CULTURAL NARRATIVE ACCOUNT OF MAASAI MORAN ASSESSING THE EXTENT TO WHICH HE IS A CORE MEMBER OF HIS CULTURE
The Maasai are well known all over the world mostly for their welcoming and beautiful culture that has kept attracting tourists from different areas to the regions where they reside. A Maasai Moran is a young man who has been initiated into the ways of the Maasai community and who is therefore ready to take up the responsibilities in his community as an adult. The Maasai community is found in the East African region in the Sothern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They generally lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle and can be found settled around game parks such as the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya which is within Narok County and the Serengeti game park in Tanzania. This study will examine the Maasai Moran as a key entity of the Maasai community culture, with an aim of determining the extent to which they are typical members of their national culture. The paper will delve in the description of the Moran from the Maasai community. The account will dwell on various aspects of culture but the main ones will include language, food and religion. However, the cultural exploration will be greatly based on the contextual analysis of the Maasai community, more specifically, the Moran cultural practices and how they exhibit them as typical cultural components of their culture. As known in the nations they exist, the Maasai Moran are at the core of the cultural practices of the Maasai people due to the fact that they are the most active group in regard to the cultural practices of the Maasai community. Therefore, this study will be seeking to present a narrative account of the Moran among the Maasai culture and try to determine how the Moran is a typical representation of his Maasai culture through exploration of the cultural aspects and analysis of the information collected through different methods to be able to gauge to what extent the culture is a representative of the Maasai culture.
This study made use of one of the Moran from the Maasai community that has settled in around Narok town in Narok County, which is one of the counties in Kenya. The Moran is aged 25 and his name is Isaac Oletiptip Nkaisery (Not the real name of the respondent for the study). The young man was born in a village called Longoibon, which is 500 Meters North of Narok town. As a child, he was raised up in Narok and went through the cultural celebrations of his birth and naming. He got educated in the African traditional way which involved passing of the cultural practices from his community elders to the youth through lessons that were conducted in specially prepared shrines known as Maa-Manyatta which literally means the Maasai home of wisdom. In the house of wisdom, Isaac went through thorough teachings and seasoning that was meant to prepare him for the tasks of the bys in the Maasai community. At the age of 18 years, Isaac was initiate din to adulthood through extraction of two of his lower teeth and became a Moran who was equipped with the knowledge and skills that made him ready for other bigger responsibilities in his community. The initiation gave him a green light to marry and to have a family and also to lead an independent life from the control of his parents because he was considered as an adult. Among the virtues and values of the initiation that he recounts as useful to him and his community are courage, leadership, being able to provide for the family and protecting the community against its enemies among others. Isaacs attitude towards his culture is superfluous in that he views his culture as a unique one that goes beyond the understanding of many people which is filled with values and virtues of togetherness and zeal to face life whatever the situation.
I sack was fully socialized into the culture of his community first through the celebration of his birth and his naming. Secondly, he was socialized through the passing of the great analogies and cultural aspect of the community through learning in the Maa-Manyatta by the elders of the community. Thirdly, he was socialized through the initiation that marked his transition from boyhood to adulthood. Fourthly, he was socialized in his culture through the traditional marriage ceremony where he acquired a wife with the recommendations of his elder kinsmen that helped to identify the best suitor for him. With all this, Isaac thinks that he is a typical representation of his culture and he and other morans like him are at the core of their cultures because they represent the most active group in regard to their communitys cultural practices and involvement.
Culture refers to the general way of life of a people. Culture is therefore an encompassing of all the behaviours, beliefs, art, morals, customs and way of life that are generally acceptable by all members of a certain group of people. Culture therefore generally defines the way of life of a people and their practices which make them unique from the rest of the people in the society. Exploration of the culture of people therefore tries to find all the details of all the aspects of their lives and practices such as the food they eat, their religious practices, their customs and codes of conduct that govern their behaviours, the various rituals and ceremonies that mark different events in their lives (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 2001. This being the case, the culture of a certain group can only be presented adequately by a member of that particular group of people because it is in the full socialization into the culture that one gets to interact with various different aspects of their cultures in totality.
