Monday, December 4, 2017

YouTube Videos That Showcase Multiple Hairstyles Worn By Contemporary Maasai Women

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases seven YouTube videos that document the changes which have occurred and are still occurring in the ways that Maasai females wear their hair.

Every internet article that I've read about Maasai culture indicates that Maasai women wear their hair shaven bald. Although this is the traditional custom for Maasai females, a number of YouTube videos, especially contemporary videos (2016 on) document that many Maasai women also wear their hair in multiple other hairstyles, including short cropped natural hair, various styles of braided hair with or without extensions, and multiple styles of straightened (chemically relaxed) hair.

Although most of the videos that are featured in these post show singers performing religious songs, this post's main focus is the ways that Maasai females wear their hair. Some of these videos will be showcased separately on this blog to highlight those songs and/or other content.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
Click the Maasai culture and Kenyan Gospel music tags to find other YouTube videos of Maasai songs. These videos include other examples of contemporary. Maasai womens' hairstyles.

Click for a pancocojams post that showcases multiple hairstyles that are worn by Samburu women. The Samburu are an ethnic group that is very closely related to the Maasai.

The only "research" that I've done on the subject of contemporary ways that Maasai females wear their hair is through the internet, and particularly by watching a number of YouTube videos of Maasai people.

This post isn't meant to convey that no contemporary Maasai women is bald headed. Based on YouTube videos, there are Maasai women who still completely shave their hair or who wear their natural hair very closely cropped.

This post also isn't meant to suggest any positive or negative valuation about the custom of shaving any female's hair or any female wearing her hair in any particular hairstyle.

Furthermore, these videos aren't meant to represent all of the various ways that Maasai females wore or now wear their hair.

These examples aren't meant to chronologize the ways that Maasai females shaved their hair or when a number of Maasai females began wearing their unshaved hair in various hairstyles. However, for comparisons sake, the first three videos below (published in 2007, 2010, and 2013) show Maasi women with bald heads or with their natural hair closely cropped. The other four videos (dated 2012, 2016, and 2017) show Maasi women with other hairstyles.

However, it appears from these and other YouTube videos of Maasai women lead singers/backup singers of religious and secular songs that none of these women have shaven heads or closely cropped hair. That implies that these women (and also those who listen to this type of music) don't consider women's shaven head or closely cropped hair styles to be modern "in style" ways for Maasai women to wear their hair.

I'm not a hair stylist. Therefore, I may have used incorrect terms for the examples of hairstyles that I've noted which are shown in these videos. Additions and corrections are welcome.

Any information about this topic is welcome in this post's comment section below. Thank you.

Example #1: Maasai Women

xin zang, Published on Jun 29, 2007

These are Maasai women dancing to welcome visitors. The all gather in front of the village. The have very short hair cuts.

Example #2: Maasai women singing before the ceremony to honor the new Chief Otumoi William ole Nairuko

Marilyn Parver, Published on Sep 18, 2010

The Maasai women of Loita Kenya sing in celebration of Chief Otumoi William Ole Nairuko!!
He is about to be made the Chief of his generation.

Example #3: A Tanzanian Maasai tribe's singing and jumping dance in their boma

franklinclayfilms, Published on Oct 7, 2013

I was told there are at least 128 different tribes in Tanzania. Most have their own language and customs. The Maasai tribe(s) are known as livestock grazers. The importance or wealth of a Maasai family is determined by the number of animals it has (cows are most prized). A Maasai family lives in a home or enclosure called a boma. The boma provides protection for the animals from carnivores. Adult Maasai men can have more than one wife. There is a hut for each wife in the boma.

The Maasai are known for their unique kind of dance -- they propel themselves straight into the air. One of my primary objectives of this trip in 2013 was to film their dance.
Notice that some women shown in this video had short natural hair (hair that is unprocessed), sometimes with one or two lines shaven into the hair: as shown at 1:13 and 1:28 of this video.

Example #4: Enkisuma(Education) Maryanne Naipasoi Tutuma

Maryanne Naipasoi Tutuma, Published on Mar 29, 2012

Education Is the key to a successful life. OLOLOSHO LAI MAISUMATA.
Notice that some of the young girls aren't bald, but wear their hair in various hairstyles.

Example #5: DORCAS KAREI

DELIGHT MEDIA KENYA, Published on Dec 6, 2016

Here are my descriptions of the hairstyles worn by the women in this video:various

Dorcas Karei- straightened hair with a bun in the back (a hair piece?)

Background singers consist of three woman with very short hair. One female has noticeably relaxed/straightened hair on the top with hair shaved on the sides and the back 3:35. The two other women with very short hair that also appears to be relaxed, forming tiny curls or twists.

