Africa is rich in wildlife and immense never ending landscapes. People come from all over the world to witness all that Africa has to offer, yet what truly holds the continent together are it’s people. This image is a prime example of the people that welcome you with open arms and warm smiles.
These young Massai boys are on their way to becoming men. They have recently undergone the ritual of Emuratare which is indicated by their white geometric face paint. The young warriors wear paintings on their face after their circumcision has taken place. What amazed me about these young men was the warmth in their smiles and the willingness to respond to my camera and me.
The Emuratare, or circumcision, ceremony is the most vital initiation of the rite of passage in the Maasai society. Both men and women undergo circumcision, but women are less and less likely to undergo this procedure due to outside influence. Young men are eager to be circumcised and become warriors. This ritual elevates them from childhood to adulthood and they must prove themselves to the community.
Emuratare among the Maasai begins with pre-circumcision ceremony called the Enkipaata. This ceremony, organized by the fathers of the young boys, begins with a group of boys, from 10- 16 years old, and a group of elders announcing the formation of the new group. A collection of houses are built for initiating the boys. The houses are located in one large chosen area by the Oloiboni or prophet. This is where all the boys across the region will be united and undergo their initiation process together. Before the ceremony the chief of the boys must also be chosen. I found it interesting how the Chief of the boys is a position not desired by anyone. It is considered unfortunate because the Chief must carry all the burden of his peers sins.
Before the operation, the boys must herd cattle for seven consecutive days. Circumcision takes place on the eighth day shortly before sunrise. On the day of the operation, the boys must stand outside in the cold weather and receive a cold shower to cleanse themselves. As each boy moves towards the location of the operation, his friends, people of his age, and male members of the family shout encouragement along with nasty looks and sometimes threats. For example, people may tell the boy if you hit or kick the knife, we will kill you! If you run away from the knife your society will disown you. Needless to say, circumcision is not pleasant and no pain killers or anesthesia are used. It is performed by a qualified man with many years of experience, but this man is not a licensed doctor. These boys cannot flinch, cry out in pain, or even act like it’s being done. I have great respect for these boys who are now young warriors.
After the operation is successfully completed the boys receive gifts of livestock from relatives and friends, and gain a tremendous amount of respect for bravery.
The healing process usually takes 3-4 months, and the boys must remain in dark clothes for a period of 4-8 months. This is also when you see them wearing the white face paint on their foreheads and cheeks. After they have healed they will receive the status of a new warrior.