If you’re visiting Kenya or Tanzania, the Maasai will dance during safari tours. But this performance is often out of context. What comes across as a single performance is but a peek into one of several Maasai rites. The adumu is a culmination of the “eunoto” – a tradition where the younger warriors or “morani” (pictured below) enter manhood. There’s deeper meaning and intent behind each jump. It’s a way for young Maasai men to demonstrate their strength and find brides.
Traditionally, the young morani live together for ten years in a warrior’s camp called emanyatta. They live away from their villages and learn all the duties of a Maasai warrior. The end of this period is “eunoto” – when young men are ready to become warriors, marry, and raise families.
Eunoto celebrations go on for ten days. Ten glorious days of song, feasting, and ritualistic marches in front of older, seasoned warriors. It also marks the first time the young warriors taste alcohol. The local brew is made from honey and fermented aloe roots. The adumu may be one part of the eunoto ceremony but it is by far the most well-documented one.
During the adumu, young morani gather in a circle to show off their skills and strength to the tribeswomen. They will enter the circle, one warrior or two at a time – soon proceeding to jump. The higher, more graceful the jump, the larger a warrior’s appeal to the young women watching. Adumu may look simple but requires serious agility and strength.
When one warrior loses steam (usually after a few jumps), another one takes his place. All the while, the morani in the outer circle continue singing, adjusting their pitch to match each leap. The mothers join in the singing too. Together, the songs and dance reach a powerful crescendo – bringing incredible energy to the celebrations. After the ceremony, the morani shave their long hair, symbolizing their new status as warriors. They return to their villages and are now free to marry and raise children.
The adumu brings Maasai people from across different territories. It celebrates a rite of passage – a community celebration that ushers in young men to the next stage of their lives.