Category Archives: People of Kenya

Live Like a Kenyan

Below are some common fun stereotypes about Kenyans and their ethnicity…(not to be tribalistic or anything). These stereotypes normally come up either because of the people’s cultures, economic activities or even how they interacted with the colonialists. Whereas some Kenyans maybe known to have great athletic ability, others are regarded as agile business people, traders and so on…Here are some fun stereotypes for you (true or not).

The Kikuyu

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Everyone has heard the one about Kikuyu women. How they plait their hair, read a novel or knit and placidly inform their partners to cover them when they are through with their business. If one day you return home to find an empty house and your children gone, then you are in the groove with a Kikuyu. They are known to be “packers”. They will pack and go with the children and furniture after 40 years of hard labor on a marriage. A common saying goes “A Kikuyu woman will treat you like a king as long as you have cash, but toss you like rotten mutura (traditional sausage) once you are broke.”

Cynics say Kiambu women are so materialistic! They will kill their marriages to enjoy the wealth alone. One Kikuyu lady coined the following phrases to her defense, “I would rather cry on a Mercedes than laugh on a bicycle. Money is not everything it is the only thing.” But Lydia Wambui comes to her sisters’ defense. “Everyone loves money. You cannot go to your landlord or the headmaster at your children’s school and say, ‘we are in love, please understand us for not paying.’ Love is no substitute for money.” Wags also poke fun at the culinary skills of Kikuyu women. They will mix rice, arrow roots,  sukuma wiki, potatoes, githeri and all imaginable ingredients in one pot. Their men have to always sneak out to enjoy nyama choma or chapati in a smoke-filled joint on their own.

They say all women are said to be schemers but the Kikuyu have perfected it to an art. On the first date, they have you all sized up. Wallet size, level of education, future ambitions. So by the second date, you will be paying their rent.

The Nyeri ones are fabled to be harsh and authoritative. If you have the bad fortune of marrying one, chances of being her punching bag are inevitable. They are the Thatcher’s of Wahome Mutahi fame. Rivals in love will also dismiss them on account of their figures. Below five inches in height, light complexioned, round pretty face with long lovely hair, over-sized chests, voluminous hands, flabby waist lines, ironed out behind, vertical hips all suspended on hockey-sticks-like legs.

They are known to have an undying thirst for white shoes.

Yet even their hottest critics acknowledge that they are so hard-working and organized that their men only come home in the evening to collect cash for their drinking sprees.

Men
The Kikuyu man walks eats and dream more plots, matatus and company shares. The ambitious and hard-working nature of these men dates back to the Wangu wa Makeri era. You are on your own after they give you a ‘mugunda’ a plot.

And most people must have heard the joke about the Kamau’s coming for your hard-earned money in the middle of the night. All the vices such as muggings, carjackings etc are believed to be their preserve.

It does not matter how far the economic ladder a Kikuyu man is, he will always have some “deals” in the name of business. Often these deals will be hatched and sealed in a smoke-filled bar.

But if you think he will have extra money to take you to some posh place, forget it. They are said to be so stingy that they believe leisure and expensive food is for fools. A typical Kikuyu man’s luxury car is a pick-up, and he believes you relax in the countryside weeding your shamba, not frolicking on the beach in Mombasa . Because of this, women think they are unromantic and dull. Their perfect date is taking a woman to dance to Mugithi while you eat nyama choma and mutura.

They also love moving in cliques and speaking their mother tongue everywhere even if you, a non-Kikuyu does not understand their language. Women say Kikuyu men assume that all light-skinned women are from their tribe. So they will talk to you in their mother tongue. If you express displeasure, they will sneer and tell you “wacha kujiringa!”

Then they are known to have parallel families. Word has it that a Kikuyu man will not marry a second wife, but will have mistress or two tucked away somewhere. It is only when he dies, that the other family surfaces. The joke is that, your kids and those of the mistress will have been born at the same time. If you have four children, she will also have her four. If you are thinking of ignoring the mother-in-law, then steer clear of this man. Kikuyu men are mama’s boys. So the way to his heart, is through his mother.

They are also said to be poor dressers and lack refined mannerisms. A must-have in every Kikuyu man’s wardrobe includes Savco and Freezer jeans preferably brown, Chicago Bulls T-shirts, North star sneakers and an over-sized leather jacket.

The Kamba

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The myth of the sex athlete goes back a long way. Kamba women are known to be a force to reckon with. That is why they are hot material for barmaids. By the time she is 30, she is in total control. It is said that they are given a thorough briefing by their aunts and grandmothers as part of their initiation rituals. And yes, many of these women are unbelievably stunning in looks. She gives you a killer smile, giggles knowingly, and you want to marry her there and then. So why do Kamba women marry in the military? Army men’s weddings are full of glamour and endless feasts. They also love celebrity. However, for them, serious business is popping up juniors year after year.

