UNESCO Lists Maasai Rites of Passage in Cultures That Need Safeguarding

UNESCO has listed seven elements of culture in need of urgent safeguarding during their 13th Session of Intergovernmental Committee in Mauritius.

They intend to encourage and ensure international co-operation in the safeguarding of the intangible cultures which are under threat of changing times in the world, despite efforts by communities to keep them alive.

Among them were three Maasai rites of passage namely Enkipaata, Eunoto, and Olng’ esherr. which have been part of the Maasai culture for the longest time.

Young Maasai warriors dance during an inauguration ceremony.

UNESCO termed the three rites as Intangible Cultural Heritage that needed to be promoted and kept alive.

During Enkipaata, boys are inducted and prepared for initiation. In Eunoto their heads are shaved to pave the way for adulthood.

Olng’esherr, on the other hand, is the meat-eating ceremony that marks the end of Moranism and the beginning of eldership.

During the period, the boys are educated about their future role in Maasai society, learning values such as respect and responsibility, safeguarding of the lineage, transfer of powers from one age set to the next and the transmission of indigenous knowledge.

According to the UNESCO, the viability of the Maasai practice is threatened by changes in lifestyle relating to the community’s transition from a pastoral to an agricultural economy and the decline in informal modes of transmission.


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