Mokombo is the one of the last great Loibon of the Maasai. What’s a Loibon? That’s a little hard to answer. They are someone of great importance in a traditional Maasai community. They are someone gifted with the power to see the future. They’re not really a fortune teller and they’re certainly not a witch doctor. They’re more a seer (I believe that’s correct word but if anyone knows better please correct me). They are the ones who can advice the community as a whole on what might be the best course of action to take and where to go to find better grazing if, say, there’s a drought. Or, they can advise an individual on personel matters. Historically there are few more respected members of the community.
Today though, as Maasai culture changes so the role of the Loibon is becoming reduced and in some areas (such as around the Masai Mara Reserve) no more Loibon remain. Mokombo though is still renowned throughout this part of Kenya for his visionary powers. He is the great-grandson of Senteu, one of the best known of all Maasai Loibon and the one who refused to collaborate with the British in the early 20th Century. His brother however did work with the British and this caused a split within the Maasai community with Senteu’s followers heading to the remote Loita Hills.
I was keen to meet someone of such importance. We finally found him outside his hut an hour or so from where I had been staying in a green dale filled with grazing cattle. He was an arresting character and demanded respect from people around him. He didn’t know his age but he had to be about seventy. He as dressed in a clock made of colobus monkey and hyrax fur, had big ear rings and a ring made of cow hide that stood fifteen centimetres off his finger. I have met people like Mokombo before and they can often be quite stand-offish, but not Mokombo who invited us in, had wood smoke tea made for us and settled down into his leather armchair in which his name was engraved to talk.
We talked for an hour or so about the history of the Maasai, how things are changing and what the future might bring (but for all that you’ll have to wait until I have written the book!) and when we left he asked me if I would like to photograph him with the sacred calabash which is handed from one generation of Loibon to the next. This was the very same calabash that Senteu would have had.
And tomorrow we meet the ‘white Maasai’….