Lost Patterns of the Maasai

Maasai

A photograph by Des Bowden

News from the G20 Summit on Climate Change: Climate experts have said that changing weather patterns around the world have upset traditional seasons, particularly in countries close to the equator. The impact of these changes is not yet known and further studies are being undertaken to assess the impact.

The elders see the patterns of our days in the bead chronicle that covers a wall in Ole Kopi’s inkang. Each line of five beads is a day. He can read the combinations. Many, many days are there. Enkai’s pattern for us, the life He has given us is there in the beads. Varied colours and patterns tell many stories of fire; drought and rain; lions; wars and raids; circumcision; birth; sickness; death. A story of many things.
We watch the day as it unfolds; blue sky gradually covering up night’s exposed infinity. The day build like the days before: clear sky, no clouds, no rain. Another line of blue-black-black-black-white beads will represent this day. Even our small ones know this repeating pattern of too many days now.
Some have gone to school or left the inkang for another life. They come back and tell us of the city, of clothes, of computers, of money. There is a new hunger in their eyes which milk and blood does not satisfy. They bring us the red, yellow, orange, green beads we yearn for. But the bead does not bring what it symbolises. The unused colours collect and remind us what is missing; what we wait for.
Ole Kopi looks at the sky. His face is lined with the passing of days. Even his grey hair is falling; a shiny head – not unlike the white skull beneath – is revealed. We get closer to our bones as the days pass. Ole Kopi is now moving bones; on his way to still bones. The dark blue bead of his passing has already been selected.
Ole Kopi looks at the story. The green beads of plenty from our ancestor’s times are few now. The rhythm of the seasons, a familiar pattern from the beginning, is no longer there. He points: no green. Another blue sky. Ole Kopi takes a blue bead, three black and a white, and like so many days now, hands them to one of his wives to weave into the story. She looks up at him. He shakes his head at her silent question.
We have lost the patterns of our ancestors. The repeating blue-black-black-black-white tell a story we do not understand.

Tilda Bowden is a Creative Writing Masters student at the University of Cambridge, and lives between Cambridge and Kenya.
Blog: ionkenya.blogspot.co.uk
Creative writing blog: TildaBowden.blogspot.com

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