William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
MAASAI – A VANISHING CULTURE
Morani Warriors hold hands – it’s a sign of affection
Their vast cattle herds need constant protection
You can be sure that close by there is a well
Upon hearing the tinkle of a Maasai cow bell
Because without water the huge herds have to go
To far off green pastures, the cattle move slow
women and children, their sheep and their goats
cross croc infested rivers without any boats
Cattle give milk, blood, meat and cow hides
Without them Morani can not buy any brides
Beaded tribesmen now do the Maasai jumping dance
For the tourist masungus at the Safari rest camp
©Copyright May 23, 2005 by William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
Samburu Maasai People
“Hello Mr. Lasois – I am here sir – it’s me Billy.”
“Karribu Billy – you are welcome. Come in Billy; sit awhile let’s talk about how you stole the milk for the calf in your Father’s corral.
Paul loves to argue about the feeding of cattle and the raising of calves. We have a pleasant banter and meeting with him during my many trips to Africa with medical supplies is always a pleasure. Meeting a Maasai elder and some of the Samburu and Kikuyu lads is always a highlight of each trip.
Ose Paul Lasois presented (gave me, an old, fat, brown hated masungu), a precious gift of 2 Maasai Spears, which double as both swords and herding sticks – different spears for different uses – one short and the other quite long. These have hung on my den wall for the past eight years. He also presented me with a hand made cow bell which hangs (for good luck) at my front door.
Village blacksmiths who make hand-made spears and swords also make cowbells that are heard tinkling in pastures all over Maasailand. The tinkling of the bells is music to Maasai ears, (or so I am told). When I left Africa last August, Paul had 30 head of cattle in his family herd. Retired from his job as Headmaster at the local Maasai School he went back to raising livestock to support his family of 10 children. Paul is an ICROSS field worker and he lives in Kiserian, Kenya.
When a Morani is circumcised he is issued with his spear to protect himself, his family possessions, the cattle, and his people against tribal enemies and lions. He owns all the cattle on earth. These were given to him by N’Gai (God) and he must look after them and move them to greener pastures and ensure they have water. They in turn, give him milk, blood, meat, hides, and wealth. He can buy brides if he has cattle.
He earns his second (warrior) name such as Arab Ose Lasaois. As a Morani Warrior he gains status and is thought of as a protector; he braids his hair, wears beads on his knife sheath, he can doze upright on one leg for hours in his red blanket, occasionally gazing out over the landscape surveying his herds of sheep, goats, and the wealth of his cattle grazing upon it.
He knows the verbal history of his people and he knows his land and where the best pastures are and how a man should live upon it, hunting buffalo and lions along the way to new pastures, moving and leaving his thorn bush corral and manyatta bomas as the rains and seasons dictate. A man should live his life keeping his voice soft and his anger sheathed like his sword, and then he should not call upon its use until is justly required in the defence of his family, wives and children, his manyatta, his cattle, and his fellow warriors.
The tall, good-looking Morani of East Africa are masters of the earth and all they survey. Unfortunately they are a vanishing civilization as western culture and western clothes replace leather hide dresses, and.303s and AK47s replace spears and bows and arrows. The Morani have survived thousands of years of drought, tribal warfare, famine, and disease to be finally conquered by 4 wheel drive ½ ton trucks, economic markets, and poverty.
They are still a very proud people, but the ravages of HIV and AIDS has taken its toll and many of the young men and woman are either sick or are deceased leaving the grandmothers and small children.
May 22, 2005