity.  At the height of each leap, the warriors shimmy their shoulders to the accompaniment of the rhythmic, guttural chanting of their age mates.  On landing, a warrior often flings his long cohered hair against the cheek of his special girlfriend standing nearby.

 

 

Through out the ceremony, young Maasai girls adoringly accompany their warrior boyfriends as they charge about the Manyatta blowing long horns and carrying buffalo-hide shields decorated with the symbols of their achievement.  To carry such a shield, a warrior must have either killed a buffalo – an extremely dangerous feat – or received the shield as a gift from an older brother.

 

WARRIOR’S SWEETHEARTS

Maasai girls wear beaded collars and headbands designed to enhance their movements as they dance for their warrior’s boyfriends.  The warriors may enjoy intimacy with the young, uncircumcised females. Many of the girls are too young for sexual relationships, but should sex occur, they do not risk disapproval, as they are pre-pubescent, unlikely to fall pregnant and therefore safe from dishonor.

This is the one time in their lives when girls are able to enjoy freely chosen relationships, but should sex occur, they do not risk disapproval, as they are pre-pubescent, unlikely to fall pregnant and therefore safe from dishonor.  Traditionally, a girl   selects three lovers from among the warriors. The first, called” the sweetheart” is the one for whom she prepares milk; the second, known as “the skewer” takes over when the first is not present; the third referred to as “the one who crosses over; may court the girl’s favors when the first and second are absent.  There is not jealousy among the three lovers, and they respect each other other’s status in relation to the girl.

 

OVERCOME WITH EMOTION

 

On the third day of the ceremony, the warriors- who have retreated to the forest rush back to the manyatta calling out the names of their ancestors.  They head straight for the osigira, a ritual hut built by the forty-nine mothers whose sons are thought to be the most distinguished.  The osingira is supported by a massive center post “planted” by the warrior singled out as the ritual leader of his generation.

The warriors are distraught to be leaving warriorhood, and some are highly nervous, especially those who have slept with circumcised women and may be refused entry to the sacred house.  As they circle the osingira with increasing speed, they become consumed with emotion. Writhing and foaming at the mouth, a warrior falls into a rigid trance-like state called emboshona.  He is completely unaware of his actions.  His ostrich headdress is removed for safekeeping, and he is forced to the ground and held by his mother until he recovers.  Later, the most sacred part of the initiation takes place as the warriors, place as the warriors, deemed to be pure and moral, enter the osingira to spend the night drinking milk, eating special food, and performing secret rituals.

 

 

THE FINAL BLESSING.

 

At sunrise on the final day of the Eunoto, the mothers and their sons prepare for the most poignant ritual of the ceremony.  Using sharp blade and a balm of milk and water, each mother shaves off the long locks of hair that have identified her son as a warrior for the past ten or more years.  A Maasai taboo rules that a mother who has had sexual intercourse with a man of her son’s generation will be denied this privilege, but if she is morally unblemished she will play the most important role in here son’s life since she gave birth to him. Above: A warrior’s youth girlfriend caresses his fallen locks, knowing that her special relationship with him will soon end. Following his graduation, he will leave her to marry a circumcised woman.

Fallows pages: After the heads of the newly shaven initiates have been rubbed with glistening red ocher, the young men gather so receive the final blessing of the elders. The initiates sit quit reflection as the elder walk among them, chanting prayers and spraying them with mouthfuls of milk and honey beer.  The elders bless the men with the words, “May Enkai give you a long and healthy life, may Enkai give you many children ad cattle, and may you enjoy true arkasis (wealth).”The ceremony over, a new generation of elders returns home to face the challenges and responsibilities of the next stage of their lives.

 

 

 

 

YOUR VISIT WILL HELP THIS SMALL COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION

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