Ole Ngais On CNN Samburu beading.
We must differentiate between
different types of beadings.
Follow the facebook debate here. Visit the Maasai-Youth-Led Congress Facebook forum to follow how the Samburu and Maasai are reacting on the beads for rape as provided by the CNN reporter David McKenzie.
Category one: Non ceremonial beads. There is a beading which is non ceremonial. A part of wear that anybody can have anytime anywhere just as you would have any clothing. I wear beads myself even in a city where there are only two or almost three Maasai and Samburu. This type of beads are not harmful in anyway.
Category two: The ceremonial beads. The other type of beading, is the type you wear during ceremonial traditions. Fathers, mothers are beaded when they get children. Mother are given what is known by the Maasai as Imporo(long beaded necklaces) (What is the term in Samburu?) Mothers pride themselves when decorated by their children with Imporo which signifies their wealth, as mothers and the natural foundation of the Maa society. Fathers are beaded during initiation ceremonies with a bead lace around their heads. They also carry a beaded snuff containers made of small calabashes and beads. Young adults carry a certain bead chain around their necks (Esayei orporor) or the age-group’s chain. This is to symbolize that they’re young adults or elders and they belong to certain age group.
Category three: Regalia beads. Warriors carry the warrior regalia and the girls their girl regalia too. Even grandmothers have their special beadings.
Category four: Public leadership beads. Leaders are also beaded with (Encheta Narok) or Orinka Lo Laiguanani), the black yard stick and a leader’s club respectively. These types of beadings are just fine and I suppose the community would not have any reason to shed them off.
Category five: The Crucial beads (Or by CNN McKenzie, the “Rape beads”. The engagement beading. This kind of beading is done by adult men or even by the parent of the adult man as a symbol of engagement.
What is the problem?
The engagement would be OK if it was done by an adult man to an adult girl. Just like adult people in the other ethnic groups or in the west give flowers to adult women, or even engage with them based on a mutual interest. In almost all societies having sex with children is regarded as pedophilia. What should we call the case scenario reported by the CNN channel? If for sure the adult man was her relative, then it is even worse. Most of the ethnic groups in the world refer this as criminal congress. What shall we call it? Unlawful carnal knowledge? Or straight away incest? The problem now is that if we keep a narrow mind, a mind that is static, we may morally ignore the harm inflicted on the children for the sake of our common identity. How many of you want to continue allowing their names and identities be used by our common culture to perform such aggression on our daughters, sisters and family members? The problem is that a section of our retrogressive and perilous common identity (perceived identity) lure a number of us into darkness, a fantasy-less world of the mentally blind and mentally deaf and static figures, who rather die standing with a head full of ignorance than, if must be, die fighting to survive the dynamics of this changing globe with an open mind. Who is doing the community of Sambur/ Maasai a service? The one who refuses to change for survival or the one who carries dignity into that dynamic world, and with an open mind, select the best of all cultures and combine with the best of their native culture and survive the inevitable changes? Do you now see our problem?
The girls are engaged before they attain 18 years of age.
By culture, a Samburu/Maasai girl is not allowed to conceive before shes’ (initiated) or what is referred to as genitally cut.
One scenario: The beaded girl-child who is now culturally sanctioned despite her childhood age (CNN’s Josephine is 12 years old), to provide sexual intercourse to the man who booked her. It does not matter how old the man is. Another scenario: Sometimes it can also be a young boy whose parents from both sides have agreed to engage him with a girl who could be older. This could also lead to unspoken trauma to the boy who may find himself under a cultural pressure to play a fiance’ to the elder girl. Some school going boys, after they undergo initiation and gain a rich open mind, go on with their true dreams seeking to understand the world, keeping their cultural knowledge safe and sound. Some of these boys may have been engaged to girls chosen by their parents but instead, they make their own choices which may always be popular among their relatives. The boy-child naturally sustains lesser damages that their female counterpart.
The Maa people, A community on transition.
Everybody knows how the Maasai and Sambur generate extensive solid foreign income to Kenya through tourism and Meat, skins and hide products. If you were to be truly honest, do you think that Kenya wants the Maasai and Samburu to shed off their indigenous culture and embrace another lifestyle that may not include all that attracts tourism to Kenya today?
Also, I know that the new constitution contains a very powerful Bill of Rights that essentially provides a dynamic foundation for all Kenyans to accept positive change and development. To come out of poverty. That the government shall build proper modern infrastructure so that such contents found in our homegrown constitution could be spread from the inner-city of Nairobi to every little village down the forgotten valleys, hills and sand dunes, plains and river banks of our mighty land.
But what about the tourism industry? Will the 2 million western tourists ever visit Kenya again? To see what? The new blocks and architecture imported from the West or China?
