Kenya Edition: “Melanin”

The Maasai are a Nilotic tribe inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania renowned for maintaining their culture and continually holding their ground as the original people of the region. They are indigenous to the lower Nile and their oral history dates back to the beginning of their migration north around the 15th century.

After experiencing the amazing Safari at Amboseli discussed in my last post, we visited the neighboring Maasai village. Twin and I were immediately greeted upon arrival by two senior tribesmen who were adorned in a strong shade of indigo. It has become customary to pay a small fee in cash (of approximately 25 USD as of October 2020) before visiting with the families to help support sustainable automonomy in such a rapidly changing international economy. This fee provides access to walkthrough the village, learn local herbalism practices, purchase handmade crafts directly from families, and visit the primary school grounds. I am glad that we used a local black owned business to facilitate our visit as it provided extra peace of mind to see the referenced fee go directly into the hands of the intended community.

We walked through an initial row of sustainable housing made of raw materials by Maasai women to a central area where the nine families convene. The most commanding hues of Melanin started to walk towards the center of the circle with warriors on the left and resilience on the right. They welcomed us to their home with a ceremonial song followed by forming a circle in opening prayer.

The world is a beautiful place where we are merely one degree of separation. The tribeswoman, Marie featured to the left smiled bright upon introducing herself to me during the ceremonial song when she heard me respond that my name is Lisa Marie. From that point forward, Marie always managed to find a way to stand next to me, hold my hand, and converse with me as best as we possibly could. A younger Maasai fluent in their tribal Maa and Intermediate English helped bridge the gap for us whenever we started to get lost in translation. I was so far from the original destinations I considered home, yet was completely covered.

When I start making fires in the backyard of my Chicago apartment, you won’t be able to tell me nothing! The Maasai men of the families brought us underneath a beautiful shade bearing tree to teach us how they build fires, plus herbalism techniques learned to support their nomadic lifestyle for health purposes. I already cannot remember exactly which kind of dung needs to be used at the base of the fire so I may need Fire Marshall Bill when I try this at home. All jokes aside, it was informative to watch them share the essentials that have been integral to sustenance. It also reinforced that the heart of what has the capabilities to heal us from the inside out lays within holistic remedies.

Black Power Intermission: Can we talk about these textiles our people are wearing? Black people are fashion!

After visiting the Chief’s house to meet with his mother since the matriarch is the epicenter of their culture, we walked to their local “market.” The market consists of two columns where tribespeople lay out blankets featuring their handmade crafts for purchase. Twin and I were split up so that each of us were assigned a row to support. I slowly walked down the row to speak to each vendor and pick a piece that spoke to me for myelf or a loved one. One of those vendors was the Chief and his beautiful wife. He immediately joked, “do you remember me?” I laughed and immediately picked up my favorite necklace of the whole entire trip to East Africa. The intricate beading is visibly crafted with intentional care. I continued to work my way down the line until the senior tribesmen had full hands. Exhaling hard, they walked me back towards the shade of the elder tree to negotiate.

The negotiations with the Maasai mirrored my recent negotiations at the The Maasai Market in Nairobi, except instead of writing numbers on a notepad while one and a half butcheeks are nestled on a stool, I was standing in a semi circle with tribesmen writing counter negotiations with a thin twig on their arms. When it was all said and done, I ended up with all of the crafts I wanted to support and a few complimentary gifts they gave to me. The only thing they asked of me was to please tell my friends about them! Of which I immediately responded, “they are about to get all of these essays!”

We rounded out our time in the village with a closing ceremonial song and a visit to the local primary school grounds. The song hit differently as we now knew the names to go along with each face and had an opportunity to get a brief glimpse into their backstories. Afterwards, they walked most of the way with us to the schoolhouse and gave us hugs goodbye as some of them reprised the song like we used to do at church when it settled into your bones. The tribesmen walked with us the rest of the way until we reached an open door with a sea of beautiful children inside. It nostalgically reminded me of the days I grew up in the daycare my mother above and Godparents taught at. They immediately smiled bright and waved followed by sharing the most harmonized version of the ABCs I’ve ever heard. We didn’t get a chance to stay with these scholars long since it was the end of their school day; however they still made an impact worth a lifetime.

In closing, I’d highly recommend making arrangements to visit this Maasai village after experiencing Amboseli National Park. Please use the following contact details to support a local Black Owned Business in the process:

Benson Kungu Jungleman
Jungle Empire Africa Tour Agency



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