Maasai

Title: Maasai

Dimensions 16” x 40”

2016, Oil on canvas

The story: adumu

The Maasai reside mainly in the south of Kenya and the north of Tanzania. The ones I have had the chance to encounter lived in a village about 3 hours south of Nairobi, Kenya. I was immediately fascinated upon meeting these people. They were tall, thin, elegant, strong and proud.

What surprised me the most is how they choose to dress and live traditionally. The modern world surrounds them and they are well aware of the differences and the way of life in the nearby cities. Many of the young men I met attended university in Nairobi to learn traditional farming methods in order to continue their family tradition of living off the land. They proudly choose to dress in the traditional Maasai colours of bright red and orange, and to wear layers of their own bead jewelry.

At the end of a long filming day, a few young men showed me an example of their traditional dancing ceremony called Adumu. Adumu is a dance performed at a coming-of-age ceremony where the young men become warriors. In this dance the men of the village form a circle, and one man comes to the center and jumps as high as they can while the others sing. The men chanting will change octave depending on how high the jumper can reach. He continues to jump until he is out of energy or another person takes his place. While jumping, they strive to keep their bodies straight and never let their heels touch the ground when they land. What impressed me so much about all of this was that it was the young men who organized this demonstration, and not the elders. For them it was a source of pride to keep the traditions alive. Despite their educations received in the modern city, they felt no embarrassment with living in straw homes, living a semi-nomadic lifestyle, and farming in the traditional ways.