Turkana Wedding, An Amazing Kenyan Tradition of the 21st Century.
The Turkana community stands out as one of the few communities that have stuck to their culture amidst cultural change in the 21st century. In any community we have anywhere in the world there is nothing that upholds and exhibits their culture than wedding ceremonies. These is occasioned by the wide range of visitors who visit the communities at such happy times, unlike other place the Turkana has welcomed many from all over the world to experience their traditions.
Marriage is one of the cultural activities which are highly valued so much in Turkana community. This is because marriage is the beginning of procreation in the community as when the young people in the society get married, they are expected to bear children and facilitate continuity of the community. When marriage is conducted in the community, many routine activities are put aside for fully participation in this ceremony. For girls, marriage is the first and primary stage of adulthood. A girl gets married when she is 18-22 years and a man can marry at any age as a long as he is capable of paying dowry and this means that a old man can marry a young girls.
When a young man wants to marry, first of all, he need to find the girl, fall in love with and the approach her. This is called ‘emalas.’ After they have agreed to marry each other, a man will take an initiative of informing his parents about the girl he intends to marry. His parents will organize a pre-wedding ‘eloto’ when they will take a fat ram ‘emese’. This is used as an indicator whereby if the parents of the girl accept the ram; it means that they have agreed their daughter to be married to that family. Later, after consultation with the girl, the parents of the girl will take a he-goat ‘akeju angibaren’ to the man’s parent as sign of communication to that family to continue with the marriage process.
The man will take the initiative of looking for the animals for the payment of dowry. This may take a long time because the number of animals required is normally high. It can be 30 big animals (cows, donkeys, camels), over 100-150 small livestock. The man will involve his friends and relative to help him in getting the dowry. He can also organize raiding the neighbouring communities for cattle with his friends The high dowry price is normal as girls are a very precious thing in Turkana community and when a woman can’t bear girls, its catastrophic and might even lead to a divorce or a man may marry another wife to bear him female children.
When a man has acquired enough wealth to pay, the marriage ceremony will be organized. It can take three to four days as there are so many rituals involved in the ceremony. The first day is characterized by dowry payment, the bride groom collect his age mates to conduct a special dance called ‘ekimwomwor’. This ceremony is done in the bride groom place. The dowry is distributed to the parents and relative of the bride accordingly. This is done with respect of the age, relationship to the girl’s family but mostly, the three quarters of dowry goes to the parents of the girl. This activity is called ‘akidet ngibaren’.
The second day is the actual marriage ceremony. In this day most of the rituals are performed according to the customs and the traditions of the Turkana community. This is a serious part because this rituals administered have consequences in case it is broken. Very early in the morning, a bull is killed ‘akichum emong’ and this is done in the animal shade. The blood is collected and the groom and his colleagues drink. This is to unite the bride and the groom together. The meat will be cooked in the outside area of the animals shade and at the same time, women will be dancing. The bride will be sited in the traditional hat called ‘ekol’. This hat is built by the sisters and the mother of the groom.
The bride and the bride groom will be smeared with red clay ‘emunyen’. This signifies that the woman and the children are now belong to the groom’s family. After this has been done, the woman will be officially moved to the groom’s family.
The woman will be given a white round metal to wear in the neck. This is a sign that the woman is officially married traditionally and anyone who see her will automatically tale that she is married. This round metal is called ‘alagama’. With this metal on her neck, it bonds her to the rituals and if she fornicates, the curse will follow the entire family of the woman and his husband. The livestock will start dyeing and the husband will also be very sick until the rituals will be done to appease the ancestors to remove the curse.
The meat will be eaten by all the people presenting the ceremony. The meat will be eaten according to the traditions. Various chunks of meat will be eaten according to gender traditions, e.g. the men will eat ‘akou, atorob and the akidongit’. (Head, the side of the cattle and the organs). The soup or ‘ngapoko’ is brought to the men and the eldest man will start to drink and others will follow. After the meat had been eaten, the elders will announce the end of the ceremony and the men especially the old men will be given a local brew to enjoy until midnight.
When a new wife comes into the homestead, she stays in the ‘ekol’ of the mother or first wife of the household head until she has borne her first child. These will mark the end of the Turkana Wedding, An amazing Kenyan tradition of the 21st Century so next time you visit Africa make sure to witness some traditions.