The Samburu Tribe of North-Central Kenya

5:20 pm

Archers Post, Samburu County
When many think of Kenya, they think of the Nairobi National park, the only National Park in the world found within a city. Some might think of the Maasai tribe, or the Great Wildebeest Migration. These are just some of the really popular things about the East African country of Kenya.

Today we take a look and learn more about the Samburu tribe:
Manyatta - A Samburu Compound.
The Samburu people are an indegenous tribe of people found along the NiIe Valley. They are semi nomadic - once the grass is gone, they pack up, burn what they cant take, leave no trace and head to greener pastures for better grazing for their livestock. The Samburu can be found in North-central Kenya. They are related but very distinct from the Maasai tribe. The Samburu tribe is made up of 9 sub-clans.
Our guide explains that the Maasai and the Samburu where separated 300-400 years ago during a major drought when enemies came between them. Both the tribes are found in the East African rift valley.
A warm welcome to the Samburu Village.
The Samburu people live in traditional huts made of sticks and twine, plastered with cow dung. The huts are built by the women. You will not find a bed in a Samburu home, the residents sleep on the ground on leather skins that they keep after slaughtering an animal. The layers of leather make the bed and also double as blankets. The pillows are just wooden logs covered in a piece of material. One bed can have over 10 pieces of leather and when it rains, the leather is put on top of the hut so that it doesnt leak into the house. The villagers are a close knit community and build their in a compound where you can find up to 20 families living together. The compounds are called Manyatta and a fence is built around the Manyatta to protect the community from wild animals.

To make your way through the hut you have to walk around with your back bent. The samburu like the Maasai, are naturally tall people and they don't build their huts to accommodate their height.
The huts are usually large and spacious enough for the parents and up to 6 young children. You will find the one side is where the parents sleep. This is not separated from the kids sleeping area. The opposite side is the kids sleeping area with a fire pit in the middle. The firepit is where the family does their cooking. Through the night the family might keep some coal burning and throw some cow dung to keep insects such as mosquito out of the hut while they sleep.
Although the fire place is used for the family cooking, during bigger ceremonies such as the circumcisions of the girls or boys then the whole village comes has a feast together.

Selfie moments with new friends.
Trust Katchie to enquire about what happens when the parents want to do adult things in the same house as the kids. The kids are said to not know what is happening between the parents until they reach an age of about 6. Then the girls are built a hut of their own on the left side of the village and the boys hut is built on the right hand side of the village which they share with others in the village and it is the parents duty to watch the huts and see that sneaking out or sneaking in happens. The young ones sleep in the hut with the parents.
A Samburu warrior.
Cattle, sheep and goats are very important to the Samburu tribe and their culture. The men look after the livestock and ensure the safety of the community while the women take care of the household. They survive on meat from the cows, and drink the milk mixed with the cow blood. The Samburu believe that all the cows in the world belong to the Samburu and the Maasai.
A Samburu warrior and his bride.
Because of modernisation, the Samburu are now staying in one place as the kids have to go to school. Their schools have boarding school for other kids whose villages are too far from the school and cant walk to school and there is no transport available. The family will sell their livestock in order to get money and send the kids to school. Some of the children in Samburu villages are orphans as their parents have been killed by causes such as malaria, snake bites, crocodiles or natural death, the community comes together and adopts the children. The different families - especially young couples take it upon themselves to adopt the orphaned children. The tourists are also encouraged to contribute to assist where they can financially to assist the kids to be taken to school.

Becoming a Samburu Warrior

A Samburu warrior is a young man over the age of 18 years but not more than 28 years. The warriors act as the army of the tribe, they are the ones that take over the livestock during the drought.
Circumcision is a right of passage for all the Samburu boys and girls. Every 15 years there is a mass circumcision where the whole village comes together and the young men are circumcised. At the age of 30 years, is when the warrior is considered a junior elder in the village and they are then given permision to marry.
Where to Stay: Sarova Shaba Game Lodge 
In order to marry, a Samburu warrior has to choose a girl from a different clan as he is not allowed to pick a girl from his mothers clan and also cannot pick a girl from the clan he comes from.
After picking the girl of your choice, you can go back to the village, inform your father who will start talks with the girls father and a dowry may be paid to the girls family. The dowry is paid in terms of cows. A girl usually goes for 12 cows. Upon the agreement of marriage between the families, there is a bull that the warrior is required to slaughter in front of the girls house, and that bull is the one that validates the marriage.

Women are normally married off between the ages of 15 and 18 years. But at the same age, that is the age a boy would approach the seniors in the village and request to be circumcised. The girls are circumcised as young as 13 years old.

The Circumcision

The boys to be circumcised are sent to the nearest mountain to go fetch bows and arrows and come back in the village in the late evening hours. For the next couple of days the boys will be required to go to the river to fetch water and come back during the late evening hours.
The Samburu tribe circumcise boys in large numbers. The circumcision happens in broad daylight. No anasthetic or painkiller used. The traditional doctor will visit the boys mothers house as the boy is to come out and face a sharp knife. The boy is not allowed to flinch or winge or even blink an eye during his circumcision. 

The story of the how a Samburu boy becomes a Samburu warrior as narrated by a Samburu warrior -

The father awaits outside with a big spear to remind the young man that in the lineage of his family, no young man has ever flinged, winged or blinked during their circumcision and should he try it, that spear will be piercing his chest. The mother is also said to wait for her young man with a machete to remind him should he dare even blink during his circumcision, she will use that machete to chop him up. She is also standing in tears crying at the thought of the pain her son is subjected to. The young man then sits like a rock for a few minutes or however long the local doctor takes.

For the young man that did not move or bat an eyelid, he will be given a cow as a gift. He is also given bows and arrows to go and shoot birds and tie the carcasses of the birds around his head as a sign of decorations and that he is now a man. 
During what would be a graduation for all the young men that have just been circumcised, each warrior is required to kill 2 large animals - one big bull and one big goat, they are then sent out of the village for 2 to 3 days where they have to survive like a lion and upon their return to the village they must have a big piece of roasted meat to gift to their mothers. 
The meat will be a thank you gift to his mother and that his mother can no longer provide for him, he will now provide for himself as he is now a man.

For travel advise before traveling to Kenya, read here

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#TheSoloWanderer

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