The small Maasai Museum in Engare Sero

THE SMALL MAASAI MUSEUM IN ENGARE SERO

The classic museum, by definition, is a place that collects works of art, objects of a historical, scientific or ethno-anthropological and cultural nature and, as a rule, is complemented by interactive teaching facilities that attract the attention of adults and kids.

When we went to visit the National Museum in Dar es Salaam, we were fascinated by the prehistory section. Panels, photographs, finds, visual reconstructions: really well built, with engaging environments and soft lighting.

Upon our arrival at the gate of Lake Natron, we found ourselves in front of two buildings: the office for the entry documents check and a pretty large Maasai manyatta, with a faded sign that stood above the entrance door. At the beginning I didn’t notice, the writing was really discolored, then I realized the word just barely visible was the word ‘museum’.

Maasai MuseumIntrigued, I got out of the car and walked over at the entrance. The place was deserted. The structure was made of wood and mud, just like that of the Maasai manyattas, and of round shape.

I ventured inside, into the only room that occupied the entire surface of the hut. In the center there was one case with a model showing Lake Natron and the surrounding lands, traditionally the Maasai lands.

On the walls some paper posters with the descriptions of the culture and the typical social structure of the tribe were accompanied by some objects.

I was looking around and didn’t see that I had been joined by two quite and silent warriors standing near the door.

As soon as I saw them, they welcomed me with a beautiful smile: I guess there aren’t so many tourists who reach this part of Tanzania and, above all, who stop to pay a visit to this unique Maasai Museum.

Maasai Museum blanketLooking closer, I realized that they were two elderly warriors, no longer in their prime, and that they seemed eager to show me that handful of old items as a testimony of an ancient and complex culture. I didn’t disappoint them.

I followed them along the entire perimeter, listen carefully to their stories.

First we tackled the layout where I received an in-depth geographical description of the area, the center of which is represented by Lake Natron.

Then we moved on to the posters. The structure of the tribe, the ceremonies, the rites in the various phases of life, the plants used by the tribe and their therapeutic properties, the synergy between Maasai, territory and fauna. In short, a long story about the habits and rituals of this tribe that has maintained its culture unchanged for centuries.

The last section, dedicated to the objects used in ceremonies showed bags, mats and an old painted shield.

Maasai bagI can’t deny it was an unusual visit, a bit for the place, a bit for the characters, a bit for the feeling of being halfway between reality and a different dimension.

I often have this sensation here in Tanzania, especially when visiting remote corners. And I love this feeling, this dimension suspended between the present and a distant past that does not seem to have passed completely.

The sense of fixity is palpable. The awareness that nothing has changed for long immerses us in one strange reality, between amazement and admiration, far away from the frenzy and inside an almost unreal world, made of small things, small objects, small variations, but also of great truths about the meaning of life. I will never stop visiting, searching, investigating.

Tanzania is a second home for me and here I make new discoveries every day. Of course, the cultural gap is huge, but precisely for this reason the stimulus is a continuous challenge to visit, to know, to understand a wonderful universe.😊

Ol-doinyo Lengai, the sacred mountain of the Maasai people