I don’t know Maasai, I cannot give a continuous error-free speech in Maasai. I can hear, I can comprehend much but not ALL. My names are Stephen Siloma Keko. Born in Rombo, raised in Rombo, Entarara and Illasit. I remember my childhood, when Kokoo beat us for not speaking the language but that was only a month of the school holidays. I have 2 Maasai names and my parents were both fluent in the language. It is school? It is my childhood friends or is it my environment that left me bereft of the death of my language in me?
In my present age, am rushing to shelves in Nakumatt to look for the ‘Learn Maasai’ disc. In my present age, am trying to shuffle the pages of the ‘Ntepen’ by SS Ole Sankan to no avail, am trying to memorize Ole Pakuo’s lyrics and worse still, I cannot fluently say past who I am, where I come from and who my parents are. Are my parents to blame? Did they give me a bad upbringing because I know not of my language? One that fellow Maasai friends and family will automatically switch to when I say am one and get disappointed that I know nothing?
I am worried of my kids, I am worried that they will know nothing of their language, they will no longer be called Maasais but whoever parent’s language will be dominant. I am worried about their culture, about their Maasailess generation, their lack of pride in their tribe but mere beings identified by their names. Am I to blame? Am I the failure? Or should I shift the blame to my parents? My single mum who struggled to put food to the table or my grandmother who never beat me enough to understand the language?
It is horrific how am treated as an outcast in my own childhood home. How names are stamped upon me, ‘ormeeki’ ‘orkokoyoi’ ‘olumbwai’ ‘oloong’wi’ etc. It is drastic that I do not belong. To the same childhood friends who I have grown with and to the same elderly parents whom I greeted with outmost respect. Should I marry a Maasai girl as they say? One who is fluent in the language? Will there be love or will I be doing that for convenience?
I yearn to know the language, a poignant feeling arouses whenever I see Maasai artifacts being sold. A warm tear rolls down to the stomach whenever I see my fellow Maasai family walking along the streets in shukas. I feel like initiating a conversation with them but I cannot go past where I come from but I would still do it and would love how the old kokoos would love at how unashamed I am to talk to them and how they would grab my hand and spit on it.
Yes, I am a Maasai, by blood, yet am outclassed by my own people. I feel that I do not belong. I have a strong conviction that, if maybe my friends and family did not switch to the Swahili language and laugh at my horrible Maasai and stop calling me ‘ormeeki’ ‘olchaggai’ or ‘orkokoyoi’ I would proudly call myself a Maasai. I would be spending hours with the Maasai gate-man in our estate having ‘lomon’ or those friends who hide that they are Maasai simply because they came to the city.
This is a call to all Maasai people out there, teach your kids their language. Do not tell them it is uncool or outdated. It is never too late to learn their language. And for those who don’t know the language give them a sense of pride, ownership and belonging. Do not shun them away calling them names. Am getting old now and am struggling to know my language even to the extend of looking for a Maasai teacher. I am struggling to have a sense of belonging, I fear for my kids and I believe there are many like me in the same state. #WeAreOne #Maasai4Maasai #UnityByBlood