The traditional Maasai chants along with their rhythmic body movements are meant to whip the participants and their supporters into a frenzy of emotion, boosting their adrenalin going into the athletic contests.
Prior to the contests, this moran undoubtedly spent hours painting his head & face with ocher paint in the traditional Maasai style.
‘Menye layiok’ literally means ‘fathers of the warriors’ and describes the group of carefully selected Maasai elders who are chosen to teach and guide the new warriors.
The Menye Layiok Project has declared 2 main activities as their focus with the morans: education and sports competition.
The Maasai Olympics is the brainchild of the menye layiok as a way to steer the culture away from lion killing and toward a recognition & appreciation of the value of wildlife.
Before his main event, this warrior contestant spends time in quiet contemplation – an effective ritual practiced by athletes around the world.
In addition to steering the Maasai culture away from lion killing, the elders charged with the responsibility of mentoring the new warriors demand that the morans attend school. At present, 40% of Maasai men are illiterate.
In the previous Maasai Olympics, the morans wore the traditional Maasai togas when competing in the events. This year, however, the contestants are required to wear solid brightly colored jersey tanks and shorts (when appropriate) during the competitions.
When not competing, the morans wrap themselves in their traditional togas called ‘shukas’.
The 4 different colors of the competition kits represent the 4 different competing manyattas: red, green, yellow, & blue.
This moran psyches himself before running in the 200m sprint.
Every competition is intense with each competitor giving his all.
When this young warrior has passed through warriorhood and enters the transition into elderhood (enoto), his prized hair will be completely shaved off by his mother – a traumatic and emotional moment for him.
This new generation of warriors is being taught that lion killing is no longer culturally acceptable and that they must protect the wildlife as they do their cattle.
The warrior grinds the mineral ocher and combines it with either water or fat before applying the color to his hair and/or body.
The bond between the young warriors is powerful and unshakable, their support for one another unwavering.
I find it curious that this warrior contestant is wearing his traditional Maasai toga rather than the kit of his manyatta.
Even though the morans are fierce competitors, amongst themselves they are a closely-knit group.
Most of the contestants’ sandals have soles made of tire treads. Obviously, this self-made footwear gives the wearers great traction and is fairly easy to fashion.
As mentioned earlier, the warriors’ bond is unbounded: they share everything in their lives from food to girlfriends.
A warrior contestant collapses following his first heat. Following immediate attention and proper hydration, he is able to recover sufficiently to complete the competition.