MAASAI: Wedding Anniversary, Christianity and the Business of Culture

On Sunday 30th December 2018 Jeroen Heijlen and Winnie Lasaloi celebrated their 10 year wedding anniversary in Matasia. Winnie Lasaloi the granddaughter of the late Mzee Kango traveled to Kenya from Belgium accompanied by her husband, daughter, and friends.

Jeroen was given a Maasai “fimbo” and a shuka to symbolize the status of a Maasai Elder

The ceremony didn’t only mark their 10 years of marriage, but it was also the beginning of a new era for Jeroen as a Maasai elder “Olainguanani”. The festivities were marked by food, songs, and dance.

Dance and songs dominated the ceremony

Many of the guests commented on the great food, humility, generosity, and kindness of the hosts. I was especially touched by the Maasai hospitality that gave VIP treatment to all guests in attendance.

CULTURAL TOURISM

Even though the ceremony was a private family affair, it was a perfect platform to showcase the Maasai culture.  Cultural tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism market in the world.  The tourism market is now competitive more than ever.  A visitor whether foreign or local coming to Maasai land would be interested to learn about their lifestyle, food, arts, religion, architecture etc

A guest from Belgium admiring a Maasai fimbo

A local mzee told me that such ceremonies are a good platform to educate not only the foreign tourist about the Maasai traditions but also local urban Maasai youth who are becoming more westernized. It is also an opportunity for cultural groups to promote themselves and a chance for photographers and the media to document for archiving purposes.

CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURE

Robin Ole Kurenta who is a Volunteer community social worker in Kisamis Town said, there is a need to maintain the culture in its purest form.  Robin converted to Christianity in 1996 after a short stint as a Moran.  He said many Maasai’s are turning to music, especially gospel music to earn a living because it sells locally and for acceptance.  Robin further said, “Christianity is nowadays seen as advancement, with those who haven’t embraced Christianity, seen as backward”. 

Robin cited several examples of cultural traditions that need to be embraced wholeheartedly such as, the ceremonies that defined age groups.  He claimed the tradition is the key to enforce respect and leadership within the Maasai community.  He also cited several cultural practices that need to end such as, the discrimination against unmarried women when it comes to land inheritance and female circumcision.   

Agnes Wangui a 75-year-old retired teacher and a Christian based in Dagorretti said, “I’m a Kikuyu, I follow the Kikuyu traditions but only differ with the culture when it comes to religion.”  Wangui further said “I don’t go to pray under the “mugumo” tree because it is an altar of a religion I don’t believe in.  I follow my culture because Jesus never came and said how one should dress, eat or the language one should speak as a Christian.”  She concluded by saying “I love my culture and embrace cultural songs regardless of tribe and I wish the youth can embrace and hold on to their culture.”

RAISING A FAMILY THROUGH THE BUSINESS OF CULTURE

Mzee Mailu Syingi

Mzee Mailu Syingi has been selling calabashes, “Muratina”, bow and arrows and honey for the last 30 years.  He grew up in Mwingi but is now based in Ngong Town.  The calabashes are mostly purchased by caterers to serve traditional porridge to their clients.  Other calabashes are used to serve traditional alcohol and for water storage.  “Miratina” are plants which are used to brew the famous Kikuyu traditional alcohol “muratina”.  Mzee Mailu admits the demand for “miratina” is high since it’s an integral part of many Kikuyu ceremonies. 

Muratina which is used to make traditional Kikuyu alcohol.

He is proud of being able to raise his family mainly, through the business of selling traditional products.  He wishes that he could retire as he will be turning 80 later this year but, he requires money to pay for school fees for his daughter, who is due to finish high school next year.  He hopes she will be able to join the university.

More Photos From Jeroen Heijlen and Winnie Lesaloi Ceremony

(2nd left) Winnie Lesaloi drinking milk from “Enkukuri” Milk was used to bless the couple by the elders.

Jeroen Heijlen drinking the milk from “Enkukuri”

Jeroen gave the elders a goat as a thank you gesture.

Winnie with her sister
Right (Former Senior Chief Wilson Tulito with an elder)

In Yellow (Winnie’s Brother Allan Kango with relatives)

Guests from Belgium

A family member