Gender inequality pervades nearly every aspect of Resian and Taiyo's life. In Nasila, as in many other parts of the world, women are treated as subordinate to their male counterparts. They are expected to become homemakers and have no choice over whom they marry. In Nasila, men (like Simiren) are expected to be polygamous, but women can only be monogamous. Maa women hold no right even over their own bodies, they are circumcised involuntarily, and they live in fear of sexual assault. As careful readers, we must note that the issue of gender inequality is not unique to the Maa people. Nearly one in five women in the United States report being survivors of sexual assault during their lifetime.
The role of women as homemakers is not inherently less honorable than, say, a career in business. In fact, domestic activities are essential to the preservation of human life. The issue is that women are not given the freedom to choose how to live. We see this when Taiyo and Resian resist circumcision and when they try to pursue education. Both acts are understood as transgressions which violate the norms for Maa women, and result in punishment.
The character who most clearly embodies this theme is Oloisudori. He gives out lucrative government contracts and then uses them as leverage against his business partners. Oloisudori's activities are widely known, yet nothing is done to stop him because this level of corruption is normalized. The people of Nasila come to expect his corruption as if it were a tax on goods and services. The reader also sees this when Ole Kaelo rationalizes his partnership with Oloisudori and decides that it is the only way for him to get ahead in the world.
Coming of Age
Blossoms of the Savannah explores the nature of adolescence and the complexities of becoming an adult in the Maa culture. Ole Kaelo and Mama Milanoi are pressured by the people of Nasila to circumcise their daughters primarily because it is a rite of passage in order for girls to become women in Maa culture. Whereas for example in Judaism, coming of age is marked by a bar or bat mitzvah, or in the modern Catholic Church a confirmation, Maa women undergo circumcision.
For all the tragic circumstances that Resian and Taiyo face, they act with great courage. They demonstrate resilience and courage in escaping their families and their aggressors. They defend themselves against attempted rape. They speak out against cultural norms and expectations that they feel are unjust.
Moreover, they are not alone in their acts of courage. Minik, the owner of the sheep farm, takes in over five hundred runaway girls who escape arranged marriages and circumcision. Nabaru, the medicine woman who nurses Resian back to health, walks many miles through dangerous terrain and risks her own life to help Resian escape from Olarinkoi.
Most of the novel is in one way or another about the negotiation of family relationships, as family is the foundation of Maa culture and society. In other words, a person is seen first as a brother, daughter, father, and then (if at all) as an individual. Thus, each character's identity is inseparable from their role within the family unit. This is what makes Resian and Taiyo's decision to leave all the more dramatic. In leaving Nasila, they leave behind all the bonds of their extended family and all social ties, apart from the bond between the two of them.
Just as doctors have a duty to protect human life, each of the characters in Blossoms has their own set of duties and obligations. Mama Milanoi has an obligation to support her husband's decisions and to care for other members of her clan regardless of blood relation. Ole Kaelo has a duty to prepare his daughters for marriage and to provide for his family after he loses his job in Nakuru. Taiyo and Resian have a duty as daughters to follow their father's wishes and to dote on the men of the Ilmolelian clan. The theme of duty is closely connected to the theme of family, because one's duty is dictated by one's role within the family unit.
Together with courage, it is love that allows Taiyo and Resian to persevere in the face of great adversity. It is also Joseph Parmuat's love for Tiayo that gives him the strength to save her from Oloisudori. Taiyo and Resian's love for one another allows them to leave their family and start a new life at the sheep farm.
Blossoms of the Savannah Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Blossoms of the Savannah is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
This question calls for you to name your favorite character. My favorite character is Nabaru because she is protective and self-sacrificing. Neither of the sisters, Resian or Taiyo, might have survived without her help and guidance.
Gender Inequality is a broad theme indeed, but it encompasses the smaller, more specific theme of female circumcision. From the beginning of the book it is apparent that Nasila is a place where women are not independent and are not encouraged to...