Vol. 17, #6
Four of our young Maasai women graduated from Ngarenarok technical school at the end of last year. The students of Osotwa Maasai Prep celebrated their graduation just a couple of weeks ago. We slaughter two goats and had lots of soda. Everyone stuffed themselves with goat meat and soda to near bursting. Then, each of the four girls, Kosen, Siyama, Naimodu and Nasumbat, received a hand-operated sewing machine. These machines are due to the generosity of Knud Eric and his organization in Denmark. The girls now go to their home villages and will soon be married. Their education will make it possible for them to be, to a degree, self-reliant. They will be able to sew items of cloth and simple clothing to sell at local cattle markets, helping their families in various ways and augmenting the diet of their future children. It will give them skills to fall back on in case their husbands don’t take proper care of them, or in the event that their cattle are not be sufficient to provide for the families.
Last month I talked about our head teacher here at Osotwa. Augustino Paakai was on the short list of those being considered by the Kinong’de age group to be their leader and spokesman. They are now senior warriors. Their original leader or “Olaigwanani”, was chosen almost fifteen years ago at the time the Ilking’onde were young warriors, but did not fulfill the leadership expectations of his age mates. As time went by, he was less and less sought out for advice and, in recent years, was ignored altogether. The Ilking’onde acutely felt their lack of a leader. Numerous rites of passage ceremonies must be arranged, something difficult to accomplish without adequate leadership. Also, the age group needs to act as one in times of crisis, as when cattle raiders are in the area or there is a specific problem affecting the age group, for example, drinking.
Paakai was chosen to be Olegwanani and the celebration to install him as “Spokesman” for the Ilking’onde took place last week. It was a memorable event. Early in the morning, before the cattle went off to pasture, some hundreds of Pakai’s age mates gathered in the cattle enclosure of Pakai’s family. Soon there was shouting and singing as the ritual gift of his age group, a yearling heifer was driven from another village and arrived among the singing warriors. This young cow, bursting with energy and fertility, symbolized the age group’s prayer for Paakai that he has long life, many cattle and many children. They sang up a storm, as the fire stick elders of the age group symbolized the fullness of a good life that they wished for the new Olegwanani, by blessing Pakai, smearing his face with oil, milk and cattle dung. They put into his hands the Olrinka, the ebony staff of office of a Maasai Olaigwanani. He also received the flywhisk and tobacco container of an elder, which indicated the transition his age group is now undergoing. The warrior’s fathers are called their “Ilpiron”, their fire stick elders, because it was they, years ago, who twirled a dowel between their palms on a chunk of wood in wood shavings to light the new fire that inaugurated the Olking’onde age group.
Till next month…