Personally, I have understood that very many actors (not all), wants to have the Maasai and the Sambur in the same degrading life’s situation as they’re living today. They’d tell us to maintain our “ culture and traditions”. This is one indirect way of telling us, “we can not provide you with all what the constitution entitles you because you conduct a lifestyle incompatible to such modern facilities. They tell us, we can not build schools because you keep on moving with your cows. The government can not provide proper houses because you’ll move and live them behind. You have not reason to ask for safe drinking water because you’ll move away from it with your cattle anyway, when the rain drops on the other side of the hill. Your children can not enjoy quality education. You choose to have them take care of your many cows which you don’t realize they’ll die off or we’ll buy them at a throw away price at the beginning of every dry season if you don’t open up your mind.
Many actors pretentiously display a helping hand while their true ambitions are indeed to contain these society. The government would rather feed you with relief maize to keep you a life, enough to be usable as a tourist attraction object than formulating long lasting political policies to help the pastoral communities through their natural cultural transition phase. But we continue to walk blind and deaf as if we don’t care. That is why you realize we get confused when a news channel reports the bad part of our culture Instead of taking up the challenge and reform, we play victim putting sentiments to lead us instead of widely opening our minds for new perspectives and dimension and be self critical! Self critical for our own survival.
We are destined to extinction like the dinosaurs who were too big to change, if we continue protecting that rotten part of our perceived culture.We would go on supporting some of the insiders who are intelligently working to contain us, keep us in primitivity for the sake of tourism and their sickening luxury. We will continue to be systematically exploited by our own state as other proud themselves with the solid foreign income generated at yours and my peril. In the end, we will die off with heads full of ignorance and an identity we thought we build it ourselves alone. We are who we’re because of others around us.
The Swahili puts it this way, Ki-kulasho Kinguoni mwako! Roughly translated: What itches you is what is in your clothes. Take it or drop it like its hot.
The “ CNN MacKenzi’s “Rape beads”
To answer Teriano’s last question, on what the reporter McKenzie called “Rape beads”, The type of beading that is done by a adult man to a child are according to McKenzie’s definition, “The Rape beads”. McKenzie held the beads about a Kilo or two in his right hand showing the cameraman before he defined them as Rape beads. In my description above, I have clarified to some extent, the different categories of beadings among the Maasai and Samburu people. All other beadings are OK. It’s the category five beading which are dangerous to our survival, they legalize pedophilia and child abuse. They legalize forced crude abortion by squeezing the foetus out of the baby (12 year old Josephine) The category five beads allow child mishandle by men who may be much older than them. They encourage dowry, or if you like, the selling of girls to husbands they’ve not known before, or the “beadsman”
The rape beading in the McKenzie’s CNN story, is that type that evokes the Samburu culture to be the agent that provides the legality for child abuse. The one in the CNN story that is the basis for 12 years’ Josephine’s pregnancy. For me, those are the “Rape beads” In fact, in the reporter had put it mild, they should be “Incest Rape Beads”
Once again, we are not talking about the well documented systemic armed forces torture, the state sponsored killing of Sambur, especially in Lerata and Kanampiu which I personally opposed with all I could. We can have that forum anytime soon.
Support Kulea Rescue Mission
I will get in touch with Kulea. I will do what I can to support her in that mission. I know she’s right. Regardless of whatever cultural cost it may demand. I take this opportunity to congratulate her for her heroic rescue. By protecting one or two girls, Kulea has done more to safeguard our cultural dignity and identity for future generations better than all of us combined.
I was taken aback to hear someone whom I thought all along to be a friend of ours even suggesting that FGM is not a crime. That is is even conducted in a serial TV show called Nip-Tack, a very liberal and vulgar (to some) late night show in the West.
I am still shocked to learn this from such a person I thought to be a friend. This is why we must be careful.. who we entrust our destiny to. I wish this was just a mis-talk when the individual suggested that those media houses reporting on FGM are doing it for cultural bashing… FGM is criminal in Kenya.
Suggesting that it is even done in the West for beautification and that it shouldn’t be ANYTHING TO CAUSE ALERM IS SINCERELY dangerously ignorant towards the effects of FGM. So many Maasai/Samburu boys and girls are traumatized by the effects related to female genital mutilation.
Suggesting to promote such a torture disqualifies anybody from any moral authority to defend this society. However, I realize it could be difficult to understand FGM if you’re not personally directly affected by it.
Male domination in our society is directly related to FGM. Girls are cut to give men authority to own them. To deny them education, equal opportunities as the boy. FGM is not conducted in Maa communities for beauty…. Samburu or Maasai’s FGM is not Nip-Tuck. There are no plastic surgery Drs. McNamara and Troy. This is an old practice to contain society/woman and controlling her sexuality while men moved with their cattle.
Today, Maasai don’t’ have land for such pastoral practices, they have no cows due to repeated droughts and famine and a poor governance. The Maasai and Samburu are on transition towards a better world, whether we like it or not.
The best we can do now, is to help us select the best of all cultures and maintain our dignity, seek for justice for the historical injustices done on us and above all, ensure that the new constitution provides to us with equal opportunities as to other ethnic groups in the country.
Saidimu Ole Ngais.
Reacting on the facebook forum on the CNN article by McKenzie. See article here