NOMADS OF THE NORTH WESTERN KENYA: TURKANA

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turkana people homestead arrangement

A krall also known as manyatta or boma is a dwelling place for the Turkana people. There is an arrangements of this krall and the pre-determined position for every structure and the animals’ pens. Usually twigs, sticks and branches, including leaves and grasses are used for erecting these dwellings. Mud and bricks and iron sheets is out of order. Not because they are poor but because of the nature of their living. Most importantly they are bound by their traditional way of life.

These structures are erected by women and girls only. Men are barred by their culture from engaging in the activity. However, men chip in only when constructing the animals’ pens incase women are not available but their task is to identify where to set up the krall and moving.

Mostly, there is a major krall and a satellite krall. The major krall is located in the same location for a very very long time only to be re-located to another nearby location upon aging of the sticks and the fencing thorns usually not more than 50 meters from the old and the new place. Or they can also be adjusted to another location due to the nearness to the forests infested by mosquitoes or in the case of a predetermined floods due to the nearness to the river beds. The satellite krall is usually managed by youths who receive supplies like food, milk, medicine from the permanent krall delivered by girls. These kralls are temporary due to their moving nature necessitated by the search for greener pastures and water for their animals. The satellite kralls always join the old/main krall when pasture and water is available for the animals and will move afterwards upon exhaustion.

Sometimes a krall can be located within one compound due to fears of impending insecurity or in case there fears of invasion the main krall calls out for the satellite kralls to join the major one to strengthen their security and in this case the animals’ pen is situated at the center as they await to counter the threat.

In the case where pasture is inadequate for the animals the youths take the main herd to far places where water and pastures have been spotted leaving the old and lactating animals with the main krall. This is usually because the elderly and the lactating may not be able to migrate to far places and so they are left to be taken care by the young boys practicing the art.

THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE KRALL

At one given plan of the dwelling boma, there are two entrances front facing directly east and rear entrance faces West. The eastern entrance is meant for the visitors, in-laws and animals while leaving the compound for grazing but can enter either entrance depending on the direction.

So, if you access this compound from the east side, the structures to the right-hand side are meant for the senior wife and the one to the left-hand side is the side meant for the second wife in case of a polygamous family. The following is the pre-set arrangement of the structures in the turkana community:  

  1. Aperit:

This where the head of the family (the man) sleeps, sits and receives visitors and family members alike. On a daily basis it is where he eats from and can be accessed by his wives when need be from this place.

The aperit is a crucial structure for the head of family and in case of any meetings or discussions, he holds there. The structure is made of twigs with ‘C” shape and faces the west direction. It has a small fire place where he warms himself on cold nights or used to make him a cup of tea. This fire plays a vital role in the turkana tradition and it has to be kept lighting throughout the night even in the absence of the head of the family.

2. Atabo:

This is where women, girls and small children sleep at night. Has a small fire place at the entrance and faces South.

3. Akai

This is the main house for the family. It is used to keep most of the household possessions like women clothing, animal skins, metal boxes for men, boys’ and girls’ belongings, sleeping skins, wooden utensils for use during ceremonial events, walking sticks and other vital belongings. It has a doom stooping shape with a small entrance. It always faces the south direction. It is made of round sticks, sinews, ropes and trees barks. On a rainy season it is covered with skins.

4.Ekol

This structure is dorm shaped and is taller than the main house and the door and the roof is raised a bit. This is where the family members gather during the day away from the scorching sun. It is heavily shaded with twigs and leaves in order to provide enough shade. The entrance also faces south direction.

5.Ekeno (Kitchen)

image captured from Moru angibuin

This is where meals are prepared during the day or evening time. It is only accessible to women and girls as men are forbidden by the traditions. And it faces the North direction. It has three cooking stones at  the center and is piled with firewood.

6.Epem (Store)

This is the store for the family. It is where most of the food stuffs and utensils are stored. It is about two meters high and can be accessed through a wooden ladder. This is also accessible to only women and girls. It is round and dorm shaped with a small door facing the north direction. Has a door strapped tightly shut and tethered into place using ropes to ward off intruders during the night and when the occupants are out during the day time and out of the compound.

7.Anok(animals pen)

This is where the animals like goats and sheep are kept during the night. The door has a covering where sticks are stuck side by side to cover the openings. It is completely round and faces the direction of the other structures in the compound, north.

At the homesteads boys and male visitors have no special sleeping quarters in the compound but are supposed to sleep at the entrance of the animals’ pen for security purposes. Visitors sleep by the eastern entrance of the compound and if they are accompanied by a female counterpart, she sleeps with other women at the atabo.

While it is the duty of the women and girls to build the surrounding fence and maintaining major it, the krall is surrounded by a big fence from thorns to keep predators like jackals, wild dogs and enemies away.

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