Turkana Artefacts

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The Turkana people living in the North western part of Kenya leading a nomadic life. They are referred to Turkana people or as they call themselves ŋiTurkana i.e people from Turkan. They live in formerly Turkana county bordering Pokots, Samburu, Karamojong from Uganda, Toposa from South Sudan and the Rendille from Ethiopia.

As part of their history, today we are going to briefly discuss only 25 artefacts that are commonly used by the Turkana people. Despite the influx of modern technology and the introduction of the modernized equipment, most of the turkana especially in the rural areas are still using these tools or artefacts in their day to day activities.

1.Abarait

Abarait/wrist knife

the knife is worn on the wrist either on the right or left hand

2. Atoros

Atoros/Quiver

The artefact is used to store Ostrich feathers that are used during ceremonies. The container is made from wood and animal skin. It helps to keep the feathers safe and free from termites and other destructive ants. The atoros used as a quiver is usually longer than the one meant for ostrich feathers.

3.Asuwat na akan

Asuat is used as an ornament worn by both men and women

Worn by both men and women as ornaments.

4. Akopiro, etemeju and ngatteloi

 Akopiro /Ostrich feather ; this is worn when attending wedding and marriage ceremonies.

Ng’atteloi ; This is a honeycomb-like structure made of twined wires and is used to hold the ostrich feathers.

Etemeju ; This is a mud like structure made from a mixture of blue ochre, soil and wood ash. It is used as wax to hold hair tight and stylish.

5. Asajait/donkey pack saddle

donkey pack saddle

the pack saddle as the turkana call it asajait is used to pack cargo and loaded to the donkey. It is yarned from sticks extracted from special trees and strapped with skin sinews. The saddle is used when migrating where the family’s belongings are packed, young children or the old and the sick are carried and food and water among other belongings.

6. Eleu lorwat

eleu-lorwaat

This is worn by ladies to cover their chest. It is made from animal skin, scrubbed and oiled to make it soft and comfy. It is worn mostly during ceremonies or in presence of visitors or in gatherings. It is made by women or girls supervised by their mothers or elder girls. The skin is decorated using beads where colors vary depending on the wearer’s taste.

7. Itudu(pudding bowl)

itudu

This is a container used to serve wild fruits(ager). It is carved from wood and designed to resemble a calabash.

8. Elepit

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elepit

This is a container carved from wood and is used by women while milking animals.

9. Ekicolong/Seat

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ekicolong

This is carved from wood by men and is used as a seat. Sometimes it is used as a headrest while away from home. This is used by men only where ladies are restricted from even touching.

10. Apiat/nose stud

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apiat

this is a nose decoration worn by old men. It is different from the modern nose rings as it covers the entire mouth.

11. Elepit lo ageor

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elepit lo ageor

This is piece of wooden artefact is used by the turkana girls/women to gather wild berries from the wilderness. It is only meant for collection and is served on itudu(fruits serving bowl)

12. Ekaadong’ot

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ekadong’ot

This is a bell-like structure made from wood. It is tied around the neck of a male camel in order to monitor its movement by the sound produced.

13. Etwo/Etyo(gourd)

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Gourd

This is used as a storage container used in fermenting milk. The gourd is strapped with the animal skin and usually hanged in the main house(akai).

14. Apankach

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apankach

This is a wooden container strapped with leather sinews and is used by herds boys and girls or women to carry water while in grazing fields or in a journey.

15. Aupwal(shield)

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This is an artifact that is made of hard skin and hides with a rectungular shape and long with a height of 2 meters and above. It is vertically stitched on a ½ carved tough wood used by men when engaging in a fighting spree.

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Illustration of a turkana shield and spear

16. Akwara(spear)

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akwara(spear)

This is a metal carved artifact that is made from metal rods made and used by men only. It is used for a close range fighting, marking animals, killing animals, hunting, land demarcation, enchanting curse opponents and swearing by the ancestors while making prayers to them. The tip is shaped into a blade and pointed for piercing.

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Turkana warrior demonstrating how to use a spear.

17.Apiat na ngakimak(lips ornament)

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apiat(singular) or Ng’apiata(plural)

This is a lip ornament worn by old women. They are metallic pieces of intertwined wires lined side by side. it is used by women on the lower lips.

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Dem: apiat

18. Adere(calabash)

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a turkana calabash

This is a container made from ½ gourd used by boys and girls as bowls for taking meals, drinking water, taking blood and drinking milk.

19. Akitwam/Akutwam

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picture of akitwam/akutwam

This is a container made from skins with a wooden stopper and is used by women to store animals fats.

Another example is here:

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another type of akutwam/akitwam

22.Akurum na ibole

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This is a wooden container used by women to serve men with milk and blood. It has a wooden cup-like lid used as cup.

23. Adwal

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front covering for women

This is a cloth that is made from animal skin and decorated with glass beads on the sides and at the top decorated using metal carved beads. It has a strap that is used by grown up women to strap around their waists to cover their front parts.

24. Arach

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arach

This is made from animal skin decorated with pieces of shell from the ostrich eggs. It is worn by young turkana girls.

25. Egole(finger knife & hook)

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egole

This is a sharp knife worn on the left hand index/middle finger by old men from the turkana community. Other than decorative purpose, it also serves a weapon for self-defense. The Turkana peoples of Kenya used both finger hooks and finger knives. As weapons, they could be used to gash the face or gouge out an eye. This finger hooks and knives were also used to cut and eat meat.

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