Maasai Seme (Kenya)


Seme sword of the Maasai, Kenya

Code:  AC2

The Seme (sime) is the constant sidearm of the Maasai (Masai) man.  It is a light short sword with a double-edged, leaf-shaped spatulate blade, made from spring steel.  The Maasai use this blade for everything from clearing brush, butchering cattle, to peeling fruit.  They also use it for self defense.

Traditional Maasai life centers around their cattle.  The measure of a man’s wealth is in terms of cattle, and children.  50 cattle is a respectable herd, and the more children the better.  Cattle are the basis of the Maasai economy, providing food (in the form of milk and blood), and property for payment of bride price.  

Massai man with Seme sword

Similar to the Turkana, a Maasai myth leads them to believe that they own all the cattle on earth.  This justifies their raiding other tribes to take cattle which is “rightfully” theirs.  Traditionally, the Maasai ranged widely over the Kenya highlands in raiding expeditions.  After suffering famine and disease they were ultimately persuaded by the Kenya government to move to southern Kenya and Tanzania. Although this practice is much less common these days, disputes over pasture land remain common and violence is not unknown.

While cattle constitute the primary source of food for the Maasi, it is less well known that they obey strict dietary habits forbidding them for instance to consume milk and meat in the same day.  They also observe a taboo against eating fish.