Snippet on Turkana culture and artefacts


 The Turkana people refer to themselves as ngiturkana referring to the people from the caves. They are part of the Nilotic ethnic group from the Plains commonly known for there pastoral nature, hunting and fishing alongside weaving as an alternative way of life apart from live stocking. The Turkana people domesticated cattle, goats, sheep and camels while others participated in growing arid and semi-arid cereals like sorghum to supplement their diet. These animals domesticated provided staple food such as milk, meat and blood while skin was used in making the clothing, foot wares and beddings.

To them, livestock were seen as source of pride to the family and the clan that attracted a lot of respect and status quo in the community as they could marry as many wives as they could. The livestock were slaughtered during major ceremonies, very vital for bride exchange, friendship gift affirmation as well as in performing rituals.

The Turkana men used weapons such as spears known as akwara in the Turkana dialect. These were metallic artefacts made from metal rods specifically for men during close range combat, Mark animals with the clan brand, for killing animals during ceremonies or draw blood from animals, hunting, land demarcation, enchanting curse on opponents and swearing by the ancestors while making prayers to them. The tip was usually sharpened into a blade and pointed for piercing. The spears were commonly used for self defence and to protect their Livestock from predators and enemies before the advent of guns.

The wooden hunting club known as “esebo” was made from the cordia ghara branches called “edome” and was used to hunt animals like squirrel, rabbits, gazelles and other terestrial animals for food. The stick was aimed and thrown to the target at a distance whose weight from the tip caused a rotational propulsion towards the target.

Image of Turkana hunting club (esebo/ethebo)

The wrist-knife/disc-knife known as abarait is a lethal round knife made from scrap metals by a Turkana blacksmith. The knife is protected by a leather sheath to maintain its sharp edge and protect the wearer or unintended injury. The wrist knife is used to cut meat and as a weapon when need be.

The finger-knife/finger blade/finger hook known as egole in the turkana language. The name fingerhook was derived from the fact that its shape resembles an Eagle  The knife is usually three inches long worn on the left hand index/middle finger by old men and boys from the turkana community. Other than decorative purpose, it also serves a weapon for self-defense. The Turkana people of Kenya used both finger hooks and finger knives. As a weapon, it’s used to gash the face or gouge out an eye of an aggressor during a close combat. Consequently, the fingerblades  or hooks were used to cut and eat meat as well as cutting thread during beads making and weaving.

The Turkana seat known as “ekicholong” is usually small in size and portable which is carried along by the Turkana men and boys with a herding or fighting stick called aburo/esebo(ethebo).

Image of a Turkana seat sometimes used as a headrest(strictly for men)

The jingles or music bells are called nkadong’oi, a must factor in any turkana ceremonial events such as weddings, child naming and traditional dances and are still in use todate. They are made by the turkana blacksmith from abandoned iron scrap metals. The jingles are a cross-gender and age artefact worn just below the knee.

Image of a Turkana man (Centre) using the music bells/jingles

The Turkana call the Snuff and soda container akumae. This is a small bag and a container made from animal skin and a metal slide lid used to keep Tobacco and soda, an additive to a chewing tobacco. The Turkana have a liking for snuff and chewing tobacco which makes them inseparable with the artefact.

A tturkana artefact used to store tobacco and soda/snuff


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