Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng'esherr, three male rites of passage of the Maasai community


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Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© Department of Culture, Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, Kenya, 2017

Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng’esherr are three interrelated male rites of passage of the Maasai community: Enkipaata is the induction of boys leading to initiation; Eunoto is the shaving of the morans paving the way to adulthood; and Olng’esherr is the meat-eating ceremony that marks the end of moranism and the beginning of eldership. The rites of passage are mainly practised by young men of the Maasai community aged between fifteen and thirty, but women also undertake certain tasks. By educating young people about their future role in Maasai society, the rites serve to induct them first to moranhood, then as young elders, and finally as senior elders. Respect and responsibility, safeguarding of the lineage, transfer of powers from one age set to the next and the transmission of indigenous knowledge, such as in relation to livestock rearing, conflict management, legends, traditions and life skills, are some of the core values embedded in those rites of passage. However, while the rites still attract relatively sizeable crowds, the practice appears to be rapidly declining due to the fast emergence of agriculture as a main source of income, reforms of the land tenure system and the impact of climate change that affects the survival of cattle.