And if you want to feed numerous dependents, then marry a Kamba. By your third date, her cousins, grandparents, sister’s boyfriend…are on your miserable payroll. And of course there’s the joke about colour clashing. You know, a mix of screaming orange and luminous green is a God sent match for them.

Men
Like their women, Kamba men are said to be athletes of sorts. Kamba men are born and bred to follow instructions. Starting from their mothers to their employers. For this reason, they make perfect domestic workers and messengers.

They are dismissed as being clueless about their future, their only ambition being to work in the army or at least get related to someone in the army through marriage. Kamba men have small features, which people say is because of the persistent droughts in their motherland. But if you were thinking that this would give you express liberty to be unfaithful, then forget it, they make jealous spouses and can be extremely possessive.

The Coastal People

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A police friend once informed me that their officers are given a firm warning when they get transfers to the Coast. You will need all your wit and guile to resist the coconut women. Love potions come in handy. Once the man is fixed with it, he is transfixed to her for life. You are her boi (boy) eternally. Critics say these women are so idle that they spend the whole day applying henna all over their bodies, prepare elaborate weddings and cook biryani the whole day as they gossip.

Stories have it that these women are well coached in the art of pleasing their husbands. No one understands better that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – chapatis and pilau (which they are experts in making) do the job. On the looks department they are endowed with dashing looks and mellow voices. The Taita are said to make exemplary, humble wives. But when they make up their minds that a relationship is headed for doom, they are known to vanish back to their parent’s faster than you can say ‘mdawida’.

Men
Coastal men are said to be smooth talkers but lazy to the bone. For any hard labor, look for a ‘mtu wa bara.’ With their mastery of the Kiswahili language, they can even talk Osama from his hideout.

They are the classic example of what a gentleman is supposed to be. With their use of flattery, and their love for speaking in low, husky tones, many women confess to being transfixed to the Swahili man. But in the words of one lady, “they talk too much; like they have swallowed a tape.”

The Taita are most humble. They fancy cooking mouth-watering dishes for their women. However, their Swahili counterparts are said to love living off the sweat of their women. And they are betrothed from birth.

The Luo

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Lakeside women are said to stick to their men like glue as long as they suspect love is in the air. But don’t you dare look at another woman! If you do, she will have you and the other woman by the neck. They are in love with first impressions. You have to have class.

If you wear moccasins on the first date and drive a pick-up, she will dump you like rotten fruit. And you better talk English (never Kiswahili) with a rounded twang. Big words (especially the ones she does not understand) make a lifelong impact. And the restaurant better be classy, not necessarily expensive. If you fulfill all these, by the tenth date, you will spot her clothes in your wardrobe. She has moved in.

Luo women are prided to have “drop dead gorgeous” bodies – with ‘Adhiambo sianda’ being their brand name. True African figures, they say. They are also known to be good cooks and bewitching lovers.

Men
Luo men are said to be romantic lovers and big spenders when they have the money. Whether it’s shopping in Dubai, being taken to posh restaurants or flying you off to some exciting location, the man to give you a good time is a Luo man.

Women are unanimous that these men from the lake will treat a lady like a queen, but only as long as a lighter complexioned woman does not emerge on the scene because then you will immediately be past tense. No wonder all Luo songs sing of ‘kalando’ (the brown one.)

Bar room chat is rife on the suave flamboyance and extravagance of a Luo man. For this man, tomorrow is a long way off. Life must be lived to the fullest today. Spending all his money on a cool Mercedes and parking it outside a grass-thatched hut in the village means nothing to this man. The important thing is to be seen driving the car.

When it comes to courtship a Luo man will not stammer in shyness when he approaches the woman he wants to be acquainted with and will not bat an eyelid when promising a non-existent heaven. He will insist on speaking to you in English because he cannot converse in Kiswahili.

They dress in flashy, expensive suits, shoes and ties. They will talk about their attractive young wife, the last trip overseas, the expensive car, furniture, electronics and mobile phones that they own. Listen to Poxi Presha’s ‘Otonglo time’ and the famous “Do I say line” will tell you everything you want to know.

Many Luo men from the older generation love old Lingala music and football. The younger ones love cricket and rugby. Cricket because it is still a mystery to many Kenyans and rugby because of the macho image.

It does not matter how vast your experience or how much wealth you have, without a degree, you are nobody. Count the number of professors from this tribe at any of our universities and you will know what I’m talking about.

