Saturday, November 3, 2012

Maasai Village

After a late breakfast David drove us to a traditional Maasai village. The Maasai have opened up some of their villages to educate tourists about their way of life and also to help supplement the income of the village, pay for school costs for the children, and other needs. With the influx of so many people onto their lands and the restrictions on available grazing land, the Maasai, particularly the younger ones, are looking for ways to help themselves and their children move forward in the new world while still retaining their traditions and culture.

The men treated us to their traditional dances. One of them is a line type dance where the men weave around while chanting, finally coming by the visitors to shake hands. They have another dance that is designed, of course, to attract the women. It’s a competition dance where the men stand in a half circle, chanting a challenge to see can jump the highest. One by one each man enters the center to jump as high as they can. The one who can jump the highest is the one most likely to get his choice of young girls. It is traditionally a polygamous society because it takes many hands to raise and care for the livestock. It is but one thing that is slowly changing, with most young men feeling that they lack the income to support more than one wife.

The compound itself is surrounded by a circle of bushes and sticks to make a barrier, a barrier both to keep the predators out and the livestock in at night. Inside the family homes are constructed. The homes have traditionally been round, though many are now built in a rectangle. Inside you enter through a small mud room where you find the dry timber for building fires for cooking meals. Around a corner and you are in the main living area where a small cook fire is located in the middle and two bed areas on either side. You would sit on a small bench or on the beds to visit while waiting for the meal to be prepared. Everything in the home is serviceable. While they make many decorative items and the people wear many different kinds of beadwork and other jewelry, there's little decoration In the house itself.

The house is constructed totally with natural materials. The walls are made from sticks, tied together with strips from bark of trees. On top of the walls they put a paste of cow dung and mud, making the walls strong and water tight. They lay branches across the roof, cover it with grass and then again use the dung and mud plaster to seal it. It worked...the room was totally dry. Some of the rectangular homes now have metal roofs.

A bit about the matches so they make their own. They have a flat piece of olive wood that is in an oblongish  shape and a stick from a soft wood. They do the typical twirling of the stick in the small hole on the olive piece until they start to produce some smoking ash. The ash is dropped into some dry hay and then blown on and coaxed into life. The fire that they make is then shared among all of the houses in the compound.
The women came out to dance for us also. Their songs focused on two primary topics...making more babies and bringing the rain. They were successful with their rain dance today...but more about that later.

We couldn't leave without running the gauntlet of sellers. They had about twenty tables...flat woven pieces on legs covered with the same dung they use on the house...with many necklaces, bracelets, bowls and more. The worst part was each was a different family from the do you decide who to buy from? Sadly, and quite by accident, Jeff and I both bough something from the same table. Wish I had known because I could have had exactly the same thing from any table. Oh well.

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