Sample Research Paper on Maasai Tribe

Maasai Tribe

Introduction

The Maasai tribe is considered as one of the oldest tribes in Africa. This is largely because the tribe has maintained certain attributes that are not only unique to the daily lives of members of the community but are also those which are considered as distinguishing features from other tribes in the African context. This study drew information from photovoice and from interviewing two individuals who has lived with members of the Maasai tribe. The information derived through an interviewing process is considered vital as these individual will provide firsthand information on matters related to the Maasai tribe. The study aims at developing an understanding of the Maasai tribe in terms of their way of live. This will be through an elaboration of different concepts that are definitive of tribes and these include gender identity, age identity and family history.

Age identity

The concept of age identity makes reference to inward experiences of an individual in relation to the said person’s age and aging process (Gowland & Thompson, 2013). Age identity is therefore an outcome of a process through which an individual easily identifies with a group of people or differentiates him from other groups based on their ages (Gowland & Thompson, 2013). Age identity is therefore some form of subjective experience of aging. The essential measure to age identity is subject to individual biases of activities belonging to different age groups. Age identity is considered as an essential aspect in all cultures largely because it is an essential determinant of the consequences of individual development overtime (Gowland & Thompson, 2013).

In the Maasai tribe, age identity is a cultural concept that is related to numerous Maasai ceremonies and rituals. These rituals and ceremonies are often conducted as an indication of a rite of passage or movement from one age set to another (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012). It is however important to note that in the Maasai tribe age sets are often unique to boys and their movement from one age set to another is an indication that they are being prepared for adulthood (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012). Among the women there are no age sets but are often recognized by their husbands. Ceremonies that are unique to women of different ages are those that focus on circumcision and marriage,

Enkipaata for instance is a ceremony in the Maasai tribe that is attributable to the concept of age identity. It is the first boy’s initiation ceremony and it is organized by the fathers of boys aged 14 to 16 years. The ceremony presided over by the chief is often to celebrate the formation of the first age set (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012). After this ceremony the boys are considered ready for the most important initiation process among the Maasai, Emuratare (circumcision). Emuratare is a ceremony that is performed shortly after puberty and it involves both the male and the females in the society (Hodgson, 2001). Through this process, the boys are not only initiated into adulthood but they are also allowed to become an essential part of the Maasai community, the warriors (Hodgson, 2001). The boys that undergo the circumcision process are elevated from mere boys into adults. It is important for the boys with the desire to belong to the group of warrior to prove themselves by carrying spears and herding cattle. For the women this is often an indication from childhood to adulthood. A circumcised woman is considered an adult and ready for marriage which is also an important ceremony for the women (Hodgson, 2001).

Emanyatta is the ceremony that is unique to the men after circumcision. These men are selected to become Morans whose responsibility is often to protect the community form external attacks. After ten years the Maasai also conduct another ceremony Eunoto is considered as a transition process of the Morans where one becomes a senor warrior in the community (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012). Through this ceremony, the senior warriors are allowed to marry and have children considering that they have the ability of providing the necessary protection to their families (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012).

Gender identity

Gender identity is a concept tha is often used in the process of understanding an individual’s sexuality. It is often internal and deeply felt sense of belonging to the male or female gender (Kaufman & Williams, 2010). It is important to note that gender identity and an individual sexual orientation are often different since the former identifies with the way an individual feels concerning his manhood or womanhood. Since it is internal and not often invisible to others it is personally defined and relatively unique concept (Kaufman & Williams, 2010).

In the Maasai tribe gender identity is largely considered as a cultural concept. It largely focuses on the cultural notions of masculinity and femininity. In the Maasai culture, gender identity is synonymous to being a woman or a man. The Maasai tribe like all the other communities often has categories of gender that play the role of forming social identities in relation to the role of other members within the said community. Among the members of the Maasai tribe one distinguishing feature that plays the role of providing the difference between male and female is the length of hair. This aspect is used in providing a sense of gender identity among the male ad the females in this society. The men in this tribe are culturally allowed to keep lengthened hair as this is considered as an aspect that portrays their masculinity. In addition, the hair of a man among the members of the Maasai tribe is also a symbol of authority and beauty. This is especially considering the fact that men are allowed to lengthen their hair and have it dyed in different colors (Hodgson, 2001).

The beauty of women in this tribe in in shaved hair. Women among the Maasai are popularly identified by the bald heads and a large hole in their earlobes. The large hole in their earlobes is a symbol of beauty while the shaven hair is not only a symbol of beauty but also a symbol that they accept the authority of their husbands.  Other than the openings in their earlobes, women in Maasai tribe are also popularly known for the large quantities of beads that are home made to form large necklaces. The necklaces that are fashioned indifferent colors and sizes are often meant to portray the beauty in women (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012).

