Young Maasai join world fashion trends
[vc_row type=”vc_default” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”5″][vc_column][vc_column_text]Last week I traveled to Kenya to visit my Maasai friends on the eastern face of Mt. Kilimanjaro after three years away. On the plains surrounding the trading post town of Rombo the Maasai have their bomas (homesteads) and the primary schools of Lamong’o and Esukuta which ADEA helped to establish over the past 10+ years. In some ways very little has changed in the area – it is still a sparsely populated rugged and rocky place, full of smiles and Maasai families trying to make it in very difficult circumstances with the remains of their herds of cows, sheep and goats. One notable change is that the smartphone has brought the impact of world fashion to this remote corner of Africa. Typically wearing by their shuckas (clothes of draped fabric) or random used clothing, some young Maasai men now herd their cattle in tight black jeans with tears or multiple zippers, and black or grey tea shirts. My friend’s eldest son, who has yet to enter into the group of warriors called Moran due to schooling, now wears only black and grey tight pants and shirts. Occasionally, even white jeans in a land of dirt and dust! Good? Bad? Is it a diversion to cope with the helplessness of lack of employment and money to finish his education? It is an odd sight to see.
Upon reflection I realized what troubles me most. It is not the loss of a better photo op for the tourist (and me), but that the Maasai traditionally have had such a confident self-identity that even in the cities they choose to wear their shuka fabrics versus mainstream fashions. What this means is that Maasai men and women have shared a strong generational connectivity: the clothes, the beadwork, and their way of doing things varied slightly, but not considerably between the generations. This produced a cross-generational unity that this new trend will very likely destroy. Along with the fashion influence shared via FaceBook, the music and videos that now entertain this young man come from a world so so far from his home in the bush, disconnecting him further from his family boma, Maasai land, and his heritage.
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