Turkana - Material Culture


In this page:
Introduction
Beadwork
Dolls
Houses
Men's possessions


Introduction

In spite of the poverty of their land, the Turkana have managed to create something out of almost everything that surrounds them. The materials they use reveal an incredible ability to use almost everything that composes their environment: leather, iron from smelted haematite ore, copper from old electric wires, aluminium and tin from old cans and spoons, wood, beads and seeds, nuts, shells, fish vertebra, horns and hoofs, bones and stones, tusks, gourds, ligaments and plumes, hair and tails of livestock for decorations and charms, and nowadays even old car tyres which are turned into supremely comfortable '5000-mile shoes'. To misquote the proverb: scarcity is the mother of invention!
   Like the Maasai and Samburu (and many other pastoralist peoples), they are also well known for their colourful and often intricate beadwork. This is primarily the preserve of the women, and their colour, form and arrangement can have both social as well as ritual significance.


Beadwork

Arrac necklace Girls' necklaces Obolio necklace
Arrac apron Girls' necklaces Obolio necklace

Dolls

Turkana fertility doll Turkana raffia palm-nut doll
Fertility doll Raffia palm-nut doll

Houses

Lakeside reed houses
Lakeside reed houses
Reed work
Reed work
Reed work details

Men's possessions

Turkana finger knife Turkana wrist knife Turkana tobacco horn
Finger knife Wrist knife Tobacco horn
Turkana headrest Turkana headrest
Headrest - from side Headrest - from top

 
 
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Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
Copyright Jens Finke, 2000-2003

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