John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
AFRICAN HABITATS : 
FOREST, GRASSLAND AND SLUM 
Studies of the Maasai, the Luhya, and Nairobi's Urban Fringe
PART THREE : THE SAMBURU
31. The Life of a Moran : 393-405
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393. For many men, their time as warriors seems quite idyllic. The Samburu prefer short hair but the Maasai proper let their hair grow long and spend lots of time braiding it. Looks are important and red ochre is regularly applied to their bodies in decorative patterns during joint grooming sessions. Long spears (and sometimes shields) are carried for visual effect today as much as for defence. Leaf-shaped spears are meant for throwing and those with long blades for stabbing.
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394. Among the Maasai proper each intake of moran lives in a settlement of its own called a manyatta, away from the enkang or group of villages they are to protect. During their early years, while junior warriors, they are supervised by their sponsors and instructors (who as junior elders belong to the next age-set but one ahead of them). From these elders they acquire the knowledge that society expects of them as adults and through a long and close association with their peers, they learn the meaning of cooperation, sharing, loyalty and unity. No junior moran was allowed to eat alone, for example. He wasn't even permitted to go to the toilet by himself Ö another warrior had always to be there in case of a surprise attack. In addition, a moran could not drink milk from the cattle of his own family: he had to give that to his colleagues and drink their's instead. (Young men heading for ceremony.)
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395. Their mothers live with them in the manyatta. They build the houses for the warriors to live in and look after them. Many young (pre-pubescent) girls live here too as companions to the warriors. The manyatta does not have a fence around it like an enkang, because the warriors, convinced of their own bravery and skill, believe they can protect themselves without one. The young man in the middle if this picture was a school teacher, however, and lived mostly with his mother at home in the enkang.
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396. Warriors are excused domestic chores except during the dry season, so they have time to familiarize themselves with the country round about. (Hence the proverb: "Clear is the eye that has traveled.") During dry seasons, however, they were expected to water the cattle, move stock to upland pastures, run long distance errands (like purchasing corn meal during a famine), and also search for grass and water.
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397. In the past they would have been expected to spear a lion to demonstrate their courage, and would have fashioned an elaborate headdress from its main. They would also have found time to steal cattle from other tribes. Today they have time on their hands and make the most of it at parties, when they will dance and practice battle chants and the like.
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398. These men had brought in a couple of bulls for sale at the market in Maralal, but afterwards they talked for hours.
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399. They cannot marry but they spend lots of time with their girlfriends and they dress to impress them.
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400. They also have time for enkeshui. Itís a traditional game played throughout much of Africa, both north and south of the Sahara. When the Maasai play it, though, the circles are cattle yards, the counters are cows, and the winner is the one who captures the biggest herd.
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401. This idyllic phase comes to an end when, in a ceremony which rivals initiation in its solemnity, the warriors' heads are shaved by their mothers (after being first doused with milk) , an ox is slaughtered and rings are made from its hide for each man to wear. This man, a senior elder, can afford a watch because he was at one time employed as a night watchman in Nairobi.
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402. At changeover time everyone moves up a rung on the ladder. The former moran can now marry and establish a new enkang, and the new intake of warriors builds a new manyatta -- or at least their mothers do.
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403. Elders supervise the younger generation and the women, but they also help fence the camps, water the stock, castrate steers and treat sick animals. And they attend many meetings, usually to do with livestock management (for example, where and when to move the herds). There were no traditional chiefs among the Maasai, instead decisions were reached by consensus.
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404. Elders do not bother with jewellery and attain seniority through age, so the older they get the more respect they command, unless they are too deaf or too senile to reason well in discussions.
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405. When they are to old to fulfill the duties of an elder they retire and are looked after by the community. (This man served as cook to the Christian missionaries who came here in the 1930s.) In the same way women too old to work are the responsibility of their youngest son.
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