There are so many words or phrases one can say to show appreciation for the good deed(s) done. For instance, one can simply say, “Thank you”, “Thanks”, “I am indebted to you”, “I am grateful”, “You are an inspiration” or “You are a blessing”. Among the turkana people, the same exists although they have different meanings depending on the context.

So, the big Q is how does one say “thank you” or the exact translation for thanks in ngaturkana? Many are times I wanted to tell how appreciated I was to my friends curious of learning some ngaturkana and I never grasped exact word to say thanks. This made me so intrigued and decided to swallow my pride as a real son of the land and sought assistance from other friends. The more I asked the more I realized that I wasn’t the only person lacking the word so did my quest became even stronger.

I was so perturbed and took my frustration to one guy, Mr. Bonface Kapua, a former former turkana translator and the guy behind the Turkana show hosted at Atta Nayece fm based in Kakuma, Turkana West constituency, Turkana County but still didn’t heard what I hoped for. Among the responses people gave were ejok, ejok noi, alakara and apiaro. To me these words did not mean thank you as such but at least they held some water as they can as well stand for appreciation. When exchanging greetings, one would say “Ejoka” responded by with “ejok noi”. Literally, ejok means good, “alakara” means am happy and “apiaro” stand for blesings. All those words are used interchangeably for appreciation and the real meaning they stand for.

I gathered the responses and booked an appointment with Mr. Emekwi who once worked as an Ethnographer at Kenya Museum and this is what he said, “There is no exact word Turkana people for saying thank you. But after doing something to somebody, the word “Ejok” can be used. We lack a real and proper word to signify appreciation for a good deed done.”

When somebody does a good deed or gifts somebody with something, the word thank-you is found in the “Ejok” word. If an individual gives another person something like a camel or a goat, one simply passes the appreciation literally by saying “Ejok noi” same to greetings where Ejoka is responded by ejok or ejok noi.

According to him, since time immemorial the Turkana society lived together in harmony and in support of each other knowing that they needed and depended on that right from material assistance like giving and receiving animals for gits, dwelling territories, neighborhoods, even “Ekiro”(namesake). So, this society grew up knowing that they needed one another and were obliged to stand by each other by conscious.

In this case they never saw the need to formulate a word for appreciation due to the binding circumstances. The turkana people or the ateker perceived that if one does a favor to another person today, what was the meaning of saying thank you when the same favor will be returned in kind without saying, willingly and without the slightest hindrance and resistance or second thought. Kindness or good was like a debt to the entire society.

A turkana could go to another homestead and borrow a goat, cow, camel, sheep or a donkey and be given which in return the one donating was entitled to be given as well in the event of time of need regardless of the size or the type of material given before. The kindness was not limited to animals only instead it involved all material belongings. The act of giving and expecting assistance in time of needs grew and extended to the neighborhoods, strangers, clan members, and the entire tribe from generation to generation.

Therefore, the Turkana took it that every other coming time in the future they needed each other in times of sickness, attacks and when a natural calamity befell any of them. This communal living did not have any boundary whether one’s residence was known or not. The practice made the turkana people travel from place to place knowing that he/she would be warmly welcomed in any homestead at any time and therefore, there was no need for one to carry a lot of stuff like water, food, tobacco or sleeping skin while travelling or on any errant.

In some occasions, most people allude that the turkana people are ungrateful or arrogant due to lack of the simple appreciative vocabulary in the native language which is contrary to the plain truth. The instances described above did not give the turkana people a second thought to formulate what should be said when a shred of kindness was passed from one person to another. The absence of the vocabulary is justifiable from one of the theory of the fact that the Turkana people found themselves to be in no possession of anything for them, everything belonged to the society. If you feel that there is any other theory or a comment, kindly write to us through the comment area.


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