Reva Bottles 11/2/03 Movie Review #1 Film Series: Disappearing Worlds Title: Masai Women Anthropologist: Melissa Llewelyn-Davies Producer: Chris Curling, 1975 This movie described the Masai culture and traditions, it specifically focuses on women. The Masai live in East Africa in the West Highlands of the Rift Valley. They do not hunt or grow crops like many cultural groups, instead they are animal herders. They consider cattle to be the most valuable and important animal. They have sincere love for their cows and even name them. Women in the Masai society are in charge of milking and caring for the cattle.
Also in contrast to many other groups, Masai women are viewed as a form of wealth and are highly valued instead of being looked at as inferior and worthless. A man's wealth is often measured by the number of female companions he has. Even though females are greatly valued, they still have no chance of surviving or have a purpose if they don't marry a man with cattle and are not able to bear children. A woman puts great emphasis on something called: Enkishon.
This word defines how important it is for a woman to have children so that she can depend on them when she gets older. Eventually she will actually live with her sons. Girls are not considered women or able to marry until they have been circumcised. This action is accompanied with a huge celebration and an elaborate ceremony. This ceremony marks a girls' farewell to childhood and to her father's village. It also welcomes the future of marriage.
In this ceremony the girl's head is shaved, she gives away her jewels to a younger girl, and gives up her childhood name. This ritual also celebrates the fact that the young girl has not gotten pregnant. This is one of the most important moments in a women's life and makes her parents extremely proud. While watching the footage of this celebration, I couldn't help but compare this event to a Bat-Mitzvah (a Jewish ritual and celebration that I have had). Granted, in Bat Mitzvahs, girls are not circumcised, but it marks the passage of girl to woman. Bat Mitzvahs are often elaborately celebrated just like female circumcision is in the Masai community.
And the parents are just as proud! The father of the young women usually arranges his daughter to be married soon after she recovers from the circumcision. The future husband generally lives in a different village and is already married. When the husband brings the new wife home, the already present females of his village and his other wives greet the newcomer by screaming insults and demeaning her. They do not do this because they are jealous; in fact they are grateful to have another woman around to help with the chores. And eventually they will all become very close friends with her.
They abuse her because they want her to know how special their community is and it is not something to be taken for granted. This might be hard to understand, but this concept is exactly the same as hazing in a sorority or fraternity. They don't haze because they dislike the new pledges. They haze to make them work to be a part of it, to make them realize how special it is. And after the pledges have survived all of the hazing they are rewarded by being initiated into the fraternity or sorority. I have illustrated a few facts that I learned in this movie.
I found this movie to be far more interesting and easier to follow than some of the other movies we viewed in class. I think this was due to two factors. One was that the narrator did not have as much of a monotone voice as in other movies. The other, a more important factor, was that the movie covered more interesting material (in my opinion) than others did. This movie greatly focused on the family and household aspect of the culture opposed to the economic aspect. Even though both aspects are of equal importance in their society, I am personally more interested in how the Masai people interacted with each other.