The remaining background singer wears her hair in long micro braids [extensions?] that fall past her shoulder.

Also, notice that in this video and other contemporary YouTube Masai videos, Masai women also don't have their earlobes elongated as shown in the video given as Examples #1-#3 in this post.

This video also includes men with various hairstyles. The men are holding wooden staffs.


TECHBYTE COMPS, Published on Jan 18, 2017
This video shows contemporary Maasai women with multiple hairstyles, including braided hairstyles.


MC Luvanda, Published on Feb 27, 2017

Pure experience of masai pre-wedding ceremony.
This video has numerous examples of hairstyles that are worn by Maasai women.

My guess is that the women marching into the ceremony are the bride (the woman in the front of the line on the right), her chief bridesmaid (the woman in the front of the line on the left) and the bride's court (other bridesmaids). If I'm wrong, please correct this guess. Thanks.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. While I don't assign any positive or negative valuation to any hairstyle, I definitely consider it to be very positive that Maasai women (and all women) may choose to have a bald head or choose to wear their hair in any hairstyle. Furthermore, I believe that these hairstyle choices can be symbolic of other choices that these contemporary women can make regarding how they wish to lead their lives.

  2. While I was researching the topic of the custom of Maasai females shaving their hair, I came across this internet page: "In Africa: Why do, in many countries, African girls shave their heads?"

    Here are three responses to this question from African women:

    "Tawani Anyangwe, Born in Africa
    Answered Jan 7, 2015
    Back in the late 80s and early 90s when I was in boarding school (PSS Bamenda, Cameroon), the idea was that your hair was a distraction from your education and sense of time
    - that women spent too much time taking care of their hair.
    - also that you shouldn't be concerned about your beauty at such a young age (you not allowed to date until maybe university)."

    "Biche Shuke, East African Lifestyle Blogger,
    Answered Jan 21, 2015
    I believe Tawani's answer is the reason it is most common but from personal experience, even though I never went to boarding so was never required to cut off my hair, my mother did it because it was the easiest way to handle my very tough hair, I.e., keep it low so there's little of it to comb through.

    I did this through most of University too by choice, and when I get so busy that I have no time to fuss with my natural hair, it's still an easy alternative."

    Cherrie Kandie, Student at Dartmouth, Kenyan
    Updated Sep 22, 2015
    "I understand where this question is coming from. It is from the mindset that the length of a person's hair is gendered in such a way that you expect a man to have short hair and a woman to have long hair.

    Pre-colonially, for many African, at least Kenyan, ethnic communities, the length of hair was not gendered at all in the way that you expect it to have been. For the Maasai and Samburu, the moran (young warrior) grew his hair and kept it in very long, thin braids that fell down across his back-- braids dyed red with red ochre soil. The women simply just shaved their heads. I like to think of it as the lion and his lioness.

    Kikuyu women shaved their heads too, and in Out of Africa, Dr. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), writes of Maasai and of Kikuyu women, "Native women shave their heads, and it is a curious thing how quickly you come to feel that these little round neat skulls, which look like some kind of dusky nuts, are the sign of true womanliness, and that a crop of hair on the head of a woman is as unladylike as a beard."

    1. As an African American female, I'm not used to seeing females with bald heads. However, since the late 1960s and particularly as a result of the natural hair movement in the USA since the late 1990s, early 2000s, a few brave Black American females have adopted the custom of having a bald head in public rather than wearing their own hair, or adding extensions to their hair, or rather than wearing a wig.

      One reason for Black women having a bald head is that they may be purposely emulating African females and, in so doing, promoting another standard of beauty.

      Black and non-Black women may [also] "sport a bald head" rather wearing a wig to hide the effects of chemotherapy or scalp diseases that result in hair loss.

      That said, although I wouldn't phrase it the same way that Biche Shuke did (in the second comment quoted above from the website) i.e. "my mother did it because it was the easiest way to handle my very tough hair, I.e., keep it low so there's little of it to comb through", my guess is that the custom of African females a having bald head is because tightly curled, kinky hair is difficult and time consuming to take care of.

      I also wonder if African patriarchal cultures instituted the custom of females wearing their hair shaved because it helped reinforce uniformity while females wearing their hair in different styles helps develop and reinforce individuality.

  3. In many of the Maasai (and the closely related ethnic group Samburu) YouTube videos that I've watched I noticed that a number of the females and males have a gap in the teeth (have the center tooth missing) in the lower row of teeth and sometimes also in the top row.

    Although I haven't found any information about this custom online, my guess is that this is a traditional Maasai (and Samburu) beautification custom which may not be followed by urbanized members of those ethnic groups.