Cultural Identity

Nairobi Travel Blog

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Dad, Kakuta and me being tourists


Sept. 21: Today we went on another safari, left Amboseli and came back to Merueshi. We checked in on the water line and theyd already gone a really long way, with just a few shovels and pitchforks. Its really quite remarkable. The rest of the day I just sat and wrote postcards and looked over all my Europe stuff. I started to get excited about it again. Honestly, Id be happy with just this trip to Kenya, so I need to pump myself up for another adventure!
But I realized something today, after a long talk with Kakuta at breakfast. I came into this experience knowing nothing about the Maasai and Africa in general. I just wanted to go to Africa, to say that I had been there and seen the sights and meet the people.

Back to Merrueshi!
But talking with Kakuta and making friends with the warriors has caused me to realize why my dad is so interested in these people and why Kakuta works so hard to get people around him involved here. Were not just talking about building a water line. The water is nothing compared with what Kakuta is dealing with. We are talking about the fate of his people. His entire way of life is threatened by Western influence, and he carries the future of Maasai culture on his shoulders. I think about what has happened to other indigenous people around the world and how hardly any of them are still fully intact, and it kills me to think that that could happen to the Maasai. Thats why were doing what were doing. The culture project my dad and Kakuta are working on will help preserve parts of this fading society. Its so heartbreaking to hear Kakuta talk about how he doesnt think there will be any more Maasai warriors; they are some of the most amazing people Ive ever met. But for possibly the first time in history, a native tribe has a chance to help decide how they will be assimilated. They will have to let go of some aspects of the Maasai way of life but they can also hold on to the attributes they find most important, the parts at the core of their people.
When we talked today at breakfast, we discussed the church and its role in Merueshi. Kakuta cant stand the church and now it is so obvious why. He doesnt mind Christians. But the church has come into this society and told them their way of life is wrong, that wearing shukas and Maasai beading is displeasing to God. It is destroying the pride that all Maasai should feel about their community. Not only this but some of the core values of Maasai tradition are being compromised. For example, getting a girl pregnant is a huge taboo here. It rarely occurs out of wedlock. Since the church has arrived, and with it the idea that everything you do is forgiven if you go to church every week, there have been about three girls who have been impregnated by young men in the church community. Not only that, one of the older members of the church is now having a child by his cousin. They have imported the wrong part of Christianity, the part that is corrupt and unwelcoming. If these people truly understand Jesus and his mission, they would see that the Maasai are living just the way he would have liked. You dont have to be a Christian to follow the principles of Jesus and Christianity. It is infuriating to see an exquisite culture like the Maasai crumbling under the oppression of religion. And I am a Christian. I believe in God and in Jesus, and for me and many others this belief works. But the Jesus I know would never come and condemn a society because they dont wear western clothes, or because they have to herd goats instead of going to church.
When I visited the Amboseli resort with the rest of the tourists in Kenya I understood how lucky I am to actually experience the real Africa. I mentioned to Kakuta that here, African culture is turned into a novelty, and he wholeheartedly agreed. I dont want that to be the only way this culture is preserved. I dont want a Maasai warrior to become a tourist attraction. I am now fully aware and ready to help this community keep its cultural identity in the coming years. Theres no way to avoid the western influence, the technological advances, and the possible dangers of higher education. But there is a way to avoid the complete disintegration of their history and rich African heritage.

Eric says:
And the photos of those sunsets? :)
Posted on: Jun 06, 2007
Eric says:
Fascinating blog, we need more from Kenya! Where are the photos of the flaming car??? :)
Posted on: Jun 06, 2007
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Dad, Kakuta and me being tourists
Dad, Kakuta and me being tourists
Back to Merrueshi!
Back to Merrueshi!
Nairobi
photo by: easyjobrob