Community Life
Opportunities & Outcomes

Lessons from a Maasai Warrior

On Monday, May 4, Derryfield received a very special visitor. Maasai chief William Sirkobei ole Osono spoke to students at an hour-long assembly, and then stayed and shared lunch with students and faculty.

The entire school was rapt during assembly, as Mr. Osono described life as a Maasai. Wearing the traditional bright red shuka, bedecked with coins that jingled as he moved, he showed pictures of Maasai life in Africa, and brought examples of many of the tools and accessories of Maasai culture. There was an audible gasp from the crowd as he drew his long “seme” (knife) from his belt and demonstrated some of its uses, and another as he described killing his first lion at age 14 with only a spear, after it attacked and killed one of his family’s bulls. He demonstrated traditional Maasai dances (after making the audience laugh by showing his version of American dancing) both a stepping dance as well as the famous “adumu,” or “jumping dance.”

Mr. Osono also talked about some of the ways that Maasai were adapting to life in the 21st century, especially as regards plastic waste. With no trash collection services, any plastic refuse would collect around villages, creating a hazard for cattle, which might eat the trash, get sick, and even die. Cattle are essentially the Maasai currency; a man’s wealth is judged by the number of cattle and children he has. So, the death of so many cattle was a critical problem. Thinking creatively, the tribes began a massive reuse program, turning old tires into the soles of shoes, weaving plastic bottles and containers into mats for the floors of their huts, and crocheting plastic shopping bags into more durable mesh bags for use and sale.

The sale of these recycled plastic goods is one of the ways that the Maasai tribes support themselves. Another is tourism, inviting visitors into their villages to learn about their lives firsthand. Mr. Osono was very encouraging of Derryfield students coming to visit him and his tribe in Kenya. Perhaps an exciting new Spring Break trip is in the future…

by Lisa Tourangeau

The Derryfield School

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