THE BEAUTY OF THE MASSAI TRADITIONAL JUMPING DANCEJun 05, 2023 02:00PM ● By Okechukwu Nzeribe
Image: Massai men performing high jumping dance. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Massai people of Kenya in East Africa are known for their various cultural traditions, a lifestyle that is nature-focused, and the age-old ceremonies amongst which is the famous Adumu dance.
The Adumu Dance is the high jumping dance, which can serve varied purposes from the entertainment of guests, performances during special events like initiations, rites of passage into manhood, and weddings.
To perform the high jumping dance, a circle is formed by the warriors and one or two members of the group would enter the circle and begin to jump. The jump requires that each person maintains a narrow posture while pushing themselves as high as they can away from the ground while ensuring that their heels never touch the ground. This is followed by the other dancers, passing the energy of the jump from one to another with graceful, coordinated moves. Each dancer remains in the air for as long as they can, attempting to beat their previous height. Members of the group encourage each jumper by raising the pitch of their voices depending on how high each jumper attains.
The traditional Massai high jumping dance can last for about an hour or more, with each member taking turns to display their ability. This is not an activity for the fainthearted or one unsuited for this feat.
With the intensity of the music slowly climbing, a member of the group who has shown the most skill in jumping higher than others is then selected from amongst the group to leap higher so as to display the strength of the Massai and their exuberance towards life.
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For centuries the Massai people have been performing this high jumping dance and which has become a notable trademark for them around the world and has become a must-see experience for tourists who visit Kenya.
Asides the activities surrounding the Adumu (jumping dance), the dance also has a spiritual symbolism for the Massai people. The Massai believe in Enkai, the God who guides all that they do. Life for the Massai is seen to be composed of the elements of heaven, earth, and sky.
This communal display of faith and trust in the supreme being is one of the core values of the Massai culture. The Adumu dance, along with the spiritual symbolism of its movements, presents an opportunity for the Massai to receive the blessings of their ancestors for their protection and nurturing, while also building trust, and promoting togetherness within the community
Ultimately, the Massai high jumping dance is a great part of their cultural tradition that has been passed down through generations and will continue to be celebrated amongst themselves and remain a popular sightseeing experience for tourists visiting Kenya.
The Massai people and their connection to the divine embodies the beauty and spirit of Africa. Their lifestyle presents a great opportunity for many to find their spiritual connection and pursue a balanced and harmonious way of life with their loved ones, friends and community.
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Okechukwu Nzeribe works with the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, in Anambra State, Nigeria, and loves unveiling the richness of African cultures.
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