But despite all this, a Luo man will not think of investing his money in anything substantive. Women from other tribes believe that even if he marries a non-Luo, this man will eventually marry from his tribe.

The Luhya

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These women are known to be modest and to have austerity. They cannot stand extravagance. A Luhya woman would rather stay at home and drink numerous cups of tea than have you take her for an expensive dinner. But as long as there is constant supply of ugali and Ingoho (chicken), she is yours for keeps. Then they are known to be in the business of making children. If she is not breast-feeding, she is pregnant.

The Internet caricature paints her as a being born-again, and forever busy. She is the village chairperson, treasurer of your kids kindergarten PTA, secretary of the women merry-go-round, weaves baskets in addition to being out every night for church Keshas. And if you are thinking of meeting the boys over a Tusker…then this is the wrong type. Luhya ladies are protective. And with their strong physiques, you would rather follow mummy’s advice than have your bones broken.

Curly kit hair is their distinctive look. They love it so much that every Luhya woman who prides herself as having a distinguished style will have her hair roasted for this look.

Men
Though hard-working especially manually, Luhya men are said to be very content with what they have. Their rivals say this is lack of ambition. That is why the shamba boys, watchmen and cooks joke comes from.

Those in the know say the Ingoho (chicken) men are intimidated by the modern woman. They’d rather marry a girl from the village who is happy to stay-at-home. But if you get married to the man, be ready to take care of his children from his teenage days to date.
Luhya men never leave their children behind. In addition, you will always have a full house. These men have many dependents. So start by investing in many utensils and big sufurias.

Unlike many men, you can always tell if a Luhya man is unfaithful. If he has not brought home a child from an illicit affair in five years, then relax, the man is an angel. And if you do not want to have a live-in mother-in-law, learn to cook ugali and mrenda before you marry this man. If you cook him rice or githeri for supper, he will still be waiting for dinner. The one about Luhyas and their addiction to salaams clubs and small portable radios is an old cliche now.

The Kalenjin

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My colleague informs me, that if you are bombarded with unsolicited information about her many prominent and rich relatives in the previous government, right after the first kiss, then you have nabbed a Kalenjin lady. Promise a Kalenjin woman marriage and she is yours for keeps. If you play your cards right then you can take her home on the second date.

Strictly missionary. They are agreeable and submissive, but rather like their alcohol. Nagging they are not, but their tempers are legendary so why do they say if you come home after three days, smelling of a strange perfume and with red lipstick all over your white shirt, a kalenjin woman will not utter a word?

If they discover their man is unfaithful, they will kill themselves and drown the children. Kalenjins like to joke that Nandi women are lazy, Tugen are rude and the Marakwet violent.

Men
If you are looking for a generous man then look no further. A Kalenjin man will be elated to spend his money on any lady and her extended family. For them, expensive is best. The joke doing the rounds is that if a Kalenjin man takes a lady shopping, he will beseech her to select the most expensive dress in the shop. They are also said to be very cold and remote. They always manage to look vague when so much is happening around them. But this does not hinder them from the desire to date classy women.

It is said that Kalenjin men have misplaced priorities. They will build a stone house for the combine harvester and the cows and surround their homes with beautiful fences while their houses are grass-thatched and mud-walled.

Kalenjin men do not carry their spouses to town. They leave them in the rural home to look after the shamba.

Kaunda suits, preferably a maroon one and a cardigan worn with a suit is a must-have for any self-respecting Kalenjin man. Men from the Kipsigis sub-tribe are reputed to be quite handsome.

The Maasai 

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Maasai women are unquestionably obedient. They will never dream of correcting their men folk. They still view their husbands as “lord of the house” People believe Masaai men are still glued to the custom of planting spears outside their age group member’s manyattas to warn the husband that serious business is taking place inside the manyatta.

Their women toil like oxen. They build the manyattas; graze the cattle, cook, and farm in addition to rearing children. They are also generous with their husbands. Even if their husband married the 7th wife in three years, they will not object. In fact they encourage their spouses to marry – you know, to share the work. They can be astoundingly beautiful.

Men

Maasai men are said to be fierce, courageous but unreasonable. You do not argue with one because you will provoke him to a feud.

A Maasai man will do anything to marry a beautiful woman. However, to them, wives are lower in rank than children. You will find them playing ajua the whole day as they await the return of their wives and children from grazing the cattle.

For a Maasai man, serious business is getting an extra wife year after year.

