The Maasai

The Maasai are one of the most famous African ethnic people known today.  Living in southern Kenya and North central Tanzania these tall graceful people dress in many varieties of red and seem to refuse against all pressures to settle down to a village or agricultural life believing it a sin to cultivate land, as it is considered ruined for grazing after cultivation.  They are nomadic and live by herding cattle and goats.  Money is not important to them, they instead use cattle as a sign of wealth.  Instead of villages the Massai build temporary enkang, or corrals where the woman construct huts of clay, these are lived in for a little while and then abandoned.  

The Maasai are a very communal people, and from a very young age children are divided into age groups to which they remain faithful to throughout their life.  The boys and girls are kept together until the girls reach puberty, at which time they are immediately married off to men at least 2 age groups ahead of them.  Men advance through different divisions in their age group hoping to achieve the status of a warrior.  Traditionally, the only way to achieve this status is to single handily kill a lion with a spear. 

Known for their elaborate beadwork, the Maasai seem to be obsessed with red, they rub red dye all over their bodies and also cover themselves in elaborate red beadwork.  This beadwork is very famous and is one of the most common things which they trade.  The patterns of the beads identify different age groups of the Maasai and many times young men will cover themselves in beads.  Another art form of the Maasai is hair braiding.  Most Maasai will spend days doing elaborate hair designs.  Men will sometimes grow their hair into huge braids similar to the women.  


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