Final Ritual after Ceremonial Bull


After reading my previous blog about the Turkana traditional marriage, you would probably be asking yourself, what happens after the ceremonial bull? Or how the newly wedded couples would start off their new life. From the previous post, we discussed into details and left at the assimilation stage referred to as “ngasuban”. Its the last stage after the bride bull ceremonial whose core reason is to assimilate the bridegroom to the new family and would be free to integrate with the family and allowed to enter into her new mother’s hut and help with the house chores.

As the bride interacts with her new extended family, she still adorns the beaded ornaments known as “ngakoromwa”, the childhood clothing and other wearables. Due to the new status, she is stripped off her childhood belongings through a ritual known as “akinyonyo” technically referring to the vesting of the newly wedded wife with the newly acquired attires specifically for married women.

Contrary to their male counterparts, they undergo their second rite of passage known as “asapan” before considering marriage while women undergo just after marriage. The bride vesting is performed at her husband’s homestead where she is assigned a traditional goddess-mother who is referred to as a customary mother to offer guidance and mentorship until she is ready to handle affairs of her own home. Normally, the choice for mentorship resonates on the aspect of age and the status quo of the candidate in that particular setup who could either be the eldest co-wife in the family and if none then another woman fitting the criteria and happens to be a close relative takes the responsibility.

Nonetheless, there are some exceptions as to when the ritual is administered for instance in the event of eloping maybe due to multiple proposals from several suitors or any other serious reason. When this happens, the transition goes on but dowry will have to be paid thereafter.

Therefore, the vesting takes place the following day after the ceremonial bull. After spending the night at the husband’s family homestead in the hut of the eldest woman, very early in the morning she is brought out of the hut of the customary mother called “ataa”, sat on the bull’s hide skinned during the previous ceremony. She sits in front of the hut surrounded by other women who assist in removing the beads, other ornamentals and costumes from child hood to be shared amongst the unmarried girls belonging to the husband’s extended family as gifts.

After striping off her belongings she is vested a new turkana official attire meant for married women such as the front covering/attire known as “adwel” and the behind attire known as “abwo”, the beaded necklaces, neck-ring called “alagama” and ankle bracelet specifically customized in accordance to the husbands branch color. These colors usually vary depending on the branch the husband comes from. For example if a man comes from the brand associated with the leopards, a brand known as “ngirisai” the color preference becomes either copper or brass while for those from the mountains known as “ngimor” use the metallic ankle bracelets that are made from either silver or aluminum.

Just after this ritual, is when the newly married woman takes her responsibilities guided by the customary mother until she gets her first born child with her married husband. It is after this that she is allowed to build her own manyatta hut known as “ekol”.

Considering the huge number of animals paid out as dowry, the husband usually takes his newly wedded wife after the ritual to his friends, family friends and relatives to borrow animals, a practice known as “anyarare” which has always been practiced by their forefathers as a mechanism for restocking. During these visitations, the animals collected remain to be the wife’s wealth which she will use in her household to feed her children, gift her firstborn male child and other personal needs but she has to consult with the husband unless he is deceased otherwise she cannot make any decision.

During the bride’s stay with the customary mother, the lessons include the house chores, how to take care of the husband, visitors as well as customs and taboos of the clan she is married to. Once the lesson is done and she has her firstborn child, the customary mother gifts her utensils and other materials she will need to start a home. The husband will also scout for new areas with water and pasture and then moves with his family.

Traditional turkana huts, Lake Turkana, Kenya

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