The Kisii

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Once a Kisii woman has it in her head that you make her world rock, then you have a lifelong attachment. She will never leave, even if you hire ten bulldozers to evict her from your house. They are also well-known for their fiery tempers. Recent cases in the media about battered husbands involved Kisii women. As for money, they are the reverse of Kikuyus – money and posh cars do not impress them much. And when it comes to dressing? Those in the know say their dress sense is not the most impressive

Men
The description “tall, dark and handsome,” applies to the Kisii man.

They are also known to be charming when the fiery tempers take a back seat. But like all gorgeous men, they have several other women on the side apart from you.

They are said to be so emotional that they will cry as they are beating you up.

The Meru

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If you are head over heels in love with a woman and are sure she loves you secretly, but she is playing hard to get by the 30th date, then you have struck a Meru.

Bar room talk has the Meru woman so faithful and agreeable that they will fight divorce to the bitter end.

They are traditional and remote, with the village never coming out of them.

Like their men, they are reputed to be hot-tempered and can shred you to pieces if you cross their path. In the looks department, a Meru woman will hold her own against any beauty queen.

Men

For a die-hard Meru man, it is against taboo to enter the kitchen. He would rather starve to death than enter this domain which he believes to be strictly a woman’s.

A Meru man’s temper is unmistakable. If you dare to provoke him, he will very easily smash you to pieces.

No matter how well exposed or versed in the Queen’s English he is, the Meru accent will never go away.

They have an attitude problem and take everything personally. They are also said to be quite bossy in a relationship. What he says goes.

Source: Fans of Crazy Monday’s

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A Kenyan’s guide to Kenya (HILARIOUS)

I’ve often been terribly disappointed by the tourist  guidebooks written about Kenya. Most of the time they tell you stuff you already know, like “you can go on safari and see some lions.” That’s probably why you wanted to come here in the first place, so that’s not helpful. Other times they give you all manner of useless information. For example: what’s the point of telling you how to ask for directions in Kiswahili if you’re not going to understand the answer? (sometimes they seem to be written by a malicious Kenyan who hates tourists). One time I was taking a walk at the beach alone and was accosted by an earnest American who said, “Jambo. Nyinyi mna Kula Viazi?” First of all, no Kenyan says “Jambo”. Secondly, I was alone and I definitely wasn’t eating potatoes.HUH 1000x500px-LL-90ad9322_WTF-ARE-YOU-TALKING-ABOUT
These books never tell you about all the amazing people you can meet in Kenya, or how to understand what they’re saying. Determined to correct this horrible wrong, I’m issuing the first of many useful, practical tips for our many visitors. Here with the Volume I of “A Kenyan’s guide to Kenya.” (Disclaimer: this is written from a Nairobi Perspective. Other parts of the country are a whole other story and will cost you extra.) Here’s what you should Know:
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1. When we want you to pass us something – the salt, say – we’ll point with our mouths. Example: We’ll catch your eye then say, “Nani.” Then we’ll use our mouths to point at the desired object. This is achieved by a slight upward nod followed by an abrupt thrusting out of the lower lip, which is pointed in the object’s general direction. There’s no explanation for this. (“Nani” can be roughly translated as, oh I don’t know, “Whats-your-face,” “You,” or “Thingie.” We’re unfailingly polite.)

turoWhy lift a finger when you can point with your lips??

2. Frequently, and for no reason whatsoever, we’ll refer to a person as “another guy.” However, this MUST be pronounced/slurred thus: An-aa guy. This also applies to “the other day,” which is when some momentous event in our lives always took place. We do the same thing with Kiswahili words like ‘bwana’, which is pronounced ‘bana.’ Example: “I was driving in town the aaa day and this guy comes from nowhere and cuts me off, bana. Man I abused him!” ‘Abused’ in this sentence must be drawn out and emphasised for maximum effect: a-BUSE-d.

3. We claim to speak English and Kiswahili, which technically means that we should be able to communicate with the English-speaking world and Tanzania. What we really mean is that if you’re not Kenyan you won’t understand a damn word we say or why we say it. Example:“Sasa” in Kiswahili means “now.” We use it as a greeting. Correct usage: “Sasa?” “Ah, fit.” It confuses us that Tanzanians don’t understand this.

images1We also, just as randomly, might greet you by saying, “Otherwise?” Common response: “Uh-uh.” There is no explanation for this.

4. Kenyans are multi-lingual, but all this means is that we believe that if we translate something word for word from one language to another it will make sense. A Kenyan might say, for example, “You mean you’re not brothers? But you look each other!” Be kind, they just think that muna fanana can slip into English unfiltered. Speaking of filters, that’s why some people (tribe/ethnicity withheld to protect my uncles) will claim to ‘drink’ cigarettes. If you’re not Kenyan you won’t understand this. Let it go.