Contextual background of the Maasai Culture
The Maasai culture is one of the East African cultures that are epic in nature and famous in the whole world. The Maasai culture has remained outstanding despite the passage of time. The coming of modernity to the African nations seems not to have affected the Maasai community for its various aspects such as dressing have remained intact to date despite the advancements of the people in East Africa and other parts of the world. The Maasai culture is one of the cultures that have remained resistant to the changes that have been brought by modernity. This is because its aspects have remained unshaken by the winds of change that has seen many cultures of the East African communities get diluted and modified to a great deal. Even though more than 80% of the communities of Kenya and Tanzania have changed their cultures especially the dressing cord and the housing aspects of their cultures, the Maasai people still use their traditional attires that consist of the red and black checked cloths which are universal for both men and women (Bruner & KirshenblattGimblett, 2003.). Only very few of the Maasai people have change their dressing codes to the modern suits, dresses and skirts as well as trousers and shirts.
The culture of the Maasai is seen by many in the East African region as a culture that has managed to uphold the African way of life despite the transitions from primitivism to modernity. The housing of the Maasai is one of the cultural elements that have remained unshaken by the changes that continue to transform African life styles. The famously known Manyatta; the Maasai houses are constructed by digging flexible poles into the ground and then bending them to make a shelter that is madden using soil to form a house (Tarayia, 2004). The houses of the Maasai have remained I their states and they seem not to be ready to change their housing especially given that a number of other African communities that are neighboring the Maasai community have changed their life styles over the past few decades and now embrace modernity. This housing has been a very key element of the Maasai culture in attracting tourists to the Maasai land.
According to Tarayia (2004) due to the rigidity of the Maasai culture and resistance to changes, many cultural aspects of the Maasai have remained intact and are therefore available for research of any kind on the cultural aspects of the community. That being the case, the Maasai culture is just a perfect choice for this study for it gives the true African culture that has undergone little, if any, transformation cause by modernity in the area. Furthermore, the Maasai community is found in the East African region where the culture is non-English speaking. This study proceeds by presenting a narrative account of a non-English speaking culture and the Maasai is therefore a perfect choice for the study at hand.
Established Stereotypes of the Maasai Culture
Stereotypes are generally beliefs that are over generalized about a particular group of people. In the areas where the Maasai are found, other communities have certain stereotypes especially in regard to the Maasai Moran. For example, the lions are believed to fear the Maasai Moran so much that on seeing a Maasai Moran, A lion takes off due to their fierce strength and fighting tactics. This stereotype has developed from the Maasai nomadic lifestyle which has exposed the Maasai Morans who are charged with the responsibility of herding cattle to all types of dangerous terrestrial animals. The Maasai are also believed to be people who are very welcoming but who would never allow strangers to settle amongst them. This is evident in their towns where almost 99% of the people settling those towns are Maasai people. They do not sell their land easily and this has helped a lot in preserving their African traditional culture amidst the changes of the modern life. Finally, the other stereotype generally held by the neighbours of the Maasai about them is that their women are hard to love due to the fact that they are circumcised. The other people therefore believe that the Maasai women are not sweet in bed and can only be married by Maasai men.
This study is purely qualitative and therefore, the methods that I employed in the collection of data were geared towards collecting data that is qualitative. As such the following methods were used in collecting the data for the study.
Interviews are face to face or over the phone conversation between the researcher and the respondent. In this study, I conducted direct face to face interview with Isaac where I asked him questions that I had prepared earlier and he answered them one after the other. I had to conduct the interview in a friendly manner and encourage Isaac to speak out his feelings and opinions regarding my questions by using appropriate facial expressions and nodding the head in agreement with what he said. The answers of the interview were recorded on tape by a tape recorder and were later used for the analysis of the data for the research study. Some of the questions that were used in the study include the following:
What makes you feel that you are a true representation of your cultural traditions and practices?
Is there any cultural practice of your community that you might not be aware of at your age?
Why do you think The Maasai culture, especially in regard to your practices as a Moran clearly represents the African culture of the Kenyan people?
The questions that I used in the interview as can be seen above were of the nature that encouraged Isaac to respond freely to them with as much detail as he wished or with as little detail as he wished to give. Furthermore, since Isaac is one of the Maasai Morans that has acquired the western education, he was able to respond to them easily without the need of a translator.
A questionnaire is a collection of questions t...
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