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Maasai Cultural Ambassador Ole Sankale Visits the Museum

May 30, 2019

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Learning and Growing, Together

Maasai Cultural Ambassador Ole Sankale examines and discusses a row of spears in a box on a table, surrounded by a team of Museum staff listening.

Adapted from a blog post published by the San Diego Museum of Man on May 30, 2019.

Did you know the [Museum of Us] prioritizes Indigenous knowledge and wishes in the care, treatment, and use of cultural resources? This understanding of cultural care can take many forms such as segregating items from each other or ensuring that only certain genders or individuals of appropriate social or cultural status are allowed to handle items.

Early last year, the [Museum of Us] was honored to welcome Cultural Ambassador Ole Sankale of the Maasai during a tour of Southern Californian cultural institutions sponsored by My Chosen Vessels. The purpose of his visit–central to our mission and vision–was to learn from one another. After hours of lively conversation, and a constant flow of information, Ambassador Sankale shared valuable knowledge we’ve already woven into our care practices of the Maasai cultural resources. He examined several weapons and photographs attributed as Maasai, and corrected any inaccurate affiliations. He even identified one arrow that unbeknownst to staff, was probably coated in a deadly poison!

He taught us the proper name for lion spear, Orngerrempe, and we learned to use sheep fat rather than contemporary chemicals to clean it. After a staff visit to a local San Diego butcher–who found the unique request fascinating–the Ornegerrempe shines with new life again!

The shine of the spear, the radiant smile on Ambassador Ole’s face while passing on his insight, and the vital relationship we have with the Maasai is why this work is so important. This is just one example of many where mutual respect, learning, and collaboration has improved our stewardship practices and exhibit development, ultimately bringing people together.

Photo courtesy of MyChosenVessels.org.