Retrogressive traditions in Blossoms of the Savannah

Question: In the novel, Blossoms of the Savannah, Ole Kulet goes out of his way to castigate some Maa way of life. Write an essay to show the validity of this statement with close reference to the novel.  (A KCSE Composition question)

Culture and traditions are supposed to guide our way of life but over time some cultures prove to be retrogressive. Societies should therefore continuously evaluate their culture and shed any practices that have been overtaken by time. In Blossoms of the Savannah Ole Kulet critiques some harmful traditions of the Maa community such as forced early marriages, dowry, and  female genital mutilation (FGM), and demonstrates the need for the Maa people to leave such practices behind. 

The Maa people continue to practice FGM despite the physical and emotional trauma it causes among girls. The rite was started way back by the women as a method to fight off the Ilarinkon warriors who oppressed the Maa. It had been carried on to the modern era despite it being harmful and demeaning to the girls. Resian observes that it is an unnecessary rite since the war on the Ilarinkon had been won and so it needed to be left in that era. The Maa consider it a vital rite of passage and they stigmatize women who try to avoid it. The author demonstrates the effects of FGM through Taiyo. She is circumcised forcefully and she wakes up sore, bitter and angry. She is weak from the experience and has to undergo counselling to fully recover from the pain and trauma that comes with undergoing the cut forcefully. Minik, who has rescued over 500 girls and keeps them safe at the ranch, is an example of people who are actively fighting the tradition. 

Ole Kulet also critiques the tradition of bride price. Maa men are expected to pay dowry to their intended brides family. However, this practice has been commercialized because of greed and lust. Rich men feel they are entitled to marry young girls by paying off their fathers, and greedy parents forcefully marry off their daughters for bride price. As result, some parents trade off their young daughters to old rich men for wealth in a slave trade fashion. Ole Kaelo was ready to sell off his daughters to Oloisudori in exchange for business deals. In his pursuit for wealth, Ole Kaelo abandon his fatherly responsibilities of protecting and educating his daughters. Instead, he views them as commodities that can be sold off for profit. By offering Resian to Oloisudori, Ole Kaelo risks denying her a chance to pursue further education, and exposes her to the brutal FGM practice and early marriage. Mama Milanoi observes that such acts of greed and lust go against Maa culture and would have been punishable in the olden days. When Resian escapes, Ole Kaelo forces his second daughter to take Resian’s place and marry Oloisudori so that he is not forced to repay Oloisudori’s debt. As result, Taiyo is forced to undergo FGM before she is rescued. Women like Resian and Taiyo who are victims of this practice are denied a voice in deciding who they marry. The practice of dowry therefore encourages forced early marriages and FGM which in turn disrupt women’s education.

Early, forced marriages is another retrogressive Maa tradition that infringes on the rights of young girls . At the wake of Edward Oloisudori’s plan to marry Resian, Mama Milanoi recalls that such an act of lust would have been punished heavily. She remembers the old man who was beaten to death for attempting to seduce a young girl. She even thinks of presenting the case to the elders and she knows that this would have saved Resian. The practice reduces women to commodities that can be traded by their fathers for material wealth without their consent. Resian resists her father’s plans to marry her off because it would cost her the opportunity to study and Egerton and pursue her dreams. She would also have married Oloisudori, a much older man instead of choosing and marrying a man of her dreams. When Resian runs from home, Ole Kaelo forcefully circumcises Taiyo to prepare her to take Resian’s place as Oloisudori’s bride. Thus forced marriages fuel the need FGM as it is thought to make women more submissive. Fortunately both Resian and Taiyo are rescued by Minik who has saved over 500 girls from forced, early marriages. 

Lastly is the prejudice against women among the Maa society denies them a voice even in marriage. Mama Milanoi thought about the acts Ole Kaelo had planned for the daughters but she could not speak because culture demanded her to be submissive and obedient to her husband regardless. When Minik tries to save Supeiyo’s daughters, she is insulted and looked down upon and is seen as an outcast for having an opinion against the retrogressive cultures. Resian also refuses to sit back and let this prejudice win. She fights for herself and resorts to run away from home to liberate herself. Nabaru also saves Resian from Olarinkoi’s planned circumcision and forced marriage. Ole Kulet uses Minik, Resian and Nabaru to show that women can make informed decisions and the Maa society needs to allow the women to speak. 

Through the above examples, Ole Kulet illustrates that Maa traditions like FGM, dowry, forced marriages, and patriarchy in general are retrogressive because they dehumanize women, deny them opportunity to pursue education, and prevent them from contributing to development in the society.

 An essay by Chris Hani Misama Ogweno (

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