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East African Cattle Societies

The transition from childhood to adulthood - coming of age, is a very important rite of passage for many cattle societies in East African regions. For the Maasai people, coming of age is marked by a ceremony known as E Unoto (Maasai). Coming of age for the Maasai people is a process which starts at tender age. When a boy reaches the age of five, he becomes the official herder of his family calves. The boy is then circumcised between the ages of 12 and 15 in a ceremony setting which marks beginning of the boy's journey as a warrior - morani (Maasai). Depending on the boy's determination in the activities of warriors, he graduates from a junior warrior to a senior warrior over the next eight to twelve years. Afterwards, E Unoto or 'coming of age' ceremony is conducted where the warrior becomes an adult who can marry and owe cattle (Maasai).

In Dinkas community - a cattle society living in Sudan, coming of age is also marked with a ceremony. When young boys and girls reach the age of five, they start receiving informal education from their uncles, aunties, parent and grandparents about handling different household tasks such as herding (for boys), cooking, taking care of the children and clearing (for girls). At the age of twelve, coming of age ceremony is marked with dances, music and feasting as the young boys and girls are initiated into adulthood. The ceremony involves undergoing traditional scarring where thin superficial cuts are made and an irritant is rubbed on so that the keloids would form (Levy and Latif). After this, the boys are free to look for suitable girls (who must have passed through the scarring ceremony) and marry.

This structured way of coming of age by these communities is different from how my subculture does it. In my subculture, there is no significant ceremony to mark the coming of age. Girls and boys are just brought up in the normal way - receive advice about life from adults. Adult males and females are free to interact and marry once they complete school where some marry as early as 20 years.

From a personal perspective, the strength in the Maasai's and Dinka's way of coming of age is presence of community involvement in the whole system. This helps to add value in the system where obligations, duties and expectation are vested in those who are supposed to undergo the ritual. They therefore take it with seriousness and this helps them to take some of the important rites in live such as marriage with seriousness. I think this is what my subculture would approve of the Maasais' and Dinkas' cultures.

However, these two cultures do not allow interaction/socialization of males and females when they are young. This is based on the notion that they might end up doing things which are meant for adults while they are young. My subculture would find this a draw back because ours is an open culture where no social limitations are imposed on anybody. Our subculture recognizes that humans are social beings and socialization should not be limited at all. Humans should learn to socialize with each other at a tender age so that they can learn how to cohabit peacefully.

Conversely, I think the Maasais and the Dinkas would find the way young girls and boys interact to be perplexing especially because they engage in many social activities even in public. The fact that my subculture does not have any formal ceremony to mark coming of age for our girls and boys would also be perplexing to the Maasais and Dinkas because they believe that important rites of passage in once life should be marked with ceremonies.

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