Gender identity in the Maasai tribe does not erupt from an inward feeling but from culturally identified norms which are definitive of numerous aspects including gender roles in the community. The sexual identity of an individual is considered as a biological aspect which also infers the cultural expectations of the society towards the said individual. There are roles that are identified as those of women and the roles identified as those belonging to men. Girls in the Maasai community play the roles of assisting their mothers in taking care of the home and performing all the other roles within the homesteads. These roles include child rearing, making of houses, cooking and ensuring high levels of hygiene within the homesteads (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012). It is important to note that culturally it is the role of a woman to bear children for her husband. This is a role that girls within the community take up after circumcision and marriage. The men in the Maasai tribe are responsible for the provision of financial resources, the provision of security and the sale of livestock in the family and in the community.

Family history

Family history when perceived as a cultural concept presents a perspective of an individual’s lineage. This lineage provides an understanding of the roles that different members of a specific lineage have been playing in the development of the society (Hareven, 2000). The family history of an individual will therefore play the role of defining the future roles of an individual subject to the roles played by his or her fore fathers. In numerous communities, an individual from the lineage of kings and chiefs is expected to be an active participant in the leadership of the specific community (Hareven, 2000).

In the Maasai tribe family history also plays a role in defining responsibilities of different individuals within the society. Traditional chiefs and elders in the Maasai tribe are chosen from lineages that have in the past provided some form of leadership for the members of the community (Hodgson, 2001). This is based on the religious beliefs in the powers of ancestors in the lives of the living. It is a common belief among members of the Maasai tribe that the ability to lead is hereditary and the deceased leaders of the community will always provide their authority and abilities to lead through their children and grandchildren in positions of leadership.  The selection of warriors to form part of the Maasai Morans, during the Emanyatta ceremony, is also dependent on an individual’s family history (Hodgson, 2001). It is a requirement for potential warriors to not only validate their abilities through demonstration of personal attributes such as courage and agility, it is also expected that the individual selected to become part of the Morans are from a lineage of warriors. This is founded on the notion tha the warrior will provide the community with some form of constant protection against external attacks (Meikuay & Ntirkana, 2012).

Among members of the Maasai tribe marriage is considered as a significant step in the man’s and woman’s family. The parents and other senior members of the community have the responsibility of organizing marriages. In some situations, marriages are organized when girls are still children and it is often done without the consent of the woman. The process of choosing spouses on behalf of the children is often based on among other factors the family history of the concerned individuals. A family that enjoys a family history of wealth, higher status in the community and leadership roles is most likely to get spouses from families that enjoy the same privileges within the society. For example among the Maasai, it is possible for the daughter to a chief to be married to the son of another chief. This is often aimed at maintaining the family status in the society (Hodgson, 2001).

Summary

Culture, gender and religion are the most essential aspects in the understanding of the Maasai tribe. Through these aspects it is relatively easier for an individual to understand matters related to gender identity, age identify and family history among members of the Maasai tribe. The Maasai tribe unlike other tribes has not been faced by numerous cultural alterations over time. Their understanding of matters such as time and age has its basis on prevailing weather conditions and climatic seasons.

The study of the Maasai tribe has provided a new insight on matters related to cultural communication. This is largely due to the understanding that every culture prevails on its own and unique customs and traditions. Maasai tribe is one among few tribes tha allow men to keep long hair while the women shave their hair. It is often common among other cultures for women to keep long hair as a sign of beauty. Organized marriages without the consent of the children are also an attribute that distinguishes the Maasai tribe from many other tribes around the world.

There are numerous practical implications that can be derived from the study of the Maasai tribe. One of the implications is that cultural studies require the scholars to engage in an independent search for information about every culture and minimize the possibility of generalizations. One way through which an effective cultural study can be conducted is by engaging in participatory research where the researcher must live with the community that is under study. Through such a process it will be easier to collect verifiable and authentic information that is most important in the understanding of a specific culture relative to other cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Gowland, R., & Thompson, T. J. U. (2013). Human identity and identification.  Oxford

University Press

Hareven, T. K. (2000). Families, history, and social change: Life course and cross-cultural

perspectives. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press.

Hodgson, D. L. (2001). Once intrepid warriors: Gender, ethnicity, and the cultural politics of

Maasai development. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kaufman, J. P., & Williams, K. P. (2010). Women and war: Gender identity and activism in

times of conflict. Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press.

Meikuaya, W., & Ntirkana, J. (2012). The Last Maasai Warriors: An Autobiography. New York:

Greystone Books.