It pains me to see the suffering of our people all over, year after year! The Maasai people have since time immemorial followed the cow from behind its tail. I think it’s time for us to change position and lead the damn cow by the horn!
The cow has always been a symbol of life for the Maa people. The paradox is that, it’s becoming the degenerating factor hence represents what is regarded by our people as, impossible to do away with.
The indigenous tribe in Kenyan and Tanzania depends or use to depend on their cow for just everything. To eliminate the cow in their lives is like successfully switching off the life saving artificial lung on a patient who cannot breathe on his own, leaving him to succumb to a painful and slow death.
The glorious moment for the Ilparakuo (wealthy people) seems to have eluded the warrior tribe long time ago. The Maa folk are suffocating due to cumulative pressure resulting from all dimensions of life. Maa folk have no breathing space, despite having been the majestic defenders of Kenya’s north frontiers, the plains of the cold waters, (what is now Nairobi), against any intruder, they themselves are running short of grazing land.
Apart from keeping their territorial boundaries, they also defended the wildlife that naturally inhabits the areas. Now, they have become one among the BIG 5 plus the Maasaiwarrior. A symbol of hard foreign currency, a true Gold mine for the ruling elite. I always think it’s pitiful to see us jump, so high for nothing, not even respect and you would turn on CNN and the magical Kenya welcomes you to Kenya, to see magical sundowners in the horizons as wide as the smiles of the leapping Maasaiwarriors who welcome you. Not any other ethnic group is shown apart from the Maasai. Why?
In any case, all along, the cow has always inspired the Maa warriors and indeed, the almost holly animal provides them with just about everything they ever need.
Nothing in the cow goes to waste! Not even its dung. You speak of bull-shit in your streets in the west or in advanced cities in the world but many of you have only seen cow-dung on TV. You never touch it, walk it sleep it or use it on birthday ceremonies. The Maasai kids life is manifested around the cow dug, goat and sheep droppings, camel(for Sampur) drops and all of it is regarded as a sign of “parakuoisho” or wealth, for you wouldn’t walk or sleep cow-shit if you didn’t own a significant heads of cattle.
If you ask any Maasai kid what BULL-SHIT is, she will not stair in disdain thinking that you have just been rude on her, instead, she will tell you that, the dung from the bull is a fantastic building material that her mother uses to cement the roof of her hut! She’ll tell you that they sleep on a warm bed thanks to the shitting bull. The girls pick the dung every morning while it’s still warm for their mother to use later when need arises.
Yes, I can visualize all the beds I slept on during all my childhood. They all had one thing in common, bullshit! I even smell it right now as I write this… magnificent!
As I was facebooking around, I came across a just initiated debate courtesy of Enkishui E Maa, regarding the plight of the Maa people. The debate entitled “Which is the alternative economic activity that the Maa community can do to eliminate poverty?” was just getting reactions from Maa face-bookers and since I’m one of them, I was geared to give my reaction.
As much as I agree with most of you who are determined that the problem facing us today is of our own making, well, partlyJ, I also concur that if Kenya (the government) was responsible enough, being an independent sovereign state, it would be right to say that the Maa people are suffering not only as tourist object to be displayed in the markets abroad and at Bomas of our homes, but due to intentional negligence by the successive regimes in Kenya. Education is a basic necessity which should be entitled to every single individual in Kenya after 46 years of independence. Life is not static neither is the Maasai culture! We are a changing people so there must be a well drafted new lifestyle if we will make it as a people. Our holly cow must be replaced with some really good lifestyle but then the dilemma is who is going to choose the new way of life for all the Maa people?
The Maasai and all its ethnic groups is a beaten lot. Most of us live in misery but still many romanticize it and make it look like we are happy in hell! We cannot be happy when our children are dying, when our people are not involved in our young and “growing democracy”! The Maa people are very sad people. This is at least, according to my personal interpretation of our daily plight. So how come that we, who are supposed to be authentic and original, self aware, dignity and identity defenders are in search a misery?
