The Maasai are semi-nomadic people and build their villages wherever they please. As a rule, the village has a courtyard in the center and is surrounded by fence along the perimeter as a protection from wild animals. The houses are build from tree brunches, mud, grass, cow dung and human urine (the liquid is needed as a binding ingredient). Yes, by women. Women are also responsible for supplying water, collecting firewood, milking cattle and cooking for the family (big news). Men, on the other hand, are responsible for herding livestock and building fences to provide security from wild animals.
They also have a political system of sorts. Day to day matters and disputes are advised by Liabons – their spiritual leaders and heads of the tribes. They also serve as healers, using herbal remedies to treat physical illnesses, and performing rituals to absolve social/moral transgressions. Depending on the nature of misconduct, some sort of punishment also exists. Yet no formal execution is known and most arguments can be settled with payment in form of cattle. Even a girl who disgrace her husband by sleeping with younger men, can regain his respect by giving him a cow, because “no man would refuse such an apology.”
Once in the village, none other than the son of their Liabon offered to give me a tour of their habitat and even invited into his house. Which was hard to see without the flash.
But I’ve decided not to distract the conversation with flashing lights, and enjoy the authenticity of the moment. So here you have it as it was:
He is the son of the head of the tribe. He’s 21 years old and his mom is one of the 30 wives of his father. He speaks fluent English and went to government school. “But then we ran out of cows so I had to come back” – he said. In fact, many Maasai are not technically poor. Some temporary move to cities for work and send their children to schools. Not because they thrive for modern lifestyle, but more due to the pressure from the government. In order to survive in our barbaric society, the Maasai had to learn the ‘value’ of money, the concept of private ownership and the idea of selling their lives by an hour for a minimum wage. Now you can find some Maasai men dressed in uniforms working as guards/watchmen, waiters and guides or selling traditional medicine, minerals, milk products or embroideries made by their women. Yet, “despite the sophisticated urban lifestyle they may lead, many will happily head homewards dressed in designer clothes, only to emerge from the traditional family homestead wearing a shuka (traditional piece of cloth), and carrying a wooden club”.
No wonder I could sense a dash of disdain when communicating with the Maasai. To them we are the barbarians who ruined their paradise with our monetary system and social inequality concept. “It is sad to see a society that had a long tradition of pride, being a beggar for relief food because of imposed foreign concepts of development” – I can’t agree more.
But for now I was a welcomed guest at their house. The houses are tiny. Maybe 3-5 square meters. Within this space the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socialises, and stores food, fuel, and other possessions. The ceilings are low, so you can’t stand up straight. That’s the bed on the left. And, I bet, next to it is a bucket of home made alcohol.
The guy was very informative about his culture. Especially in front of the camera. He would have easily made it in a showbiz.
After finishing my little impromptu interview, I complimented on his watch, and we went to visit the Maasai school.