Encounters with the Masaai were quite frequent during our stay in Tanzania. Our various trips to the Serengeti (in the Northern circuit) and to Ruaha (a Southern circuit National Park) brought us in contact with these elegant people, draped in attractively hued fabrics, where they can be seen on the grassy plains, herding their cattle or goats.
The statuesque men attire themselves in garments that resemble Roman togas. The women are very graceful and their deportment is marked by a quiet strength in the face of a difficult nomadic lifestyle, where they handle all the household work, singlehandedly, together with the raising of their children.
Various traditions are still adhered to in Masaai households, including female circumcision (a horror unambiguously documented by our friend, Noel Ihebuzor in poetic parlance), early marriage, and polygamy. Despite all this and rigid community customs, the Masaai women display incredible strength and handle their families and difficult domestic chores with commendable élan.
Having worked with a friend on various crafts using fabric and beads favoured by the Masai and detailed knife paintings of Masai people, portrayed by Tanzanian Artists, one of the people it brought me in contact with was a portly and assuredly cheerful Masai woman, called Mama Angelina. She crafted a whole lot of elegant looking and gaily coloured Masai necklaces for me that I treasure, that will keep alive now distant memories from East Africa.
Many of Masaai women and men live in Dar es Salaam as well, where the women do beadwork (you can locate them in Kariakoo or near Mwenge) and men sometimes work as security guards; all the while attired in their Masaai regalia.
Sometimes, every such attired security person, may not be Masai, but just a bloke in the costume. And the costume has been co-opted, since they are a huge tourist attraction given that Masai men have a reputation for being fearless and loyally protect a household.
The Masaai people graciously agreed to have their pictures taken and I am grateful for that. We had long conversations about their lives on the plains.