Monday, February 22, 2016


       Most of you have probably already heard of the Maasai people, the majority of whom reside in southern Kenya and northernTanzania.  They are principally pastoralists who moved across the great plains with their cattle, often burning the grasslands behind them to help new pastures emerge for their return.  They are a tall people, many of the men over six feet.  They are also warriors who believe that all cattle in the world have been bestowed upon them by their god Ngai. This has conveniently allowed them to consider anyone else's cattle as their own, though cattle rustling or recovery, whatever you want to call it, is on the wane.

       Our tour group's first encounter with a Maasai was with William, who works as liaison with the local Maasai villages and Thomson Safari at their Eastern Serengeti location:

       William spoke excellent English and, together with another Maasai, gave a brief presentation of the ways of the Maasai.  The following day he took us to the Enjipai Women's Group so that we might purchase some of the Maasai renowned and stunning beadwork.

       Before we were invited into the shopping compound, surrounded by a circular fence of thorn bush and wooden huts for shade, they performed a dance.  I wish I had taken more pictures, but I'm afraid I was too enthralled to think about it. 

       Soon, however, it was down to business:

Here are some examples the beadwork:

Maasai Beadwork                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016 

Maasai Beadwork                                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

       While we were admiring the jewelry, the usual rhythms of Maasai life continued.  This little boy had been sent to fetch water quite a distance from the collaborative: 

Here Maasai teens herd their sheep to pasture:

     Our own adolescent boys on the tour, one American, two Canadians, and a Londoner, did not take any notice of the elaborately crafted beadwork.  Rather, they made a beeline for the tables offering traditional rungas, clubs thrown in warfare.   It is a symbol of the Maasai male's warrior status and is always on his person.  The rungas up for sale were ceremonial, with lovely beadwork woven around them, which did not deter our male adolescent travelers.  Here is a runga, with the de rigueur knife:

                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

Bargaining                                                                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

      I don't enjoy bargaining but it was expected, so I sent Jim into the fray with the items we had selected, two bracelets and some beautiful coasters.  He came out wiping his brow, and said, "These women are not shy, and they are very good at saying, 'No, too low!'" 

      William, Thomson's liaison with the Maasai, told us how vital the development of the Enjipai women's group has been.  A portion of the profit of each item goes to the original maker as well as the community funds.  Those funds are spent on education and healthcare.  In this patriarchal society, that these women bring in cash now gains them additional respect.

       It was a remarkable morning, and we came away with wonderful souvenirs and memories.  In my next entry I'll write about our trip to a Maasai village and the school that some of its children attend.

       Thank you for reading the Windflower Weekly.  See you soon --




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