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Maasai

The Maasai are a pastoral people who live in Kenya and Tanzania, in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. Over a two centuries ago, the Maasai ruled over much of East Africa. Known as the “people of cattle” the Maasai believe that all the cattle on earth belong to them. They are feared warriors renowned for their bravery and cattle stealing escapades, still going on cattle raids to retrieve herds from other tribes which they believe must have been taken from them long ago. The strong bond the Maasai have with their animals necessitated a nomadic way of life as they follow the seasons in search of grass and water for their herds. The origins of the Maasai are shrouded in mystery and myth. It is believed that the Maasai migrated South along the Nile River to East Africa, arriving in present day Kenya, near Lake Turkana, over 600 years ago.

The Maasai are strikingly beautiful people. Norman Leys, one of the first Europeans to visit the region, described the physical appearance of the Maasai “as among the handsomest of mankind, with slender bones, narrow hips and shoulders and most beautifully rounded muscles and limbs.” The enormous pride of the Maasai people also gives them a very regal appearance.   Of Africa’s many tribes and cultures, the Maasai have always captured the imagination of writers, adventurers and even the respect of British colonialists who were impressed by their leadership hierarchy with great respect for elders and a strong community decision-making process. The Maasai remain a proud people while continually struggling to retain their culture and traditions in the face of growing development pressures to become part of the modern world.

Today, the total population of the Maasai is around 350,000, down considerably from their half million population at the arrival of the first European colonialists in East Africa in the late 1800’s. The Europeans also brought diseases such as smallpox taking a devastating toll on the human populations, in addition to ‘rinderpeste’, a cattle disease that systematically decimated Maasai herds. The Massai populations continue a slow decline in recent times as their days of nomadic migration are becoming more and more constrained by agricultural activities of other tribes throughout Kenya and Tanzania who are increasing their land holdings and property ownership.

Sironka and the The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe

Nicholas SironkaNicholas Sironka is a Maasai leader educated in the ways of the world having received a Fulbright Fellowship to the U.S. in 2000. Returning to Kenya to mentor his own people on the direction they must take to preserve their culture, Sironka strongly supports educating Maasai youth and ‘keeping young girls in school’. Sironka sees the enormous importance of education as a means of preserving the Massai culture and traditions. Sironka also serves on the Advisory Board of International School-to-School Partnerships.

The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe is Maasai folk song and dance group from the “Ngong Hills” in the Rift Valley region of Kenya. The group was founded in 2001 by Nicholas Sironka and his wife Seleina. As Cross-Cultural Ambassadors, Sironka and Seleina have focused on enhancing a greater cultural understanding between people of East Africa to all parts of the world. Maasai song and dance performances are accompanied by traditional story telling and art workshops.

A performance of song and dance by “The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe” is a one hour-long musical folklore event. The performance is enhanced with traditional stories to help audiences understand the cultural significance behind each movement. These performance events help audiences understand the unique cultural traditions and folklore surrounding the Maasai.

MaasaiThis Dance Troup first came to Monterey in early 2008, immediately following their performance in Washington D.C. at President Obama’s Inauguration. At that time, they performed for thousands of students in school auditoriums in the Monterey County. In addition to dance and song performances, the troupe members also conduct workshops: lessons in song and dance, jumping exercises, bead-making, hair-braiding, storytelling, and Shepard’s whistling.

Events are hosted by International School-to-School Partnerships and are now being scheduled from February 1st, to February 15th in the Monterey Bay Area.

Events Calendar:

Tuesday, February 3rd 4-7 pm: Monterey Farmers’ Market: Traditional Maasai bead work for sale. FREE and open to the public.

Wednesday, February 4 7-9 pm: An evening of Maasai Music, Art and Culture: Dancing & Singing preview. Carmel Visual Arts, Barnyard, Carmel (No Charge, Donations Accepted).

Friday, February 6: Visit to the International School of Monterey

Friday, February 6th, 7:30 pm: Evening performance of Maasai singing, dancing & culture
The Haute Enchilada Cafe, Galleries & Social Club in Moss Landing, California

Saturday, February 7th 6-8 pm: Traditional Maasai Singing & Dancing in collaboration with dancers and musicians from Jayson Fann’s Spirit Garden Productions.
MPC Lecture-Forum-103.  Tickets: $25. Students: $20.

Saturday, February 7th at 7pm: Dance and Singing Performance. Pacific Coast Church, 522 Central Avenue, PG Limited seating. Tickets: $15 For more information click on this link.

Sunday, February 8th 12-4pm: Art and Maasai Culture Workshops. Carmel Visual Arts, Barnyard, Carmel; Choice of two concurrent workshops from 12-4pm. $120. Materials fee included:

  • Batik Workshop: Learn the fundamentals of batik in this hands-on workshop with expert batik artist, Nicholas Sironka from Kenya.
  • Traditional Maasai Beadwork: Learn how to create Maasai beadwork with traditional Maasai craftsmen and women from Kenya. See: http://www.sironkamaasai.com/ and click on the Find out More link for more info. on the batik and beading workshops.

Tuesday, February 10 4-7 pm: Monterey Farmers’ Market: Traditional Maasai bead work for sale. FREE and open to the public.

Friday, February 13th 2-5 pm: One Billion Rising: A CSUMB collaborative community and university campus event to raise awareness and rise together to put an end to gender discrimination, oppression, and violence in our communities. Sironka will speak about the girls school project and the troupe will perform.  Directions and more info here

Saturday, February 14 1-2 pm: Pleasanton Library, Community Event in Pleasanton.

Massai Websites: