Heritage from the mainland

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I’ve always associated the Masai people with Kenya, so it was interesting to see men of that heritage in Zanzibar, dressed in their traditional clothes. In some ways, their look is similar to the traditional dressing of Asante and other Ghanaian heritages, inasmuch as they use large pieces of cloth wrapped around the body in various ways. The Masai look is more dynamic, in my opinion, because they seem to tie their kangas in the waist area, giving them a resemblance to gladiators.

Men of that heritage are employed as security guards in many establishments on the island and I saw many of them in the alleys and pathways of Stone Town, early in the morning, probably on their way home from night shifts of looking after properties. Zanzibar doesn’t appear to have a major problem with crime, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some sort of protection.

In my mind’s eye, I could see action movies set in Masai communities. The men I saw always appeared to be ready for action, to deal with conflicts and possibly contain skirmishes. There is also potential for exciting graphic novels to be set in worlds populated with guys who look like this.

Walking through the gift shops in Stone Town, the products on display for tourists to buy are as superficial as the things one would find in London’s Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. No one seems to have received the memo in Zanzibar that we can easily get access to many of the souvenirs they make available, even in London.

The shops that caught my eye the most were run by folks of Masai heritage. They are not indigenes of the island, but they offer a visual aesthetic in their wares that is striking in its connection to a dynamic African culture.