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  • Maasai
    The Maasai are a nomadic people that currently live in tanzania and Kenya. the Infomration provided is related to the Tanzanian Maasai Language: Maa (Nilotic) (Hello - Supai) Population: 500,000 - 1,000,000 (Estimated) Location: Mainly Arusha Region of Tanzania ﷯Appearance: The principal color associated with the Maasai is red. Customarily, most Maasai men wear red shukas or cloth while the women wear blue. Beaded jewelry is worn by both Maasai men and women and plays an important role in many of their customs. The background color of Maasai jewelry tends to be white; the complementary colors are determined by generation and clan. Traditional foods: Ugali (cornmeal), cow blood, cow and goat milk and meat. The modern Maasai diet is complemented by the food available in the areas where they live.
  • History
    The Maasai are a mixture of Nilotic (from the Nile River) and Ametic (from North Africa). According to their oral history, they originated from the lower Nile valley north of Lake Turkana (in northwest Kenya) and began migrating south around the 15th century. Between the 17th and 18th century, they arrived at a long stretch of land from northern Kenya to central Tanzania where they forcibly displaced other ethnic groups as they settled. Maasai territory reached its largest size in the mid-19th century, covering almost all of the Great Rift Valley and adjacent lands from Mount Marsabit in northern Kenya to Dodoma in southern Tanzania. At this time the Maasai, as well as the larger group they were part of, raided cattle as far east as the Tanga coast in Tanzania. Today Maasai communities can be found in the highest concentrations from the Arusha Region in Tanzania to southern Kenya. A small rotating population of Maasai can also be found on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya, where they profit from the tourist trade. In recent years, many young Maasai men have found work as security guards on the Swahili coast as well as in more urban areas in the interior.
  • Culture
    ﷯Cattle are at the heart of Maasai culture; however, they also keep donkeys, goats and sheep. None of these animals, however, figure as prominently in their mythologies and culture as the cow. Wealth is conceived of in terms of how many cows belong to a particular individual or family. A popularly held belief among the Maasai for years was that God bequeathed to them all of the cattle on the earth, providing justification for cattle rustling and raiding other clans and tribes. This practice, however, is largely a thing of the past. The animals kept by the Maasai all have practical uses—meat, fat, blood, milk, hides, horns, tendons and dung are all significant resources and are treated as such. Customary Maasai homes (built by the women) are constructed with branches and a mixture of dung and ash. The beds they sleep on are made of hides. A typical Maasai community lives in a boma—a cluster of houses arranged in a circle, with a pen in the middle for the animals. A fence of thorny branches protects each community from predatory animals and/or invaders. ﷯Maasai society is highly structured. There are three different age sets, for males and females. Each age set has a distinct way of dressing and wearing their hair. In addition, there are specific rules that apply to the way that individuals from each particular age set and gender should interact with others. Elaborate ceremonies are held when an age set is to pass from one stage to the next. A custom that has been considered very important for Maasai to pass into adulthood is that of ritual circumcision, for both females and males. After a boy has been circumcised, he becomes a warrior, or murani. Murani are expected to look after the security of their communities and spend much of their time traversing their land, maintaining/establishing relationships with other clans, trading cattle, etc. After a girl has been circumcised, she is considered ready for marriage and is able to leave her family to create her own household. ﷯For both males and females, passing into adulthood is a crucial marker. The issue of female circumcision is a complicated one—while it is considered a proud moment for many, it is also believed that a circumcised woman is more well behaved and subservient to her husband. This belief is so pervasive that many Maasai men and women believe that an uncircumcised woman is unfit for marriage. There have been efforts on behalf of the Tanzanian government in recent years to crack down on female circumcision. While there are efforts from within Maasai communities as well as outside it to stop this practice, it still plays a role within their culture. ﷯A large number of Maasai families are polygamous. Maasai men are generally encouraged to marry as many wives as he can afford. According to the customs, if a Maasai man wants to marry a woman from his tribe, he must offer her family a large number of cattle, and visit them bringing gifts of honey wine and other items. Arranged marriages are not uncommon in the Maasai culture. Marriage is most often seen as a matter of convenience—there is a household to run and a family is needed to take care of the house and the animals. To many Maasai, the best measure of happiness is a large family and many cows; however, with the current economic state and environmental problems, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain such large families and herds. Music plays an important role in Maasai daily life and in ceremonies. The lyrics of their songs are poetic reflections on their history as a people, pride in their culture and customs, love for their cattle, accounts of their travels, quotidian songs related to their households and laments about how hard life can be. Certain songs exist as reminders, a to-do list of what needs to be done as they move about in their day.
  • Religion
    ﷯The Maasai are monotheistic, and their God is named Enkai or Engai. Engai is a single deity with a dual nature: Engai Narok (Black God) is benevolent, and Engai Nanyokie (Red God) is vengeful. The "Mountain of God", Ol Doinyo Lengai, is located in northern Tanzania. The central human figure in the Maasai religious system is the laibon who may be involved in healing, divination and prophecy, ensuring success in war or adequate rainfall. In the past century, many Maasai have become Christian, and to a lesser extent, Muslim.
  • Maasai Today
    The main issues impacting the Maasai today are land rights, global warming (frequent and longstanding droughts have killed off devastatingly large numbers of their livestock, as well as members of their community), and access to potable water, education and healthcare. For the Maasai, as well as with all of the tribes represented on this website, loss of culture as well as resistance to change due to a fear of the loss of cultural identity is a major problem. For example, initiatives have been taken by a number of organizations and communities to influence perceptions around female circumcision, polygamy, and the importance of education; however, there is a certain amount of resistance to these initiatives, due to a fear that these changes will destroy the foundations of Maasai culture. This is precisely why it is so important that these initiatives come from within the Maasai community and not aggressive measures from the government or those not sensitive to the needs and identities of these communities and cultures.
Maasai