The Turkana is a tribe tribe whose territory encompasses remote parts of northern Kenya in an area which borders with South Sudan and Ethiopia. This is also one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, where the ground is covered with black volcanic rocks and temperatures regularly soar to 110F and above. Yet, that is the land which 250,000 people call home, making a living by tending cattle on the shores of the Lake Turkana.
Luckily for us, photographer Eric Lafforgue spent some time with the Turkana and took the incredible images you are about to enjoy. He says that they are welcoming and have an unparalleled array of traditions, perhaps the most easily remembered of which is the celebrating of the passage to adulthood by covering themselves in dung. Mr. Lafforgue explains:
To become a man, a Turkana teenager must go through a ceremony where he has to kill an animal with a spear in one throw. Once done, the elders will open the stomach of the animal and smear all the dung on his body — it’s their way of blessing him.
Bu the tribe’s use of dung isn’t limited to initiation rites. As wood is nowhere to be found, cooking is done over fires made from cow dung. Furthermore, dog poo comes in handy both as a medicine and as a lubricant to keep the tribe’s intricate bead necklaces from chafing the neck. Mr. Lafforgue says:
Women put animal fat all around their neck and also on their huge necklaces to prevent skin irritation. They also use dog poo as a medicine and as a lubricant for their necks.
As water is precious, animal fat is used to perform one of its main functions (at least in our society). Mr. Lafforgue:
Since water is so rare, it’s used only for drinking and never for washing. Instead, the Turkana clean themselves by rubbing fat or butter all over their skin.
Turkana women follow it up with grease paint which they make by mixing animal fat with red ochre and fragrant leaves from one of the local trees. They say it’s good for the skin and it protects them from the insects.
Teeth are cleaned with twigs made from the esekon tree. Mr. Lafforgue adds:
You see them using it all day long ‘The Turkana people have the cleanest bill of dental health in the country.
But the necklace is the most memorable of all of Turkana’s cultural characteristics: Mr. Lafforgue:
Turkana women love to adorn themselves with a lot of necklaces. Beads can be made from glass, seeds, cowry shells or iron. They don’t remove their necklaces unless they are ill or mourning a relative — they even sleep in them.
Married women will also wear a plain metal ring around the neck, which has the same function as a wedding ring. So important are necklaces to the Turkana, a man will do all he can to make sure that his womenfolk are dressed in impressive beads.
Now here are the amazing images. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. A Turkana woman shows off her beaded collar. The red colour of her skin comes from a mix of ochre, butter and perfume which is used instead of water to bath.
2. All women wear beads, with men refusing to look at them if they fail to do so. They never take them off unless they’re ill or in mourning for a relative.
3. Both men and women wear the Turkana’s trademark nakaparaparal or earrings.
4. They are made exclusively by the men using aluminum.
5. For Turkana men, ostrich feathers are a sign of adulthood and are thus hugely expensive — two ostrich feathers are worth the same as a goat to the tribe.
6. Women of the Turkana tribe use animal fat mixed with ochre to protect their skin.
7. They use either animal fat or dog poo to stop their necklaces from chafing.
8. Women are considered adults as soon as they hit puberty but boys have to go through an initiation ritual before they are considered men.
9. Fathers give children different jobs depending on their age with boys in charge of herding while girls do things like collecting firewood and water.
10. Boys of the Turkana tribe aren’t considered men until they have killed an animal with a single spear throw, after which dung is smeared over their bodies.
11. Older women still wear labrets that cut through their lower lips.
12. All men wear the elaborate emedot hairstyle which is made using clay.
13. Turkana women all wear beaded necklaces — women who don’t are shunned as ‘being like animals’ by the men of the tribe.
14. All Turkana people have their lower incisors removed in childhood — a practice thought to have begun as a way to make nursing people with TB easier.
15. The Turkana use the esekon stick to clean their teeth.
16. Lower incisors are removed in childhood using the corodat finger hook.
17. Because oil has been discovered on Turkana land, many are worried that their way of life and traditions could come under threat.
18. Because of their many dogs, echinoccocus is common among the Turkana. But they say the disease is caused by a spell cast by the Toposa tribe.
19. The Turkana live in an inhospitable part of northern Kenya, bordered by South Sudan to the north and Ethiopia to the east.
20. The Turkana — and their neighbours, the El-Molo — live in an area dotted with volcanic rocks and where daytime temperatures climb to 110 degrees.
21. Most Turkana live in small dwellings made from wood, animal skins and palm leaves that they call an ‘awl’. Inside the homes live a man, his wives and children.
And here is the video:
Source: The Daily Mail.
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