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Daily Nation : February 27th 2014
DAILY NATION Thursday February 27, 2014 DN coverstory 3 FILE | NATION Above: The dinnng area of the Enashipai resort. Top right; The entrance to the Enashipai Maa Museum. Bottom right: a life-size model of a Maasai moran l at the museum. that visitors can see the inside of the hut,” Mr Gitonga said. A look through the window reveals a fireplace, a bed made from tree branches, with a cowhide for a sleeping mat, gourds and a life-size model of a calf in one section. It is well lit to enable visitors to see the inside of the hut but they are not allowed inside in order to preserve its condition. The breed of the life-size model bull that stands outside is not easily available nowadays and is no longer found in Kenya. So the researchers travelled to Tanzania to find one and took its measurements to enable them to recreate the model. “A bull is very important in Maasai culture and when wazees are cracking jokes, some are made about those with weak bulls,” said Mr Gitonga. “The reason for having the bull and a manyatta is to capture the centrality of cattle in the lives of the Maasai. On the verandah of the main FILE | NATION Birds at the Enashipai Maa Museum: some of the animals and birds on display are now hard to see on game drives. After consultations with the Attorney General’s office, they were referred to the office of the Registrar General of Companies, which finally enabled them to register Enashipai Maa Museum as a private company. But that was only the first step in a journey that would take two and a half years and cost some Sh30 million. “But it is most fulfilling to get where we are now; it’s a dream come true,” said Mr Rattos. Why the Maasai? “The Maasai have been wrongly depicted as naïve, but I felt we could show enough to represent them and come up with a script that properly defines their sophisticated storyline,” Mr Gitonga said. To start off the project, he first prepared a draft. He then held consultations with anthropologists to fine-tune it. Then followed interviews and discussions with Maasai elders, who are custodians of the traditions and culture handed down through folklore. The hard part was collecting and preserving the materials to be displayed in the museum. The research team travelled extensively, criss-crossing areas where Maa-speaking communities live, from Samburu County in the north to Kajiado and Narok further south, and into Tanzania. Support from the people “When we got to the collection of artefacts from the people, it was tedious but not too difficult. Once they understood what we wanted to do, they became very supportive,” Mr Gitonga told DN2 in an interview at the Enashipai Maa Museum. First came the manyatta, and Mr Gitonga scouted for traditional manyatta builders and brought them over for the project. “They did it themselves. Traditionally, it is women who build manyattas and that’s how we did it. On one wall, though, we improvised and put a cut-away glass window so building, the Maasai’s version of the creation story is retold through text and artwork created by Mr Gitonga. He says they arrived at a common understanding from the stories told by different Maa-speaking peoples. Beside the folklore version is the migration story as told by modern historians. On the verandah, the visitor gets a glimpse of the social organisation of the Maasai through an entrenched and highly respected clan system. Inside the building, the first room is dedicated to the man. The designers say they placed the man’s story first because the society is patriarchal society. Immediately facing the visitor is a life-size model of a middle-aged Maasai man in traditional gear. The clothes, like the rest of the items in the museum, were collected by the researchers during their search in Kenya and Tanzania. In this room are displayed different types of spears, complete with their names and descriptions, as well as bows and arrows, even though Mr Gitonga says the Maasai are more likely to use spears than bows and arrows. Also on display is a kudu horn used for special ceremonies, a shield made from cowhide that was used more than 100 years ago, as well as a more recent version, other combat attire and weapons, as well as other adornments and items used by Maasai men. Also in this room is an artist’s impression of perhaps what the Maasai are best known for – killing a lion. To fight a lion, the Maasai wear a special jingle, which, they say, is known by lions throughout Maasailand. The jingle is meant to alert the lion about the impending fight because the Maasai would never attack a sleeping or sickly lion, or a lioness. Once it is aroused, the man attacking the lion bandages his left hand and offers it to the charging cat while he prepares to strike with his spear in a battle that is literally a matter of life and death. “The reconstruction captured in this sketch had to be approved by 90 leather tags. Counting tags “Child-bearing women would wear these tags so that you would know how many children they by just counting the tags,” explained Mr Gitonga. The third room depicts the boyhood to manhood circumcision story and how it is conducted. The fourth room has displays of various items such as umbrellas and mats, all made from cowhide, that were used when the community was moving. One remarkable thing is that the leather mat on display would be tied to two donkeys to create a stretcher for transporting the elderly or the sick. The fifth room depicts the Maasai as conservationists. In it are life-size models of animals hardly seen on park tours such as the bushbaby, squirrels, the white-tailed mongoose, the genet, the nocturnal and rarely seen spring hare and giant rats. “The Maasai are great conservationists because they do not hunt or eat wildlife. It’s not allowed in their culture,” Mr Gitonga said. From there we move to what is The approximate number of plant species the Maasai have identified for use as medicine to treat a variety of ailments such as flu, infections, open wounds and even snake bites equivalent to a pharmacy. On display are numerous types of barks, roots and other tree and vegetation extracts used by the community to cure a wide range of ailments, as well to make stimulants and immunity boosters. It’s here that one learns that the custodians of Maasai tradition and culture; a group of elders on special request by Enashipai. I had to draw it several times and present drafts before they finally agreed that it represented them and approved it,” said Mr Gitonga. Ne next room contains displays of items used by e women. It has a collection of necklaces, clothing and items worn by women of various age sets and tell the story of the Maasai woman. One of the items is a cowhide bag, estimated to be more than 70 years old, and which closely resembles modern women’s handbags. There’s also a special belt, similar to the ones worn these days, that also has Maasai have, through the ages, identified about 90 different plant species for use as medicine to treat ailments like flu, infections, open wounds and even snake bites. The tour ends in a room is fitted with a modern surround system, in which documentaries on the lifestyle of the Maasai are shown. “They said we could only film actual activities during the time of day and the seasons they conduct them,” said Mr Gitonga. On the way out, the sound system plays sounds recorded from an actual homestead: a cowbell, bleating sheep, mooing of cows and the chattering kids.. “We have just brought you to a Maasai boma; you can learn all about Maasai culture here,” said Mr Rattos.
February 26th 2014
February 28th 2014