The Maa people have lost everything but the red color that symbolizes our pride. Man cannot live on pride alone. Before, we had our color in animal skin that we used for clothing. As time went by, we borrowed the modern Shuka from our former colonizers and adapted it to be our new clothing which we can wear our color of pride in. We know that life is dynamic. This is why we have survived all this ages but things are not going well for us.
We must change something somewhere, somehow and don’t you say no. There are very well informed Maasai men and women (Ilaikitalak! O Nkaikitalak!). WE need them to re-educate the masses for our survival. You do not need to be a data expert or future analyst to be able to predict that the Maasai people as well as all other human beings who are less informed on the modern world, and are not participating on equal terms with others on issues like democracy and human rights, stands very little chance to survive.
I know Maasai are among the many ethnic groups who occupy a permanent minority position in Kenya and Tanzania so democracy would actually permanently exclude them from ever attaining equal representation. In democracy, the rule of the majority matters! You know the government of the people by the people thing? Still, democracy gives us humble room to negotiate and build opinions around matters of great concern for our society without being criminalized or intimidated for that.
More so, it’s all about numbers. This is why we need experts to help us out. How can we make the best out of a bad situation our people are at the moment? Remember, we still have to come out of the 4th world into the 3rd world where the rest of the Kenyans are today so that we can begin to speak of building Kenya together. Maybe am completely lost and so I stand for correction.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Maa must, at all cost change lifestyle. Allowing the cow to lead us, has shown far and above to be very dangerous!
We, as I said earlier, must lead the cow and even if it means riding it, let’s do it for our own survival. Let’s ride it to farm fields and grow maize and sell for cash. Let’s ride the defecating bull for a betting sports club or for a bull show in Namanga, Nairagie Enkare or Il-polei if there is any living cow remaining after all the long spells of drought and famine. It is not about what we have always done but what we are going to do that matters!
Ore orkiteng omunyak, in my opinion, naa olotimiraki aitami ropiyian nepikieki inkera sukuul. (The most blessed cow, in my opinion, is the one which has been sold and the money spent on children’s school fees)
It’s not about if we’re going to change or not but what kind of change we’re going to adapt. We’re aware that we’re shading the old retrogressive and depressive culture that does not fit in the modern world and embrace the new lifestyle however, we should be careful on what we throw away and what we get in return.
Everything comes with a price tag on it! The world is thus, giving us an ultimatum. Change or perish! To avoid taking the path of the extinct life, we must, as you say, think outside the “MAA TALKBOX!” It’s a gamble! Money or the box? Do you prefer culture and traditions or your own survival? When we survive, then we can also be able to dictate our destiny. Look around those Maa people who are” well off”. They can choose to ware shukas and eat meat and drink blood from their health food animals as it pleases them. Most of the so-called ”authentic” ones, have lost all the rights including the privilege to slaughter their own food animals let alone the God given rights to self determination. This is a direct product of BAD planning. U see, BAD GOVERNANCE (our own MAA government if you like) has failed us.
Being original is superb but being advanced in self determination is every society’s wish. So why has our country never ever wished upon itself to improve the living standard of our people?
The argument about not having financial capability does not hold neither does the lack of knowledge on what is best for us because we all know what we desire, given the fact that we interact with foreigners (local and international) all the time, as they come to watch us like the wild and take some Maasai nice photos and mail them together with the ones from the Mara, for their families. It’s no doubt that the Kenyan government may not have been willing to build infrastructures in our society and improve our livelihood. They need us that way for the sake our tourism andits solid hard foreign currency for the “State”, as one once said kaeni hivyo hivyo tu” continue staying like that way.
As a democratic government of the people for the people and by the people, it should act/be acting, in its position to defend us even against our own selves if indeed that is the case, after all, the government is supposed to protect the people!
Saidimu Ole Ngais.
September 15th 2009, Bagarmossen, Sweden.