Monday, 18 February 2013

Africa's Traditions persist into the Modernity

By Ochieng Akuno (email the author)

The Maasai (sometimes spelt as "Masai" or "Masaai") are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people living in Kenya and northern Tanzania.They are among the best known of African ethnic groups, due to their residence near the many game parks of East Africa and their distinctive costumes and dress. Their mothertongue is a member of the Nilo-Sahahran language family that is related to Dinka and nuerand are also educated in English and Swahili (official languages) of Kenya and Tanzania (Francis Ole Kaparo is a famous educated Maasai who has served as Speaker in Kenya's Parliament during the Moi and Kibaki eras).  The Maasai population has been reported as numbering 841,622 in Kenya in the 2009 census, compared to 377,089 in the 1989 census.

The drum is one of the most unifying African traditional instruments cutting across numerous major African  tribes from Eastern to West Africa.The instrument has various local names depending on the tribe, for example, it's named Bul among the Luo in Kenya; Djembe in West Africa.Many other tribes in Kenya including the Luhya of western Kenya own and cherish drums.

It must also be stressed here that The Drum is one among the few traditional African instruments that withstood the transformation of Africa from the pre-colonial Africa to the colonial and the modern-day civilized Africa.With the coming of the Missionaries, some African tribes rebelled forming christian denominations that could allow them to integrate their cultural praxctices in christianity including playing of drums in the church.The practice is famous todate e.g among the Roho Denomination in Western/Nyanza provinces in Kenya.The Legion of Mary church (a majorly Luo christian denomination led by The Revered Simeon Melkio Ondeto which rebelled from Catholic) condoned the removal of six-lower teeth traditionally practiced by the Luo.
Captured in the above photo are Luo Boys and Girls performing a Luo traditional folk song wearing Owalo (a Luo traditional dancing costume made of sisal and worn on the waist) and carrying Orengo (a whip-Luo traditional costume made from cow tail/whisk often resembling power) as part of their Regalia. The Luo tribe are River-Lake Nilotes who migrated south from southern Sudan to the land around Lake Victoria near the end of the 15th centrury. The famous members of the Luo tribe include: Barack Obama - U.S Senator from Ilinois(currently the 44th US President in his second term), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Vice president to Jomo Kenyatta from 1963 to 1966), Raila Odinga (Current leader of the CORD coalition disputing Kenya's presidential elections 2013 via court petition), Ayub Ogada and Daniel Owino Misiani (Both singers, performers and composers on the Nyatiti also known as Luo lyre and Guitar respectively). 

Maasai Worriers dressed in traditional costumes Jumping

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