Moranism will always be there
Since the beginning of this year, a new age-group is being prepared for eventual installment as the official Moran age-group.
Circumcision ceremonies have been going on throughout Maasailand for boys who have reached maturity age. This is the stage where a boy proves to all and sundry that he is ready and willing to face the circumciser’s knife without batting an eyelid. This is the first albeit bitter test for one to show bravery amongst his peers and the general public. Any act of cowardice while facing the knife will be strongly frowned upon by all and it can be a very big let down that can lead to stigmatization. Extraordinary bravery is at times rewarded by the friends and relatives of the new initiate. The new initiates put on black shukas to symbolize this stage. In anticipation of the ceremonty, they , collect and stuff the most beautiful birds they can find, which are then attached to two ostrich feathers which the initiates will then wear draped from their heads during the ceremony. Cowards are given birds with poor colours.
During these ceremonies, many songs are composed by women and the new initiates. An intense competition ensues between ladies as they dress their part for the ceremonies while out-doing each other in what can easily be a singing talent search. The official Moran age-group unwilling to relinquish their responsibility as the defensive unit of the community also compose songs in praise of their exploits while at times throwing derogatory remarks on the new age-group. The competition amongst the ladies for or against both age-groups is also fierce but it’s always the new age-group that emerges the winner. The senior elders always enjoy this competition from the sidelines while down-playing or casting doubts on the ability of the new Moran age-group to rise to the occasion.
The institution of Moranism has gone through many turbulent time and years, yet it is very hard to eradicate. It was confronted in the 90’s by the provincial administration and elders, many Morans were forcefully shaved and their manyattas banned. Those Morans that killed lions were arrested and put behind bars, adult literacy classes were introduced in remote areas and Christianity was strongly encouraged by many as the ultimate remedy. Yet, despite all this persecution, Moranism has stood the test of time. Truth be told, it has changed in style and appearance. It has even lost a big following especially in areas closer to towns. But like the proverbial phoenix, it is still alive and kicking and widely practiced in remote areas where the cultural values of the Maasai community are still held dear. This institution, tried and tested over the years might change in different ways but as long as the Maasai remain as a community, the institution of Moranism is here to stay. Period.
A fascinating and brave blog! I very much hope that Moranism stays strong. Christianity has destroyed so many cultures and I hope the Maasai never succumb to it!