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The Turkana people have elaborate clothing and adornment styles. Clothing is used to distinguish between age groups, development stages, occasions and status of individuals or groups in the Turkana community. Today, many Turkana have adopted western-style clothing. This is especially prominent among both men and women who live in town centers throughout Turkana.

When these rivers flood, new sediment and water extend onto the river plain that is cultivated after heavy rainstorms, which occur infrequently. When the rivers dry up, open-pit wells are dug in the riverbed; these are used for providing water to the livestock and also for human consumption. There are few, if any, developed wells for community and livestock drinking water, and often families must travel several hours searching for water for their livestock and themselves. Livestock is an important aspect of Turkana culture.


Goats, camels, donkeys and zebu are the primary herd stock utilized by the Turkana people. In this society, livestock functions not only as a milk and meat producer, but as form of currency used for bride-price negotiations and dowries. Often, a young man will be given a single goat with which to start a herd, and he will accumulate more via animal husbandry. In turn, once he has accumulated sufficient livestock, these animals will be used to negotiate for wives.

It is not uncommon for Turkana men to lead polygynous lifestyles, since livestock wealth will determine the number of wives each can negotiate for and support. Turkana rely on their animals for milk, meat and blood. Wild fruits are gathered by women from the bushes and cooked for 12 hours. Slaughtered goats are roasted on a fire. Roasting meat is their favorite way of consuming meat. The Turkana often trade with the Pokots for maize,beans and vegetables and Marakwet for tobacco. The Turkana buy tea from the towns and make milk tea.

In the morning, people eat maize porridge with milk, while for lunch and dinner they eat plain maize porridge nang'aria with a stew. Zebu are only eaten during festivals, while goat is consumed more frequently. Fish is taboo for some of the Turkana clans or brands, "ngimacharin". After the hunt, men go out again to gather honey, which is the only natural sweetener available in traditional diets. Houses are constructed over a wooden framework of domed saplings on which fronds of the Doum Palm tree Hyphaene thebaica , hides or skins, are thatched and lashed on.

The house is large enough to house a family of six. Usually, during the wet season, they are elongated and covered with cowdung. Animals are kept in a brush wood pen. Due to changes in the climatic conditions, most Turkana have started changing from the traditional method of herding cattle to agro-pastoralism.

A clear boundary is not drawn between the sacred and the profane in Turkana society. In this regard, Turkana traditional religion is undifferentiated from Turkana social structure or epistemological reality—the religion and the culture are one. The Turkana are pastoralists whose lives are shaped by the extreme climate in which they live.

Each day, one must seek to find the blessings of life—water, food, livestock, wives, children—in a manner that appeases the ancestral spirits and is in harmony with the peace within the community. Properly following the traditions ngitalio in daily life will certainly lead to blessing. Blessings are understood to be an increase in wealth, whether livestock, children, wives or even food. It is only through proper relationships with God Akuj and the ancestors, proper protection from evil, and participation in the moral economy of the community that one can be blessed.

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Essentially, Turkana believe in the reality of a Supreme Being named Akuj. Not much is known about Akuj other than the fact that he alone created the world and is in control of the blessings of life. There is also a belief in the existence of ancestors, ngipean or ngikaram, yet these are seen to be malevolent, requiring animal sacrifices to be appeased when angry. When angered or troubled, the ancestors will possess people in the family in order to verbally communicate with their family.

Turkana religious specialists, ngimurok, continue to act as intermediaries between living people and ancestors and also help in problem solving in communities. As in most African traditional religions, traditional religious specialists in Turkana are present and play an active role in almost every community event. Ngimurok help to identify both the source of evil, sickness or other problems that present themselves, and the solution or specific cure or sacrifice that needs to take place in order to restore abundant life in the family and the community.

These ngimurok of God can still be found throughout Turkana, each in their own territory, alongside specialized ngimurok who have received specific abilities to read tea leaves, tobacco, intestines, shoes, stones and string. There are also hidden evil specialists, ngikasubak, who use objects in secret to work against people in the community, and ngikapilak, who specialize in pronouncing very strong curses employing the use of body parts from those recently deceased, but these are not included in the term emuron.

The ngimurok in each area receive direct revelations from Akuj, who is still directly active and concerned with the creation. These ngimurok do not speak or receive messages through an intermediary god or spirit through possession. While ancestor possessions are common in Turkana, they normally occur among younger people at the home, so that the ancestor can communicate their message to those in the home.

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The emuron would then be consulted as to what should be done. Ngimurok are not known as people who are normally possessed. Apart from the ngimurok, there are also important clan rituals in Turkana that represent the acknowledgement and transitions of life force. The most important rituals are the birth rituals akidoun , male and female initiation rituals that do not include circumcision asapan and akinyonyo , marriage rituals Akuuta , annual blessing sacrifices Apiaret an awi , and death rituals Akinuuk.

