In the modern world, one thing that most countries can agree on is that it is hard to find a well preserved culture. Most tribes have intermarried so much that they cannot fully trace who they originally were. Some have even allowed modernization to consume them, with technology turning the world into a global village, it is not getting easier. Kenya however, can boast a fact that a good number of its tribes have been able to shake off such threats towards; Turkana is one such.
The west may have the mohawkians who are known to be stylish and colorful, but the Kenyan Nilotes will mesmerize anyone. With Turkanas considered to be leaders in the game of traditional fashion and attire, one can only stand in awe.
Similar to other Kenyan cultures such as Samburus, they adorn themselves in well-crafted attires of mixed beads and colorful clothing. The dressing starts right from the hair, a man’s hair is braided and dyed with special colored soil that gives it a complete transformation. Traditionally, a man would wrap himself with a piece of rectangular colorful cloth or animal skin. The cloth is wrapped to mock a tunic, with one end going over the right shoulder, meeting the rest of the cloth somewhere near the waist. The other shoulder is mostly left uncovered.
A woman’s head is mostly shaved, but this is compensated by the colorful necklaces. The necklaces are so important to a woman that it is very easy to know a woman’s status just by looking at her necklaces. You will commonly find a woman wearing two pieces of clothing, one wrapped around the waist, while the other used to cover the upper part of the body. Dressing to a Turkana is not just to keep from harsh weather, but also used to distinguish gender, age, social status and occasions.
A traditional Turkana house is fascinating, it is built in a dome shape of a wooden sapling framework and carefully attaching animal skin to it. During the hot season this works well, but when it gets wet and cold, it is common to see houses covered with cow dung. The houses are so big that can offer shelter to a family of six.
Since cattle are the center of the Turkana livelihood and main source of food, they are constructed for a pen house that is surrounded by twigs and thorns to keep away wild animals. It is also common to see old metal pieces being used to construct the pen houses.
Some of the best works that have shaped the Kenyan culture in terms of arts come from Turkana. They are good in making bead products such as bracelets and necklaces. They also produce weapons such as knives, spears and bow and arrows. Their artistry also extends to stone carving, weaving and metalwork. Other special items include a man’s walking staff, a traditional stool used for both sitting and headrest to keep the owner’s head from the sand.
There is a lot to experience among the Turkanas as part of the African Culture, but truly color is one thing that is inherent in them. Unlike other tribes, they are not shy to show them off.