Dr. Ambrose (Anthropology, UIUC) is engaging a fascinating issue of cultural rights around the use of caves and rock shelters by Maasai warriors. Warriors periodically camp at secluded sites for up to a month, where they hone their warrior skills, feast on cattle, pray, and form strong fraternal bonds with age set members. They paint war shield designs of their age sets, cattle brands, and other culturally significant iconography in caves and rock shelters. In 2017, local Maasai Christian church members began overpainting traditional images with crosses and numbered verses from the New Testament at one of the most intensively used caves. Painted messages at the entrance declare that this is now a house of God, no more cattle will be slaughtered here, and other declarations denying traditional practices.
In this talk Dr. Ambrose discusses the broader issues and questions raised by this escalating contestation of Maasai traditional culture and the Christian group’s determination to replace and erase an important Maasai tradition. The panel discussion that follows will contemplate the dispute as one of abrogated cultural rights and, potentially, human rights. If that framework is definitionally correct, what actions might result and what stakeholders and other agents/agencies could be involved.