Welcome! We are continuing with the theme of ‘significant shaves’ this week (there is just so much to wonder at!) We have learnt that hair/style can often be an indication of one’s social status within a number of societies, which in itself is extremely interesting, but the significance of ‘shaving’ is fascinating! So often head-shaves, in relation to rituals and specific life events, occur so much within many cultures and religions throughout the world, and we are thoroughly enjoying learning about them. This week we have been looking at Africa, where male grooming practises are as varied as the many peoples that inhabit the beautiful continent.
The Masai men of Kenya and Tanzania are perfect examples of dedicated male grooming, spending years tending to and caring for their intricately styled, ochre-stained locks. They are the only group permitted to wear their hair long (Masai women shave their heads), and are obviously proud about it, spending hours grooming and styling each other’s hair. Ashes, clay, animal fats and ochre are all used to style and colour the hair, which is formed into thinly braided strands, and woven together with cotton or wool threads. The warriors’ ‘manes’ symbolise the African lion’s strength and masculine beauty, which is a great source of pride and confidence to the Masai men.
The Masai people have varied traditions and customs which celebrate particular stages of life and events. There are 2 ritualised head shaves that Masai men must receive, which symbolise their initiation into various stages of manhood. These transitions are perfectly represented by the shaving off of one’s hair, as the men are facing new stages of life and cutting away from previous statuses, as youngsters or single men. Traditionally, Masai boys face circumcision during their teenage years, whereby the boys now become ‘men’, and enter a special camp called an EMANYATTA, where they train to be Masai warriors for the next 10 years. The men are now known as MORANS.
It is only after ‘graduating’ from this camp, that the warrior is ready for his first clean-shaved head. But first, a EUNOTO ceremony takes place, celebrating the warriors transition to becoming senior warriors, and their re-entry back into village life. The men are encouraged to marry, and the life of being a single MORAN is at an end. After a few months, an ENKANG E-KULE (milk-drinking ceremony) is held, where the newly-adapting men are now permitted to eat in the company of others (MORANS are to eat alone). It is at this point the men receive their first haircut. Their striking red-stained hair is shaved off by their mothers’, perfectly symbolising the life-change that the men are experiencing.
The final initiation for a warrior is becoming an elder. ORNGESHERR marks this transition, where each man is honoured with an elder’s chair. On the morning of this special day, the man is to receive a head-shave from his wife, sitting on his new chair, which will stay with him for life. Again, the haircut is almost a metamorphosis, in that the man is again to face a new life and new role within Masai society; from a young warrior, to a senior married warrior, now to an elder, who is ready to take full responsibility for his own family and move away from his father’s homestead.