Friday, April 20, 2007


Young Maasai Initiates

Circumcision among the Maasai begins with the pre-circumcision ceremony the Enkipaata. This ceremony is organized by fathers of the new age set. A delegation of 14-16 old male boys and a group of elders are sent out to announce the formation of the new age set.

A collection of 30-40 houses are built for the initiating boys. The houses are located in one large kraal chosen by the Oloiboni(prophet). This is where all boys across the region will be united and initiated. Before the ceremony, the Olopolosi olkiteng, chief of the boys, must be chosen. Olopolosi olkiteng is a position not desired by anyone because it is considered unfortunate. The new chief is to shoulder all of his age group’s sins.

The day before the ceremony, boys must sleep outside in the forest. When early dawn approaches, they run to the homestead and enter with an attitude of a raider. During the ceremony, boys dress in loose clothing and dance non-stop throughout the day. This ceremony is the transition into a new age set. After Enkipaata ceremony, boys are ready for the most important initiation known as Emuratare (circumcision).

Emuratare ceremony is the most vital initiation of all rite of passages in the Maasai society. Both men and women of the Maasai society are traditionally eager to undergo through circumcision. This initiation is performed shortly after puberty.

Many young Maasai women no longer undergo through circumcision due to a myriad of reasons.

Young men are still eager to be circumcised and become warriors. Circumcision initiation elevates an individual from childhood to adulthood. In order for the boy to be initiated he must prove himself to the community.

Photos by Susan and Grace at 13 Months

A few days before the operation, a boy must herd cattle for seven consecutive days. Circumcision would take place on the eighth day. Before the operation, boys must stand outside in the cold weather and receive a cold shower to cleanse himself. As he moves towards the location of the operation, his friends, age mates and male members of the family shout encouragement along with nasty looks and sometimes threats. For example, people would tell the boy, “If you kick the knife, we will kill you! If you run away from the knife, your society will disown you. Women are luckier and are spared of such comments. Needles to say, circumcision is not pleasant. No pain relief drugs such as anesthesia, and you cannot flinch your eye. Circumcision is painful yet means a lot to every Maasai.

Circumcision takes place shortly before sunrise. It is performed by a qualified man with many years of experience. After the operation is successfully completed, the boy would receive gifts of livestock from his relatives and friends. He would also gain a tremendous amount of respect for his bravery.

The healing process will take 3-4 months, and boys must remain in black cloths for a period of 4-8 months. After they are healed,they receive the status of a new warrior.

More Information
Maasai Organisation


luihamu said...


Liz if initiation brings one to be a man,what do it mean?why are we africans still fighting each other,the virtues that one is taught during this time is to be his brother keeper.

Liz look around Africa and you will tell me,its so sad to see what is going on in Africa.


Habari Luihamu,

Karibu tena Saharan Vibe. I must confess I am still perplexed by the whole process. How did society decide hundreds of years back back that this initiation procedure should be the key determinant as to when a man transitions onto manhood. Amongst my tribe, many years back the procedure was different as it entailed the removal of six lower teeth. This practice is seldomly carried out now.I will look into the origins of some of the initiations rituals within various ethnic groups and post my findings.
And of course I welcome comments/inputs/suggestions etc