TANZANIA: A COUNTRY OF NATURAL WONDER
Tanzania is an East African country well known for its expansive national parks, home to majestic animals such as lions, giraffes, elephants, and zebras. Tanzania is also home to the incredible Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Just a short trip off the coast is Zanzibar, the Spice Island, with its strong history, lush tropics, and pristine white sand beaches.
The O'Brien School for the Maasai is located just a few miles away from the Kilimanjaro International Airport, halfway between the cities of Arusha and Moshi.
OUR VILLAGE AND VILLAGERS
SANYA STATION IS HOME TO THE MAASAI TRIBE
The Maasai tribe is one of the most famed tribes in all of Africa due to their residence amongst the animals in the National Parks and their distinctive appearance. They are a pastoral tribe who often consider their cattle to be just as important as their own children. About 90% of our student population are Maasai.
CLEMENCE - SANYA STATION VILLAGE MAASAI ELDER
“THE Maasai tribe is still doing things in the Old way.
We are too far back.
WE NEED HELP SO WE DO NOT LOSE OUR CHILDREN. THEY NEED EDUCATION.”
maasai mamas are incredibly important and resilient.
The women do most of the work for the families. As the boys graze and protect the homes, the men lie under trees or visit with other Elders throughout the day. The women, however, get up early and stay up late to cook, clean, repair the homes, farm, play with the children, milk the cows and goats, and go to the market. All in all, the men are still considered the head of the family which prevents the women from ever being able to make major decisions or to speak out against her husband.
To learn more about our women, click here.
MAASAI HAVE MAINTAINED THEIR UNIQUE, STRONG, TRADITIONAL CULTURE
The Maasai and Maasailand.
The Maasai span between Kenya and Tanzania. Maasailand is separated into almost 12 different sections and ours are located in the Ilkisongo section.
Maasai from our region may dress differently, speak in a different dialect of Maa, host different ceremonies, build houses in a unique way, and even organize their tribe in a different authority.
The Maasai are known for their brightly colored clothing and beautiful, handmade jewelry. Powerful colors, such as red, teal, green, orange, and yellow, enhance their identities. All jewelry is handmade using glass beads and stiff wire.
As in any culture, for celebrations, weddings, and ceremonies, the garb can be quite spectacular.
Maasai people used to live entirely on cow's meat, milk, and blood. A special process of shooting a small arrow into its jugular vein would drain some of the blood to sustain the warriors during their long treks.
Nowadays, our villagers eat beef, goat, sheep, some vegetables, ugali, rice, and beans.
Young men and women often prepare for the married life anywhere from 12 - 16 years old for the girls and 26 - 35 years old for the young men.
Girls get circumcised shortly after reaching puberty and are deemed fit for marriage after. The boys get circumcised after puberty also, but typically wait until they are Junior Elders in order to wed.
To become a WARRIOR, Part I.
The boys' circumcision process is strenuous, allowing them to prove their bravery and strength for Warrior life. Elders select boys, who then get circumcised in groups. They stay up for 24 hours, enduring ceremonies from their fellow Warriors and Elders.
Eventually, they are cut without any numbing agents. If the boy shows any pain or flinches, the circumcision will be deemed unsuccessful and he may never become a warrior.
To become a Warrior, part II.
The boys, while healing, dress in black clothes, carry spears, and paint their faces with white pigment. They leave their homes to prove their bravery. Sometimes they are gone for months.
Traditionally, they'd hunt lions and bring back tokens of their kills to prove their strength. Now, they hunt less endangered animals.
The Maasai practice polygamy, meaning one man can marry many wives, as long as he pays the bride price. Often, the weddings are arranged when girls are quite young.
Maasai also practice polyandry, meaning that a woman marries both her husband and his circumcision group. They are allowed to also be with her when her husband is not around.
Maasai weddings are simple but very colorful. Women advise the bride on how to behave toward her husband. They are both blessed, washed with milk and fat from their cattle, and escorted to their new homes.
The woman will build a new home for herself and future children. A man with many wives will have many huts.
The wise ELDERS.
As the men transition from being warrior into Elderhood, they often hear ancient proverbs such as: "Now that you are an elder, drop your weapons and use your head and wisdom instead..."
We host special meetings with the Village Elders because they are the most respected people in the Maasai society. Without their buy-in, our initiatives and programs
would likely fail.
The Maasai used to be nomadic because they would follow the rains to find green pastures for their cattle. Our villagers are quite settled but send their older boys to graze with their cattle in distant lands.
Since Sanya Station villagers are more settled, they adapted to a pastoralist lifestyle and find ways to live in extremely harsh conditions.
the modern MAASAI.
The Maasai, especially those near cities, are modernizing. Maasailand is shrinking, and food for the cattle is becoming scarce. Modern Maasai still have traditional customs and ceremonies, but they build cement homes, convert to modern religions, and adapt to city life.
Many Maasai are learning the importance of education in order to find jobs in the cities.