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Updates from the Last Chance to Paint team

Precious Africa - Day 2. Visiting the Maasai predator proof boma in Amboseli, Kenya

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

This morning we were lucky enough to be invited to a Boma, a traditional Maasai village, to learn about the culture and how they live.

This particular village is called a ‘Predator Proof Boma’ because it has been fortified with a chain link fence to protect the tribe from predators, such as lions and hyenas, from attacking the village. This keeps the village and the animals safe because they don’t need to be killed to prevent them from entering. This creates a balance of respect between the people and the wildlife.

We were invited into the village with a welcome dance and song from the Maasai. It was an incredible experience which made us feel humbled and honoured. Their singing was beautiful - the young girl leading the singing had a beautiful voice. The clothes the women wear are brightly coloured, and they wear lots of brightly coloured hand-made beaded necklaces and bracelets. They all looked stunning as they stood together dancing and singing.

The men wear red and black checked fabrics with beaded jewellery. During the dance, the young men were jumping really high with their feet together - there are competitions between tribes to see who can jump the highest! They were jumping very high indeed; maybe you should try it! All the Maasai have scars on their faces, both men and women, boys and girls, which is a way of defining them from other tribes who aren't Maasai. This happens when they are about two years old. Their shoes are made from old tyres and look very comfortable.

They showed us around the Boma and explained their way of life. The village is built in a big circle, with a smaller central circle within it. The traditional fence is made from thorny Acacia. Around the outside, a chain fence is provided by the Born Free Foundation, whose aim is to help the people and wildlife to live side by side in harmony by helping keep the tribe safe. The posts are made from metal fence poles to preserve the wood supply. The gates are made from recycled oil drums, and the hinges are from old tyres.

Inside the exterior fence, all around the circumference of the circle, are the huts that the families live in. These are made from cow dung, thick twigs and the roof is made from elephant grass. The women build the huts.

Within the community, the men's job is to look after the livestock, protect the village from predators and light the fires. It is their job to keep the family healthy and safe.

We were shown around the small huts where they live. They cook inside on small fires - they showed John how they light their fires using very dry elephant dung and dried grasses. They asked John to have a go which was very funny as he wasn't very good at it! We all laughed a lot as they helped him. The adults in the family sleep in one room and the children in the other. Their houses are so tiny, and they have hardly any belongings, and yet the children are so happy, and the adults were so generous towards us being in their home.

Born Free also provides energy-saving stoves to cut back on the wood needed to burn for the fires they cook on inside their huts, to reduce the long treks to collect the firewood. They have also donated small solar panels for the roof, which help to provide some light. This means that the families don't have to use fire for light, and they, therefore, breathe in less smoke. It also means there is some light for the children to do their homework. Later in the week, we will be visiting a local school that the Maasai children attend. We hope they will paint for us and show us how they see their world.

In the inside ring of the village, separated from the houses by traditional thorny acacia fence, is a big space where the village herd of cows are usually kept. Due to the dry conditions, as we explained yesterday, the cows are having to be taken further afield for grazing - usually, the cows would have been there or just outside the village. The Maasai only eat the meat that they raise themselves from their goats and cows. Traditionally they don't eat birds or fish (they believe that fish are a form of a snake and not to be eaten). They never hunt for wild game, so they have always lived in great harmony with the wildlife.

Later we were asked to choose and buy some of their beautiful beaded crafts which they make. This was a way for us to show our appreciation for our time with them.

In the afternoon, John set up his easel in the village and painted the huts and people going about their lives. The Maasai were so curious to see him working, and some spent most of the afternoon standing behind, watching. John painted some of them into the painting, and they could recognise one another! Good job, John!

We had such a busy, long day, but it was terrific. It was so cool to see John painting at his easel surrounded by Maasai warriors interested in something they had never seen before. It was a fantastic day, and it felt good that they had shown such interest in what we were doing too.

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