5. We can buy beers at police stations. Grilled meat too. Heck, in some cop shops you can even play darts. I am NOT making this up. Example: “Man the aaa day I pitiad (pass through) the Spring Valley cop station after work. I was leaving there at midnight, bana. I was so wasted! I told those cops to just let me go home.”Oh, that’s another thing: when we’re leaving a place (your house, a wedding, the cop shop bar) we tend to say, “Ok, me let me go…” We’re not implying that you’re holding us against our will; we’re just saying that we’d like to go. (The plural is, of course, “Us let us go.”)

6. When Kenyans say that you’re mad, it’s a profound compliment. “Man this guy is mad. You know what he did…” then they’ll go on to recount some of your admirable exploits. It’s high praise. Smile modestly and accept it. By modest I mean look down, draw a circle in the dust with the toe of your shoe (or just your toe) and then smile, draw your mouth down into a brief frown, and smile again. Alternate quickly a few times. This is known by English-speaking Kikuyus as The Nyira Smile, or The Sneering Smile. Then say “aah, me?” in a high, sing-songy voice. However, only do this if you’re female.On the other hand, if Kenyans ask, “are you normal? (sometimes pronounced “nomo”), then they’re getting a bit concerned about your state of mental health. Reassure them by buying another round.

7. Which brings me to Alcohol. Our national pastime. You know that myth about Eskimos having thousands of word for ‘snow?’ Well, our beloved drinks are known by a thousand names and phrases too. Kenyans will ‘catch pints (or just ‘catch’),’ ‘go for a swallow,’ have a ‘jweeze,’ ‘keroro,’ ‘kanywaji,’ ‘jawawa…’ really, no list can be exhaustive. Be aware, though, that the words you use will immediately tip off your audience about your age. (For the Kenyans reading this, no I was NOT born during the Emergency, you swine.)
cheers 8. Our other pastime is religion. (What contradiction?) If you’re broke on a Sunday – and your hangover is not too bad – stroll over to one of our parks and catch some open-air preaching. Jeevanjee Gardens in town is a prime location. There you will see us in our full multi-lingual, spiritual splendour. There is always, and I mean always, a freelance preacher thundering in English while his loyal and enthusiastic sidekick translates into Kiswahili. 

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Sample:
Preacher: And then Jesus said…
Sidekick: Alafu Yesu Akasema…
Preacher: Heal!
Sidekick: Pona!
Preacher: HEAL!
Sidekick: PONA!
It’s hypnotic. We suggest you go with a Kenyan who understands both languages because sometimes the sidekick nurses higher ambitions and, instead of translating, tries to sneak in his own parallel sermon. If you’re bored in Kenya it’s because you’re dead.
pastor-translator-17-11-139. As you’ve probably figured out, we like abbreviating things. (Why would the word ‘another’ have to be any shorter than it is? Why would the Kenyans reading this find it odd that I keep talking about ‘Kiswahili?’) This can lead to unnecessary confusion.
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But by now you should have figured out that when you’re catching and someone says, “Si you throw an-aa ra-o?” they of course want you to buy another round of drinks. Don’t worry about the ‘si;’ like so many words in Swa it’s impossible to translate. Embrace it, sprinkle it liberally in your speech and move on.
Courtesy KLIST 

Source: DAILY POST

Kenyan iconic Hall of Famers

Kenya is today viewed as a great tourist destination with a beautifully warm climate, coastline on the Indian Ocean and Savanna grasslands. It is also home to and has been associated with many great men and women who have had greater successes over time. If Kenya had a Hollywood Boulevard then these names would definitely have their own golden star. Here we reveal a few Kenyan Hall of Famers.

1. Karen Blixen (Author & Early Settler)   510417_638_365

Karen Blixen, pen name Isak Dinesen, is the author of ‘Out of Africa’, a memoir of her seventeen years living on her own coffee plantation in British East Africa. Published in 1937 her book was ultimately a love story, yet gave readers a unique snapshot of colonial life in the 1940’s. Blixen also gave insight to the different tribes of Kenya, gently portraying the characters in her book as individuals and free of the racial stereotypes that plagued Western literature at the time. An area in Nairobi has been named after her and visitors can see the farmhouse where she lived, with many original items still intact.

Image credit: http://www.laescueladelosdomingos.com

 

2. Richard Leakey (Palaeontologist, Politician & Conservationist)

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Born in Kenya to British parents, Richard Leakey and his family were all famous for their findings relating to early man. Richard Leaky continued the family traditional of palaeontology in East Africa, making many important discoveries of his own, which has helped better our understanding of human evolution. Leaky was appointed head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service in 1989.

