It is evening again in the savanna woodlands, the heart of pastoralism. The daylong heat of the sun across the plains is peacefully paving way for the cool breeze that usually comes with the night that’s being ushered in by the quick settling dusk. Children, or rather herd boys, hastily lead the animals into the open sheds where their fathers patiently wait to ascertain that the herd is complete and examine the health of what they dearly adore. In this part of the world, cattle are so dear such that they receive care and attention almost similar to that given to fellow human beings.
As usual, the mothers will soon come equipped with milking guards to milk the lactating cows. Although the milk obtained is normally little, the pride of this milking activity is only shared by the Maasai women who use the opportunity to exhibit their singing prowess. Throughout the day, the women across the savanna land had been sharpening their singing ability for this moment. The cow must be enticed into producing more milk through singing. And true to their belief, the best singers always get more milk than the others.
As the homestead turns into a beehive with activities, it is the children that often steal the moment. The day had been successful, and now that there are no missing cattle reported, it is time to rest and live their moment. At the doorstep of the manyatta, grandmothers quietly stand as they watch their children and grant children perform their respective tasks. They are among the elite team of the society mandated to oversee the continuation of the community and more so, the preservation of the culture. They rarely talk in the evenings, maybe because they talked a lot during their days, apart from the low melodious sounds they make probably to reminisce their youthfulness. They are now retired having done enough when they were agile, and since they are relieved of their duties, grandparents in the Maasai homestead develops profound connections with their grandkids. Loneliness and idleness is part of them now and therefore; they tend to get closer to young children who are willing and ready to listen to them without judging as ‘being too old.’
They grin at the doorstep as they lazily pave the way for the children who are now racing to the manyatta’s door. At the far corner of the manyatta wall, grandfathers sat on their traditional three-legged stool chewing tobacco. They are either in pairs or in groups chanting harmoniously with interjectory spits of the bitter substance. Things are moving on smoothly if they don’t hurl cautionary remarks to their sons who are the head of the homestead. Today is such a day. They are unperturbed and on they sang their Moran songs.
“ootu ene irkuoo lainei” (come here my little lambs)
Grandmother will tell us once the short-lived manyatta race is over and the winner given his accolades. She knows it’s time to provide the children with a soul healing experience to cure their tiny exhausted muscles. To the children, no one needed to be reminded of what they need to do. Before grandmother took her position inside the low lit manyatta, everything is set for the occasion. The traditional lamp made of tin and fueled by kerosene was already lit and the fire, well, it was fed with firewood enough to last the whole session. No child dared to miss this moment. It was story time with grandma.
The evening chores, which usually consist of lighting the fire and locking up the calves, were hurriedly but precisely done to attend the opening ceremony of grandma’s evening tales. The milking mothers were politely persuaded to hasten the process to necessitate the completion of all assignments. And just before grandmother could grace the occasion with her story, there we were in tens, sitting around the fireplace on the bare ground that formed the floor of our manyatta. Our souls were burning with aspiration. An urge to hear the ancient tales that form part of our history. No one can ascertain if the creatures narrated in the stories indeed existed, but according to us, whatever grandma said in the story was a reality and defined who we are.
To be continued