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The Trials and Tribulations of the Tribe…

Waking up in camp, it was a beautiful moderately warm morning with a stunning blue sky with some scattered fluffy clouds making it ever so slightly overcast.

The temperature was that of a sunny spring day here in the UK, so you can forgive me for being greatly deceived by this. Once breakfast was over, it was all aboard the truck and heading for the local tribal village. I was in for a really eye opening experience, courtesy of my fellow traveller “Janice”.

Janice was a missionary from the US and she was an experienced, knowledgable and well travelled woman. I on the other hand, whilst moderately well travelled. I have to admit, I was like a lot of Westerners and ignorant of the goings on in Africa, other than Live Aid from the 80’s and what you read or see on the news or in publications.

We arrived at the tribal village in the middle of the Masai Mara and were welcomed by the tribe. They started us off with a dance from the tribes women and Janice which you can see from the short clip below, was keen to join in. I did eventually join in but I will spare you from my skills as a tribal dancer and stick to my photography and writing skills instead, which I am far better at. What I can tell you is, my talent where dancing is concerned is a definite nonstarter, more like two left feet.

We were then shown around the village and into a hut and just so you understand, this is what I learnt with Janice at my side and what was explained by the tribes women, so forgive me for the gruesome details.

The mud huts are built by the tribes women, who also take care of the men and the children and do all the chores except what is deemed male duties amongst the tribe. The only women excused from building duties, are those who are pregnant or are elderly.

The huts are also known as Bomba and are built out of the following materials; cow dung, mud, sticks, grass, human urine and ash. The walls are made of these materials and the roof can be made from almost anything: sticks, reeds, tin or anything that will lay flat. These structures are temporary as the tribe may have to move at a moments notice.

The duties are shared up as follows; Men herd and protect the livestock; women care for the children and the home, collect water and firewood, milk the cattle, and cook for the family. Women are also the ones to construct the homes.

Maasai wear the colour red because it symbolises their culture and they believe it scares away lions. Also, most of the men wear a shuka, which is a red robe. The women wear clothes that are colourful and decorated with beads. Warriors wear their hair in braids that are dyed red. The photo above is of a young boy herding goats and keeping an eye out for lions. He stood out on proud in his traditional colours stood on a mound of earth with his makeshift spear and I felt it necessary to capture this photograph as he looked simply stunning.

There are two rites of passage within the tribes and both involve circumcision. Janice brought up the topic and it was relayed like this.

Before Masai girls are married, they must undergo circumcision (FGM) in a ceremony that is mostly sponsored by their prospective suitors. Aside from the actual surgical procedure, the rite includes a ceremony in which the entire community comes together to celebrate the girl’s passage to adulthood. The reason for this is as follows; social acceptance, religion, hygiene, preservation of virginity, marriageability and enhancement of male sexual pleasure.

For the Masai boys who are aged between 12-25. First, the boys must give away everything that they own. Then, on the day of the ceremony which takes approximately two months to prepare for, the boys shave their heads and paint their faces with white chalk. They put on black cloaks and ostrich feather headdresses. Then, the village elders perform the initiation rights on each boy inside a small tent, where they are circumcised. The circumcision is done without anaesthetic, which as you can imagine, is pretty excruciating. The boy must endure this pain in silence, any expressions of pain will bring dishonour. The healing process takes about 3-4 months, and the boys are to remain in black clothes for a period of 4-8 months. After this ritual is performed, the boys are now considered to be warriors. These warriors are in charge of the society’s security, and during the drought season, both warriors and boys are responsible for herding livestock. 

It doesn’t stop there either. The men can marry as many women as they like. The Masai accept polygamy as a way of life and these women grew up with fathers who had married several wives.

I was literally cringing and crossing my legs all at the same time as I recoiled at the thought of what was being relayed and I was muttering quietly to Janice TMI!!!

After we wondered around the village and spoke with the tribe, we got to understand a little about their way of life and at that point the biggest threat was lions to their heard. They explained they at that point in time would kill the lion to protect their livestock. Lions are not currently endangered but their life remains uncertain, not because of the warriors but because of rabies. The practice of lion hunting and other wildlife has been banned in East Africa.

As I passed back through the village, there was this little beetle which caught my eye. There just a few feet away from me was the famous African dung beetle with it’s ball of dung, working hard to roll it to it’s final destination. I just had to get a photo of this. I then headed back to the truck where we return to camp to refresh for the evening, before continuing our long journey towards Uganda in the morning.

4 thoughts on “The Trials and Tribulations of the Tribe…

  1. Omg, this story is beautiful and shocking plus so real…this part about boys…

    1. Hey, thank you for taking the time to read. It’s certainly an eye opener. There’s more to come.

      At the time of hearing this, it was unbelievably shocking for me as we really don’t understand other cultures as Westerners. The tribes don’t know any other way and to be frank I don’t think they want to. This is their way of life and it’s a simple way. Why should it be interfered with by other cultures who think their way of life is the only way?

      I am not condoning FGM in any way as it must be an horrific experience! However, I do get their belief, though with what we know as Westerners this is misguided and the belief by the tribes is primitive.

      That’s the point though. Out there, there is no formal education to teach them otherwise, or at least there is through charity volunteer work but they largely refuse to accept it.

      It’s that saying. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

      Definitely food for thought…

      1. Very informative. The pictures do the prose justice. Love the depth of field on the photo of the boy. And love the natural and striking photo of the woman and her child.

        Men in this tribe seem to have a charmed life in that they do nothing. They don’t look after the women or build the huts or take care of the children.

        I actually know someone who had FMG performed on them. Not a good look. She suffered as a result and it’s not good for her mental health. Highlighted in the news to show why this shouldn’t be done. I know it’s their way, but like not all women are meant to be mothers, not all women should have this performed on them. Would be good to inform them of the consequences of such practices and the mental as well as physical aspects of this procedure. Male circumcising without anaesthetics isn’t a sobering thought. For that I think the boy needs a good shot, or 20, of any alcohol spirit to hand it numb the pain!!

        Beautiful insight. Keep sharing your experiences as it’s education and also widening experiences. I’ve travelled, but not been to deepest Africa. Closest is Tunisia and Egypt. The latter was beautiful and had dinner on the Nile. Actually been in a pyramid and the experience is epic. And climbing the stones that the pyramids are made of is not easy. They are huge.

        Anyway…this isn’t about me but Miss Davis. Keep reading and commenting on her informative, educational stories/ travel accounts and also the excellent photos taken by her capturing the essence of the moment.

        Speak on and encourage debate…

        1. You are spot on. The charities do try to educate but unfortunately it’s going to be a long time before Tribes will accept medical knowledge and education as it is their way of life.

          I pleased to read of you travels and what better way to educate others, than by sharing our experiences and we have all been to places another may not have done.

          It’s a pleasure to read this is educating you and others as well as encouraging possible future explorations.

          A photography should show the true depth of the subject and aim to capture the atmosphere. I also believe if it doesn’t show this, then it’s just another picture of nothingness and will teach the viewer nothing.

          Thank you so much for you insight and kind words Jason.

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