July 3, 2016

2232, 2647 TANZANIA (Arusha) - Maasai people

2232 Maasai dancers

Posted on 22.01.2016, 03.07.2016
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people, pastoralists, inhabiting southern Kenya (840,000) and northern Tanzania (800,000), i.e. the African Great Lakes region, and are famous for their fearsome reputations as warriors and cattle-rustlers. As with the Bantu, and the Nilotes in Eastern Africa, the Maasai have adopted many customs and practices from the neighboring Cushitic groups, including the age set system of social organization, circumcision, and vocabulary terms.

2647 Maasai men

It seems that the Maasai originated from the lower Nile valley and began migrating south around the 15th century. Their territory reached its largest size in the mid-19th century, and covered almost all of the Great Rift Valley and adjacent lands. Followed a period of epidemics and drought (1883-1902), and another one when the British evicted them to make room for ranches. In the 1940's they were displaced from the fertile lands between Meru and Kilimanjaro, and most of the fertile highlands near Ngorongoro.

Maasai society is strongly patriarchal, with elder men deciding most major matters for each group. They are monotheistic, worshipping a single deity called Enkai or Engai. The end of life is virtually without ceremony, and the dead are left out for scavengers, since the burial is believed to be harmful to the soil. The Maasai lifestyle centres around their cattle which constitute their primary source of food. They eat the meat, drink the milk and on occasion, drink the blood. The measure of a man's wealth is in terms of cattle and children.

Every 15 years, a new generation of Morans or Il-murran (warriors) is initiated, the rite of passage from boyhood to the status of junior warrior being a painful circumcision ceremony. A myth is that each young man is supposed to kill a lion before he is circumcised. Actually the lions hunting has been banned, yet still it happens when they attack the livestock. The houses (inkajijik) are either star-shaped or circular, and are built on a framework of timber, interwoven with a lattice of branches, plastered with a mix of mud, grass, cow dung, human urine, and ash. Villages are enclosed in a circular fence (enkang), usually of thorned acacia.

Clothing (matavuvale) varies by age and location. Young men, for instance, wear black for several months following their circumcision. However, red is a favored color. They began to replace animal-skin with commercial cotton cloth in the 1960s. Shúkà is the Maa word for sheets traditionally worn wrapped around the body. One piece garments known as kanga, a Swahili term, are also common. Maasai near the coast may wear kikoi, a type of sarong that comes in many different colors and textiles.

Many Maasai in Tanzania wear simple sandals. Both men and women wear wooden bracelets. The women regularly weave and bead jewellery. This beadwork plays an essential part in the ornamentation of their body. The piercing and stretching of earlobes is also common, as well the removal of deciduous canine tooth buds in early childhood. Head shaving is practiced at many rites of passage, warriors being the only members of the community to wear long hair, which they weave in thinly braided strands.

Eunoto, the coming of age ceremony of the warrior, can involve ten or more days of singing, dancing and ritual. The warriors of the Il-Oodokilani perform a kind of march-past as well as the adumu, or aigus, sometimes referred as "the jumping dance" by non-Maasai. A circle is formed by the warriors, and one or two at a time will enter the center to begin jumping while maintaining a narrow posture, never letting their heels touch the ground. Members of the group may raise the pitch of their voices based on the height of the jump.

About the stamps
On the postcard 2232
The first stamp is part of the series Wild Animals of Tanzania, issued on 31.08.2009. The second is part of the series Material Culture, issued on March 15, 2012.

On the postcard 2647
The stamp is part of the large series Ceremonial Costumes of Tanzania, issued on November 30, 2013.

References
Maasai - Wikipedia

Sender 2232: Charity Haule Kasusa (direct swap)
Sent from Dar Es Salaam (Dar Es Salaam / Tanzania), on 15.12.2015
Sender 2647: Haley
Sent from Dar Es Salaam (Dar Es Salaam / Tanzania), on 17.12.2015

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