Masai community is led by elder men, who make decisions and plan for the community. They are helped by the widows and other elderlies to accomplish cultural traditions and ceremonies in their community.
The Masai are nomadic pastoralists, although some are semi, they are cattle keepers, whose wealth is measured by the number of cattle and children one owns. Cattle keeping is done by the men, the women are responsible for housework and taking care of the children, they also make pottery and weave baskets.
The Masai main initiation ceremony is circumcision (emurrata), boys turn into men, after this ritual. There are many cultural rituals that are beheld in this ceremony from the day they are picked to when they are circumcised and nursed to complete healing. Circumcision is done by an elderly Masai man who is well experienced and believed to be chosen by the God, the boys have to be strong enough and are promised many gifts if they show their braveness, all this is done to ensure that they don’t shake, so that no mistake is made during the cutting. Girls were also circumcised, so that they are initiated into womanhood. It was believed that a woman who was not circumcised was not worth to be married and if taken, the bride price will be less. Today circumcision of young girls is no longer accepted, those who risk to do it be committing a crime, but male circumcision is acceptable.
The Masai use local available materials to construct their houses (engaji), the houses are mostly in rectangular or circular form and they built them together enclosed in a circular fence (enkang) which is made of trees with thrones. The Masai houses are made of timber poles, smaller tree branches, and its plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, urine, cow dung to waterproof the roof, and ash. Surprisingly, building of houses is done by the women and men only construct fences.
The Masai pierce their bodies and put markings, they also stretch their earlobes and put jewelry in them especially beads. To make those markings and pierces, they use thorns, twigs, stones, among others. The Masai also shave their hair during cultural rituals or on special occasions, this signifies a fresh start from one stage to another. Hair shaving is done when a child has been given a name, a woman is getting married, a boy who is going for circumcision and many other traditional occasions of the Masaai. Only warriors are the only members of the Maasai to grow their hair, which is styled and weaved in braids.
During their free time, the Masai enjoy entertaining themselves, they sing traditional songs as they dance, their most interesting dance is one were they jump as they shake their bodies, every one jumps so high so as to be the best dancer. Not only for leisure, the singing and dancing is also performed on traditional rituals like circumcision, marriage, religious among others. The Masai also tell stories to their families about their traditions and culture.
When a Maasai died, the body was left out for scavengers to eat, when the body wasn’t eaten, it would imply that it had a problem. Chiefs were the ones who were supposed to be buried, the Maasai believed that its harmful to the soil.
Family and marriage for the masai
The Masaai home is head by the father, who marries any number of wives if he is capable. Children are considered wealth by the Masaai and a man could give birth to more children as possible. The family members lived in harmony and each had a responsibility, elders taught the young ones their traditions and different activities. When the head of the family dies, the eldest son takes charge of the family, he takes care of his siblings and mother.
The marriage of the Masaai is arranged by elders without informing the bride and her mother and it happens after initiation of the boy and girl. When the man is ready to get married, he already has someone he admires, he goes to his parents and they also go to the woman’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. When the woman`s the family agrees, the man’s parents then proceed and arrange dowry for the woman`s family. The dowry to be given is cattle, goats, sheep, bed sheets, blankets and other gifts that may be desired. After that the marriage ceremony will proceed, many rituals are performed until the last day when the bride goes to her new home. The groom and his bride look unique and beautiful, they wear skin of cows with the red ochre applied on their bodies for decoration, their shoes are also made of the skin. Gifts are given to them by the groom’s family, friends and neighbors.
For the Masaai, the woman had no choice but to accept, if she had refused, she would be beaten until she accepts. Break ups were prohibited and if it happened, the woman has to take back the dowry to the mans family.
Dress code of the Masaai
The masaai women wear a large piece of colored cloth (kanga) that is wrapped around the body as a skirt or shawl. This cloth is usually dark red, which symbolizes their love for the earth and their dependence on it and also courage and blood that is given to them by nature. The cloth is also in other colors like blue, pink, and also stripped colors. Women also wear a sheepskin or goatskin (gorfa) dyed red or black and wrapped around the body, held in place with a leather cord and a rope belt on special occasions. They were bracelets made from beads, wood and many other jewelries to put on their body making them look more elegant and also a form of showing status. Not forgetting the feet, the masaai wear sandals made from cowhides.
Food for the Masaai
The staple food for the Masaai is meat, milk, and blood which is obtained by piercing the jugular vein. they also feed on sorghum, maize, rice, sweet potatoes, cabbage, fruits among others. During special ceremonies, the Masaai could slaughter bulls, oxen and lambs for the celebration.