In that same year, together with President Arap Moi, he made a dramatic anti poaching statement by burning a stockpile of ivory. Leaky soon became a well-known activist and politician, which made him many friends as well as enemies. His passionate views on wildlife conflict may have been the cause of his plane crashing in 1993. He lost both his legs, and although sabotage was suspected, it was never proved. After entering politics for a short time Leakey has continued to this day to promote animal conservation.

Image credit: http://www.greenwichlibrary.org

 

3. Jomo Kenyatta (Freedom fighter and Kenya’s first President)

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Kenyatta might not have a Hollywood star but he does have his face on Kenyan currency. He was the first President of the Republic of Kenya when it was declared independent from British rule in December 1964. Prior to this he was the face of the freedom fight for many years and is now widely considered by Kenyan people as the founding father of the nation. His face is synonymous with a free and independent country.

Image Credit: Albert Kenyani

 

4. Joy Adamson (Author, painter & conservationist)

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Joy Adamson was the author of novel and award winning film Born Free. Joy, together with her husband George, became adoptive parents to a very endearing lion cub, who they named Elsa. Rescued after her mother was killed, Elsa soon became a household name due to the glamorous portrayal of their life in the Kenyan bush. Together with a host of other cute adopted wildlife, Elsa was cared for in the Adamson’s home in Naivasha before being released back to the wild.

The Adamson’s were devoted to conservation and helped to revive Kenya as a world-class safari destination. Joy was also an accomplished artist, documenting much of Kenya’s plant life and traditional tribal costumes through her beautiful paintings. Some of her paintings and prints can be found at the National Museum of Kenya or Elsamere in Naivasha.

Image Credit: Suneet’s

 

5. Daniel Arap Moi (Kenya’s Second President)

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi is a Kenyan politician and former President of Kenya (1978 to 2002). He succeeded Kenyatta as President upon the latter’s death. Daniel arap Moi is popularly known to Kenyans as “Nyayo”, a Swahili word for “footsteps”, as he was said to be following the footsteps of the first.

Former President Moi

6. Wangari Maathai (Nobel Prize winner for her work with the environment)

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Maathai was a woman of many talents, a human rights political activist, a conservationist and environmentalist among other things. In 2004 she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so she set a precedent for other women in a country where they were often subdued under a patriarchal system.

Wangari also founded the Green Belt Movement for grassroots conservation of Kenyan wildlife and landscape. To complete her impressive CV, in 2006 she met President Barack Obama, whose father was educated on the same program that allowed Maathai to study in America during her youth.

7. David Sheldrick (Inspiration behind the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi)

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Image Credit: Courtesy Photo, source WWD

At the tender age of 28, David Sheldrick had already taken on the role of game-keeper at Kenya’s largest National Park, Tsavo. In this role, he confronted poachers on a daily basis and began to form close protective relationships with the elephants. Later, with the help of his wife Daphne, they studied the elephants and collected data on their feeding and behaviour. They even hand-reared some particularly vulnerable calves.

After David’s death in 1977, Daphne founded the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi to carry on his good work. The orphanage is still a very popular tourist attraction in Kenya as it has featured on international television many times, giving the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage a global reputation for their conservation efforts.

 

8. Iain Douglas Hamilton Zoologist & founder of ‘Save the Elephants’ & TV presenter

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Iain Douglas Hamilton is a world-renowned zoologist, who’s focus over the past four decades has concentrated primarily on the lives and behaviour of elephant groups in Kenya. Ian looked closely at elephant choices and for this he closely studied their migration patterns. In 1993 he started the organisation ‘Save the Elephants’ which has given him even greater fame around the world. His daughter, Saba Douglas Hamilton, is also a well-known face, appearing in many BBC wildlife documentaries. Growing up with her father in Kenya, Saba became very familiar with the animals on her doorstep and is also committed to protecting them.

 

9. Alan Root Photographer, filmmaker and conservationist

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Alan Root is a filmmaker and conservationist who has led a wonderfully exciting career in wildlife conservation and documentary production. Alan initially became famous along with his wife, Joan, for producing a documentary called ‘Two in the Bush’. The movie depicted the couple living close to nature and had some amazing footage of their adventures and connection to wildlife.

Alan moved to Kenya as a boy and his passion for animals, flora and fauna of Kenya led to him working for publications such as National Geographic and the BBC. His films were nominated for an Oscar. In his biography, Ivory, Apes and Peacocks, this gripping read gives a thrilling account of his adventures as an intrepid explorer and conservationist.

