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Loitai_20131202_1235

The small band of men marched forward, switches in hand, filling the air with the guttural sounds of Maasai song. Soon they would be locked in battle. This however, would not be a battle of the likes that had made the Maasai ilmurran so famous, but rather a carefully coordinated performance.
Entering the enclosure first, the men proceeded to the center, driving a long oloirien  (wild olive) branch with a large piece of fat (ilmodat) into the ground. Soon their opposition, the women of the village, would follow suit and the battle would begin.
Facing each other with the ilmodat between them, representatives from both sides begin to beat each other. Only after the fat was snatched up by one of the women as she made her escape did the ceremony come to a close.

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I arrived at the first of the two ceremonies, Olkine Lobenek, in the early afternoon hours on the first of December. The bulk of the excitement seemed centered around one of the larger houses in the village, people overflowing from its doorway. Inside, the elders were enjoying cups of Enaisho – a traditional Maasai brew made from honey, sugar and aloe vera root – while the four men who would be participating in the ceremony prepared themselves.
Adorned in red ochre and blue shukas the four men – two from the Irkishiru age-set and two from the Iseuri – emerged from the home, signaling that it was time to begin. Under the leadership of the two elders – the men from the Iseuri age-set – the village’s men proceeded to a specially selected location in the nearby forest where the ceremony would take place.

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As the day proceeded the participating men took up the different roles – slaughtering and butchering the animal, building the fire, and roasting the meat – while the four “hosts” took up their place between a sandpaper and wild olive tree – these are two trees that have roles in nearly every Maasai ceremony and must be located next to each other in most involving the forest.
First to be removed from the animal – Olkine Lobenek involves a goat, Olkiten’g Loobaa a special cow known as enkiten’g arus (a black cow with a white chest), both animals must be without blemishes – is the blood, followed by a special cut of meat that is instrumental for these ceremonies, enkiyieu. Enkiyieu is the breast meat, and the ritual sharing of it by the two young men will cleanse their spirits. It is only through this “cleansing” that they will be able to perform a circumcision on their first child.

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