In Rift Valley, Kenya.
Translated from Swedish.
Lions, elephants, cheetahs and all other fauna that we saw on the savanna were incredible. However, the stories of the Maasai people and understanding their view of the world was far more exciting. Now, five months after the trip, it is still their stories that have stayed with me and impacted me the most. Far more than any lion’s roar.
Epadey has killed a lion. With a blunt knife. When I ask him why, he says it is tradition. It is a testament to his courage, strength and – indirectly – an indication of his ability to take care of a woman. He tells us this lion-killing ritual is very important. We ask him how many fail and lose their lives in the process. He is silent for a long moment. He looks down on the ground, he’s thinking.
“My little brother didn’t make it”.
We all stand in silence, we assume that his little brother died. “Yeah, he was scared shitless and ran home. But momma wouldn’t let him in the house until he had finished the job.” We all laugh nervously in relief. I wonder what I would have preferred, given the choice. The normal demands put upon me by my own mother, study to a university-level, get a job, husband and kids. Or go out on the savanna on my sixteenth birthday and kill a lion.
Killing a lion seems less time-consuming.
Agnes’ gender has been mutilized. With a blunt knife. When I ask her why, she says it is tradition. It is a testament to her courage, virginity and an insurance to the fact that sex will be so painful that she will only be able to do it in “case of emergency” – i.e. with her husband for reproductive purposes. When we walk with her towards the village we ask her how she truly feels about female genital mutilation, or FGM.
“I’m proud of myself for having done it. It hurt, but in the same way childbirth hurts – in the name of something good and worth it. When I get a husband it will please him so.” She continues talking about how it is a shame that the Kenyan government has their noses up the Maasai traditions. “Do you see us, come to Nairobi and try to change things up? No! And yet they move us around like cattle, change our values and our lifestyle”. I think about the ironic fact that she herself has been converted from Masaai beliefs to Catholicism in exchange for medicin and other types of safeties that the missionaries provide. She says she can tell that one day I will wake up to the truth of God and become a good christian.
I wonder how the pope feels about female genital mutilation.
All the pain Agnes has to have gone through, and is going through on a day-to-day basis for the aesthetic viewing pleasure of a future husband, I can’t imagine it. And I start think of how all women suffer to be considered beautiful. However, I think the line has to be drawn way long before genital mutilation comes up.