Unmarried Turkana girl with necklaces

Unmarried Turkana girl with necklaces

Turkana women often wear huge quantities of beads around their necks, along with an aluminum or brass neck ring (alagam). The necklaces are not just for decoration (though given the typical upright stance of the Turkana, the effect is certainly impressive and alluring). Their function is more of a social indicator, and show the social status of the girl or woman wearing them: whether they are married or unmarried, if they have given birth or have suffered a death in the family, whether the husband has been away for a long time, or a son has been initiated.

This photo shows an unmarried Turkana girl who is old enough to have sexual relations. This is shown by the stacked-up necklaces, which have been given to her by her steady warrior-boyfriend as a symbol of their relationship. Nonetheless, when she becomes of marriageable age, she will be wed to a much older man who has already passed through warriorhood.

Credit: photo scanned from a series of slides produced by KAS-Co (Nairobi, Kenya).

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