Each of these rituals is overseen by the elders of the clan, both men and women. The elders also oversee the community-wide wedding rituals, but an emuron normally plays a role in blessing the marriage. Wood bowls, containers, cow bells and head rests from the Turkana people. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Traditional Turkana dance being presented by local schoolchildren. Turkana women pound palm nuts to remove husks.

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Such an individual was called Ozoo-ei. In any case, harvesting could not be done without the blessing of the Opi. It was his duty to offer new harvests to the gods and he had to taste the produce before the producers could taste them. In the event of the clan ceremonial feast, he officially opened it by starting to eat before anybody else. He was given the most delicious meat which always included a piece of liver. The Opi rarely offered sacrifices to the ancestors although their power to lead was believed to be derived from the ancestors. They had, however, the duty of offering sacrifices to the god of the clan.

Custom demanded that an Opi should be able to recount the adi testimonies during funeral rites, serious illness and major social gatherings like marriage ceremonies. The prospective Opi learnt adi by observation. The actual practice of recounting the adi was solemn. The Opi would stand up and narrate the history of the clan to stress the oneness.

The he would proceed to recount the background of the occasion for which the adi was being recounted. He would symbolically move forward and backwards while shooting an arrow upwards at each stop. Of he happened to forget appoint, or got mixed up during the process, it was normal and acceptable for another elder to correct him. Usually the adi would be followed by the settlement of the issue at hand. Succession of an Opi: Among the Lugbara, succession of an Opi was a peaceful affair. The date of the succession was a very honorable occasion and it was attended by all the notables of the clan.

This occasion was punctuated by a lot of beer and food. Amidst all this, the most senior Opi within the lineage presented the new Opi with an anderiku a chiefly stool which was sometimes simply referred to as Opi Angua. After the new Opi had sat on the stool, he was presented with the rest of the chiefly regalia namely; a spear, a bow and arrows and a bracelet.


Then a congregation of lineage chiefs would formerly brief the new Opi on the qualities and rules of conduct which would be expected of him as a leader and alert him of the heavy responsibility he would have to shoulder. Judicial system: Any affairs which affected the clan would be handled by the lineage and clan heads. Normally, minor offences would be settled by the lineage heads but serious ones required clan heads. Examples of such serious cases included killing a relative, adultery, unpaid loans and the more serious forms of wizardly, witchcraft and sorcery.

The lineage court comprised of all family heads and it was presided over by the lineage head. The clan court was a higher court comprising of all the lineage heads who often co-opted other notables and some wealth men if they deemed it appropriate. Court proceedings usually took place under a big tree in the compound and trials were conducted in privacy. As a matter of fact, women and children were not allowed to linger around the area unless they were called upon as witnesses.

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In an intra-clan affair, a murderer was fined a bull for the murder if a man and a cow for the murder of a woman. In cases of adultery, it was fashionable to give a bull to the affected husband. Incest was also abhorred and in case it took place, the male relative of the girl was fined a sheep which was slaughtered and eaten by the family to cleanse the sin. Inter-clan cases were more serious than intra-clan ones. An intra-clan adultery case for instance, was serious enough to require a capital punishment. If caught red- handed, the man would be killed or if he was lucky enough he would have his sexual organs maimed.

In cases of fornication, the boy would be held as ransom until he agreed to marry the girl or paid an appropriate fine.

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Failure to comply would also lead to the maiming of his sexual organs. Unsettled loans would also lead to war between the clans. Economy: The Lugbara were agriculturalists. They claim in heir tradition that they had once owned a lot of cattle which were decimated by rinderpest.

During the period of their early migration, they brought with them simple possessions such as sheep, goats, millet and sorghum. They also got food by hunting buffaloes, bushbuck, antelopes, rabbits, squirrels and several other animals. In addition, they also carried out fishing and trapped a variety of birds. Both indigenous and migratory grasshoppers were caught and eaten. The roots and fruits of some wild plants were also gathered. Property ownership: The land among the Lugbara was categorized into virgin land, fallow and land under cultivation. All land within a clan was communally owned and at least theoretically individuals could lay claim to any part of the virgin land.

The same applied to the fallow land but in this case, the consent of the former owner was sought before carrying out any cultivation on it. Cattle: Cattle served the needs of the family which owned them. However, theoretically, they were said to belong to the whole clan and Opi in particular as the chief custodian. The wealthy people Barukuza had a lot of food, cattle and many wives. For this reason, they wielded much power and influence next to the Opi.

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A married woman could not claim independent ownership of property. A woman could only control food. Here she was free and she could even deliberately starve her husband and he would not put up a fight. Children like women were not allowed independent ownership of property. The only exception in this case was a boy of marriageable age. Handcraft: Women produced various articles of handcraft including various types of baskets and pots. The most common were ivua food basket , kuta food cover , kubi sauce pot , and ajiko sauce fir preparing millet flour.

The Lugbara also did some iron smelting and the ondoo clever ones made iron implements for the rest of the population. There was also among the Lugbara another ethnic group known as Okebu who specialized in Iron smelting. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email.