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Exploring Geography: Kenya–Maasai people living in the Northern Rift Valley


Exploring Geography at Mama Smiles

Today we are visiting the Maasai people of the Northern Rift Valley in Kenya, thanks to Michelle McInerney, aka MollyMoo.ie. Michelle’s biography is below – and here are three posts I think you should all visit from her blog: Button House for Fairies, Circus In My Pocket, and Shoe Box Puppet Theatre.

Michelle McInerney aka MollyMoo.ie

I am a mummy blogger from Ireland, mum of one six year old girl named Molly, crafter, and graphic designer during daylight hours – but not always in that order! Only two years in the world of blogging and crafting, I am most definitely still a rookie with more questions than answers. MollyMoo has become a way of life for me, a very enjoyable and addictive way of life – I think what I love most is connecting with an ever expanding circle of friends, moms like MaryAnne all over the world, who inspire me to create and just enjoy being a mom. I love the honesty of blogging mums and their open-hearted natural instinct to share the good and the not so good :)

My other driving passion is working with mums and children of the Maasai tribe in Northern Kenya. I have just returned to Ireland after spending another ten glorious days in their company. Each time I visit I leave another little piece of my heart with them – we have so much to learn from their incredible sense of community, their respect for young and old, their joy and wondrous celebration of life. Meeting the Maasai of Northern Kenya is a humbling experience, an experience which has changed me for the better – the most extraordinary experience of my life to date. I love the waves and smiles by every roadside. I love the explosion of colour and contrast of the women’s clothing, and I wonder at the Maasai women’s intricate beadcraft and wear the bracelets they have so generously gifted me with such pride – knowing that each piece would have been laboured over for hours/days/weeks as they can only create in daylight hours in between chores (which are ‘plenty’ for the women in this culture).

Kenya is truly magical on every level. I hope you enjoy my photographs and text and that it inspires you too to visit someday. If you ever want a recommendation on where to stay then drop me an email :) michelle@mollymoo.ie

Michelle xx

Masai Name: Nashipai (pronounced nash-a-pie)

Note: Images Displayed In This Feature Article Are The Property Of Michelle McInerney of MollyMoo.ie. Images may not be redisplayed on another website or publication without permission. Contact michelle@mollymoo.ie

naiperere_nursery2

Language

The main language in Kenya is Swahili.

  • Jambo: Hello
  • Sawa Sawa: OK or Cool :)

masai_girls

Basic facts about the Maasai people living in the Northern Rift Valley

  • Very poor semi-nomadic pastoral community
  • Arid and semi-arid land prone to drought
  • Traditional Maasai clothes are made from animal skins
  • Women and children keep their heads shaved
  • Children help their families by tending cattle and goats, cooking, fetching water and helping their mother mind younger siblings

choresclinic_day

The children’s shoes are made from recycled rubber tyres:

masai_shoes

Their home is called a Manyata built in a circle out of sticks and grass, then covered with a mixture of cow dung and mud. Maasai women have to collect the materials and build the manyatas. Women are responsible for fetching water and firewood from some distances, milking cattle and cooking for the family.

manyata

A Manyata – from overhead

A thick wall of acacia dried thorn-tree branches circled on the outside help prevent wild animals like lions and hyenas from coming in and attacking the family’s cows, goats and chickens. It is a man’s responsibility to fence the circular enclosure. Traditionally, circular enclosures are shared by an extended family housing several manyata homes.

manyata_aerial

For Maasai children school is a precious gift

Many children walk several miles to school every day on an empty stomach just for the chance to learn. Children share books and pencils. All schools have uniforms.

paarkaruk

The kids have chores at school too – sweeping their classrooms and washing-up after lunch.

musul_class_sweeping

Sports…

Kenyan kids love sports: football, netball, volleyball and athletics – particularly running.

Musul_football

Their footballs are made from a tightly packed ball of plastic bags secured with twine – perfect to withstand the very sharp acacia tree thorns.

football

What they eat

Ugali, a cornmeal porridge, is considered to be the national dish – a maize flour cooked with water to a porridge-like consistency. It is an important part of the diet of millions of people in Sub Saharan Africa. Children at school get one cup of ugali or maize and beans at school, when available.

ngabolo_feeding2

Famous person/people from this location

Wangari Maathai is a Kenya Environmentalist and Human Rights Activist. She is the first African woman to receive the very prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, in 2004. Maathai has fought tirelessly to ensure a sustainable environment and a better quality of life for women and the citizens of Kenya.

Flag

Kenya’s flag is black, red, green, and white with a traditional Masai shield and white spears in the center. The black represents the people of Kenya, the red represents blood, the green represents natural wealth, and the white represents peace. the Masai shield and spears represent the defense of freedom

kenyan_flag

Money:

Kenyan Shilling, KES

Map

MAP

Map created with the help of Google Maps

Native Animal Important to Kenya: The African Lion

Some male elephants grow to be up to thirteen feet tall! Elephants spend twenty hours of the day eating grass, small branches, and bark from trees. Just like the human baby sucks its thumb, an elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort.

Author of children’s book from Kenya


Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna
by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives a first person account of growing up in Kenya as a member of the Maasai tribe.

Beaded Jewelry

Maasai Beaded Jewelry

The Maasai are most well-known for their spectacular beaded jewelry, which is made by the women.

With no electricity, the mums make jewelry in daylight hours. Although the women adorn themselves in jewelry that has significant meaning within the tribe, they also sell much of it to benefit their community.

Intricate and colorful designs demonstrate social standing, creativity and beauty.

Videos to watch

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your knowledge of the Maasai people with us! Their beadwork is incredible and their singing inspiring. I would love to visit someday!

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

15 thoughts on “Exploring Geography: Kenya–Maasai people living in the Northern Rift Valley”

  1. What a lovely post with beautiful photos – that beadwork is stunning. I also love the children’s book, “Papa, Do You Love Me” by Barbara M. Joosse – that shares a little bit about Maasai culture and tradition in a child friendly way.

  2. Delighted you all like my Maasai Kenya post, thank you.

    A great read for ‘grown ups’ is “My Maasai Life, from Suburbia to Savanna” by Robin Wiszowaty. I have dog-eared the book throughout and keep going back to it.

    The Maasai truly are a magnificent people, who’s lives revolve around their children.
    I would recommend anyone with the means and desire to travel to choose Kenya for the trip of a lifetime. The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is where you want to stay and use as your base – Gill Elias cannot do enough for you http://www.ol-lentille.com/

    1. It sounds like such an amazing country, Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of it with us! I hope to visit, someday, and I’ll check out your ‘grown ups’ read.

  3. Re ‘Facing The Lion’ book recommendation: this book is more suitable for teens I would suggest. I was gripped from cover to cover.

    For the little ‘uns I love love love “Lila & The Secret of Rain” by David Conway and Jude Daly. Beautiful story and illustrations.

    Also you could check out:
    – Masai and I (Picture Puffin) by Virginia Kroll and Nancy Carpenter
    – For You are a Kenyan Child by Kelly Cunnane

    1. Thank you, Michelle!

      We have read “For You Are a Kenyan Child” – it is a wonderful book! I’ll look for your other recommendations for my little ones – and I think I’ll read “Facing the Lion”!

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