COVID-19 spares no culture but is extremely hard on underserved populations. It is like the African lion, waiting for the next opportunity. The Maasai are already fighting to preserve their ancient culture, but with the introduction of COVID-19, they must now battle the rapid spread of this deadly virus. The actions we take now are critical to protecting the Maasai.
The Maasai have always relied on each other to solve problems. Currently they are confronting COVID-19 on top of other life challenging factors such as chronic poverty, inadequate health care, illiteracy, limited internet and a lack of running water. Now some Maasai are finding creative ways to cope and educate their community – including using music.
The Maasai honor a verbal culture therefore music and radio continue to be the medium of choice for the marginalized Maasai communities. Music is an effective means of communication because it is popular in the Maasai community and the messages it conveys are easily remembered. Information from the Government’s health agency is either in Swahili or English – whereas not all Maasai people are versatile in these two languages. Music is more effective when used to convey messages in the Maasai native language to educate them on COVID-19, it can reach the illiterate and be life-saving.
Musa Nkonyoyo is a popular Maasai musician. He is crafting a powerful Maasai song to educate his community on preventive measures to protect his community from COVID-19 using the symbolism of a lion. The Maasai elders are using the lion as a metaphor to teach the community, stating that the lion is always there waiting to strike when least expected, much like COVID-19.