Arusha Project


Modified Right of Passage Ceremony
August 18, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Abroad Program, Women

Last Sunday, the Arusha Project volunteers were invited by Gemma from Aang Serian to witness an alternative rite of passage ceremony for two Maasai girls in the village of Eluwai. The people of Eluwai have completely given up the traditional practice of female circumcision as a ritual initiation of girls into womanhood, deciding that it is harmful and unnecessary. As an alternative to the cutting, the girls are symbolically washed, dressed in special black fabric and blue beads, and reintroduced to the community as women in an extravagant and joyous celebration. Such a unique experience- and an incredible second day for the new volunteers! The previous week I had lived in Monduli Juu among the Maasai, 3 days of which were spent with the warm people of Eluwai, at their beautiful boma in the hills overlooking the Rift Valley and Mountain of God. I was very happy to return to the Maa greetings of ‘Supai! Ipa!’ and ‘Takwenya! Eeko.’ The journey to Monduli Juu was a typically mad adventure; 45 minutes on the public dala dala to Monduli Chini, a small town in “lower Monduli”, where we haggled for 2 four-wheel drive cars to transport 40 wazungu, Maasai, and Swahili up and over the mountain range. Spilling out the backside of our pickup truck, inside or on top of our Land Rover, we bounced and sang and yelled ‘Meeti!’ (Tree! A warning cry for the long-thorned acacia trees we crashed through as we rumbled across the plateau for our 2 hour trek across Maasai land). In Eluwai, we greeted our host with a gift of sugar, flour, and rice and made a round of bowing to the village elders before hiking to the ‘party grounds’. Hundreds of Maasai from the surrounding villages had gathered, the men clothed in red and purple robes, their faces and hair accented by red and white paint, and carrying long wooden spears, and the women glittered with their beaded and metal earrings, bracelets, anklets, and large flat neck disks which they rhythmically dipped while dancing. The men gathered in a huddle, encircled by the women, chanting and stomping a beautiful, highly-stylized dance. Younger warriors, displaying their machismo, competed to show who could jump the highest. In groups we squatted around communal plates of browned rice, roasted goat meat, and delicious stewed, green bananas. Cameras were a huge hit with the kids, who posed shyly and then burst into giggles when shown the replay. Just as the party was getting into full swing, we unfortunately had to leave in order to make it back at least to Monduli Chini before night fell. We were very lucky to have a taste of the real- not packaged for tourists- Maasai culture. Poa sana.

Shannon

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