10. Ngugi Wa Thiongo  (Author)

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Image credit; Karisan Media

Ngugi is Kenya’s most celebrated author and playwright, he published his first novel, Weep Not, Child in 1964. He later left Kenya on exile in the 70s as a result of his outspokenness and harsh criticisms of the government of the day using plays and novels as his outlets. In 2006 he published his first novel in two decades, Wizard of the Crow which tells the story of an imaginary African state governed by its despotic ruler. Ngugi is currently based in the UK where he serves as a Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Irvine. He has become popular in Africa as a result of his literary works that are read all over the world more so in African Universities.

Sources: My Destination, Mwakilishi

The Kalenjin: Meet the tribe where many are born to run

It is undoubted that Kenya is world-renown for its prowess as an athletics powerhouse. For years, our athletes have time and again dominated  track and field events, bagging themselves numerous medals and therein putting Kenya on the world map. Legendary Kipchoge Keino, Henry Rono, Ezekiel Kemboi, Daniel Komen (junior), Vivian Cheruiyot, Pamela Jelimo, Asbel Kiprop, Julius Yego, just to name a few, are some of the big names that have with time set the bar high in athletics.Kemboi_dance_149865784_620x350The ever entertaining Ezekiel Kemboi, one of Kenya’s champions from the Kalenjin community

150019_10150304831060245_516070244_15895799_5683519_nAside from being Kenyan, what many might not know is that most of our athletes (if not all) hail from what we like to refer to in the country as the running tribe, the Kalenjin. Known for their traditional ‘mursik’ (a beverage made of fermented whole milk that has been stored in a special gourd and cleaned by using a burning stick resulting to milk infused with tiny bits of charcoal), the Kalenjin are highland nilotes belonging to the Nilo-saharan family and are believed to have migrated to their present location from the South Sudan region. They primarily reside in the western highlands and within the rift valley.

285234_10151351247008557_2007808379_nThe famous ‘mursik’

There are several smaller tribal groupings within the Kalenjin: Elgeyo(Keiyo), Endorois, Kipsigis, Marakwet, Nandi, Pokot, Sabaot, Terik, and Tugen. The Kipsigis are the largest sub-tribe accounting to 43% at 1.972 million speakers with recent estimates placing the Kalenjin as the third largest ethnic group in Kenya at 4.967 million people.

SWP-Kalenjin-tribes02Known to be friendly people these highland nilotes’ standard greeting is Chamge or chamuge (how are you) to which one replies with the same phrase chamge (fine) or Chamge mising for emphasis to mean either “very fine” or “close friend,” depending on the context. As a sign of respect, a younger person greets someone of their grandparents’ generation by saying, chamge kogo (grandmother) or chamge kugo (grandfather).

CulturalKalenjin5Until the early 1950s, the Kalenjin did not have a common name; they were usually referred to as the ‘Nandi-speaking tribes’ by scholars and administration officials, a practice that did not immediately come to a halt after the adoption of the common name ‘Kalenjin’ (cf. Evans-Pritchard 1965). An interesting story as to how these ‘Nandi-speaking tribes’ came to their identity as the Kalenjin Began in the 1940s during World War II. Individuals from the tribe fighting in the war used the term kale or kole (the process of scarring the breast or the arm of a warrior who had killed an enemy in battle) to refer to themselves whereas wartime radio broadcaster, John Chemallan frequently used the phrase kalenjok (“I tell you,”) in his broadcastings.

422586_336746216372268_124777214235837_910393_62160322_nLater on, students from the tribe attending Alliance High School formed what was to become the future Kalenjin elite. Numbering fourteen in total, these students who constituted a distinct minority in the prestigious school in seeking an outward manifestation of identity and solidarity to distinguish them from the dominant group of students from the Gikuyu tribe formed a “Kalenjin” club. An identity that was thereafter consolidated with the founding of a Kalenjin union in Eldoret in 1948, and the publication of a monthly magazine called Kalenjin in the 1950s.

The Kalenjin are as synonymous with politics as they are with athletics. Since the attainment of independence, the tribe has produced numerous top players into government and the political arena having produced Kenya’s second and longest serving president – Daniel Arap Moi, current deputy president – William Ruto, beside many other prominent politicians and government officials. Traditionally, the basic unit of  political organization among them was the koret or parish which was a collection of twenty to one hundred scattered homesteads.

moiFormer President Daniel Arap Moi, one of the pioneers of politics among the Kalenjin

It was administered by a council of adult males known collectively as the kokwet and was led by a spokesman called poiyot ap kokwet . This spokesman was someone recognized for his speaking abilities, knowledge of tribal laws, forceful personality, wealth, and social position. At public proceedings, although the poiyot ap kokwet was the first to speak, all of the elders were given the opportunity to state their opinions. Rather than making decisions himself, the poiyot ap kokwet expressed the group’s opinion, always phrased in terms of a group decision.

