The Turkana people are found in the Northern part of Kenya. Turkana tribe is part of the Nilotic tribes and constitutes the second largest pastoralist community after the Maasai
Like the Maasai, the Turkana have maintained a traditional lifestyle.
The community is clustered in over 20 clans. The two dominant are the Ngirisai referring to the Leopard and Ngimor referring to the Stones. In this system, successive generation of males alternate between being part of the Ngirisai or the Ngimor groups.
Wives of the Ngimor put on a Black wedding ring around their neck whilst the wives from the Ngirisai clan put on a silver ring around their neck. It is the official symbol of marriage. A middle finger ring is also worn. Women automatically belong to the age set of their fathers until they marry and then take their husbands grouping. The quantity of the Jewellery around a woman’s neck determine her social status.
The turkana males do not practise male circumcision.
A Turkana boy looks after young goats. At the age of 11, he starts looking after mature goats and as he grows, he is entrusted with cows, camels and sheep. Between 16 to 20 years old, he is allowed to attend the night dance with his friends and look out for a suitable girl to start a family.
The woman remains the pillar in Turkana family. She’s responsible for building the house, tendering to the animals and provide food for her husband.
The bride price is very high in Turkana society. When a man is ready to marry, his parents visit the bride’s parents with gifts such as sheep, sugar and tobacco. Once the marriage is consented, the number of animals to be brought is agreed upon. Bride price could amount from 10 to 30 cows if the man is wealthy. Goats could amount up to 100 heads or more. A bull is later slaughtered to seal the marriage.
Polygamy is acceptable in Turkana culture and a man can marry as many wives as long as he can afford to pay the bride’s price and sustain them. The more the livestock, the more cumbersome it is for one wife to tend them so the husband has to look for another or other wives to delegate duties. The first wife is consulted and has to approve.
The youngest wife will be looked after by the husband’s eldest son. She cannot leave the homestead because she may be exploited for her wealth. It is the duty of the eldest wife to instruct her firstborn son to marry the younges wife.
Divorce doesn’t exist in Turkana’s vocabulary as it is considered a curse. It is forbidden because no family will trust a divorcee with their daughter. Divorce is only allowed if the woman is proved to be adulterous or has bad manners that dispute the norms of the community.
Men flirting with other men’s wives will also suffer the full wrath of the Council of Elders. For instance, his animals can be confiscated or he can be fined by the Council of Elders. A bull will be slaughtered as a cleansing ritual. One may be asked to repay the dowry price.
Once a married woman becomes a widow, she shaves her hair and removes all of her jewellery. This signifies that she burries her husband’s tradition to be allowed to remarry.
Source : KTN News Kenya
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