The Serengeti: Traces of the Maasai

The Serengeti used to be the home ground of the Maasai where they set their cattle to graze. When the Serengeti National Park was established in 1952, they were required to move out. Whether the colonialists did it for the sake of conservation or for hunting, I’m grateful for the legacy of wildlife left behind for later generations. But as with much of public policy, there are tradeoffs involved and clearly it is the Maasai who lost out in this instance. Muba said that the last of the Maasai moved out in the 1960s and he took us to a couple of sites where they had left their mark.

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One was a kopje were there was a small shelter from the elements that was too small to be called a cave. Here we could see cave drawings and the remnants of past fires – black charred walls and pale grey ash on the floor of the shelter.

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It was hard to make out what the cryptic drawings meant. No doubt, these drawings were rather recent and hardly prehistoric like neolithic cave paintings. Check out the man on the bicycle. The rest of the drawings perhaps represent shields. To my imagination, it seemed like an expression of their oppression – many indigenous shields against the one foreign bicycle.

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But on to happier things as we enjoyed the view of the endless plains from the top. Even though the kopje was not very tall, it was obvious how flat and vast the land was. One can only imagine how much could be seen from somewhere properly high up.

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Another interesting sight was the Ngong Rock. This was a strange white rock made of a completely different material from any of the others nearby. It was pitted with indentations that strangely fit little stones quite well. Muba explained that this rock was used as a musical instrument by the Maasai and that the rock itself may be a meteorite from a comet or some such. When struck with a stone, the indentations gave off metallic noises. Each indentation gave off a very slightly different tone, so the sounds deepened somewhat working round the rock. It was a bit like listening an off-tone gong that didn’t resound. Nonetheless, it was rather awe-inspiring to realise that the indentations had been caused by centuries of being struck to make music. I imagined romanticised images of Maasai rituals and dancing with the rock as centrepiece.

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It couldn’t be helped given the beautiful view. What a lovely place to hold a rock concert.

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(Click for a larger image.)

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