A number of koret formed the next level of political organization, the pororiet. Each was led by a council, the kiruokwet ap pororiet. This council consisted of the spokesmen of the individual koret, over whom presided two reasonably active old men called kiruokik, the “councillors.” In addition, among the Nandi, there were two representatives of the orkoiyot; a Nandi prophet called maotik and two senior military commanders of the pororiets warriors, kiptaienik ap murenik (B. Roberts – Gale group).

This system was later to be replaced by the system imposed by the British colonial government of village elders, assistant chiefs, chiefs, district officers, district commissioners, and provincial commissioners. Today, the realization of a new constitution has since revolutionized Kenya into a decentralized republic doing away with the British system to a larger extent.

SUB2PIXDeputy president William Ruto and Kalenjin elders

The Kalenjin are a religious people as well. Their traditional religion is based upon the belief in a supreme god, Asis or Cheptalel, who is represented in the form of the sun. Beneath Asis is Elat, who controls thunder and lightning. The Kalenjin also believe that spirits of the dead, oyik, intervene in the affairs of humans, and can be placated with sacrifices of meat and/or beer, called koros.  A peculiar practice of the Kalenjin regarding the dead was the burial of only the people who had borne children; the rest would be taken out to the bush for hyenas to devour. Something else that the Kalenjin had strong belief in were the diviners, called orkoik, believed to have magical powers and who assisted in appeals for rain or to end floods.

429458_336742066372683_124777214235837_910344_862548011_nToday, nearly every Kalenjin member belongs in an organized religion—either Christianity or Islam. Major Christian sects here include the Africa Inland Church (AIC), the Church of the Province of Kenya (CPK), the Roman Catholic Church as well as the African Gospel Church (AGC). Muslims are relatively few in number among the Kalenjin. For the most part, only older people can recall details of traditional religious beliefs.

427136_336748073038749_124777214235837_910416_733537409_nTransformation from childhood to adulthood among the Kalenjin constituted an initiation ceremony ‘tumdo’  which involved circumcision for both males and females. Traditionally, the ceremony took place every seven years to which the initiates were bestowed new status as members of a named age-set ‘ipinda’. After circumcision, the young men would be put into seclusion for instructions about the skills necessary for adulthood. They would then be expected to begin a phase of warrior hood during which they would act as the military force of the tribe. Circumcision for girls on the other hand prepared them for marriage. Today, male age-sets have lost their military function, but still provide bonds between men of the same set. Female age-sets on the other hand have lost much of their importance.

the-nandi-circumcision-ritual-21491379Nandi boys prepared for Initiation ceremony

Marriage as an important stage of life is very vital among the Kalenjin. Typically, after marriage men brought their wives to live with them in an extended family sort of setting. The practice of polygamy was and still is permitted albeit today’s economy has caused a setback to it as bride price has proven to be quite burdening for many. Monogamous marriages now prevail and nuclear families are becoming more common. Children were traditionally seen as a blessing from God hence the high population rate among Kalenjin. The younger generation however is opposed to having larger families and tend to have fewer children when they marry. This can be attributed to the fact that to some degree, many women are now prioritizing career over raising children and also the cost of raising children today has greatly sky rocketed.

In family settings, work division among the Kalenjin is traditionally divided among gender lines. Men do the heavy work; clearing fields for planting, turning over the soil, herding livestock among other pursuits while the women take over the bulk of farming; planting, weeding, harvesting, and processing crops. The women are also involved in the general running of the household.

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Most Kalenjin are rural dwellers who do not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Traditionally, the Kalenjin made round walled thatched houses constructed from bent saplings anchored to larger posts and covered with a mixture of mud and cow dung; roofs were thatched with local grasses. While these kinds of houses are still common, there is a growing trend toward the construction of square or rectangular houses built with timber walls and roofs of corrugated sheet metal.

news_163755_0One of the major challenges that the Kalenjin grapple with to date would be Cattle rustling. Although raids have always been a part of the Kalenjin culture, especially among the Pokot, the situation has now exasperated as raiders have since upgraded their tools of trade from spears, bows and arrows to semiautomatic weapons like AK 47 rifles. The Marakwet in particular have continued to suffer at the hands of armed cattle rustlers, often from the Pokot. To make matters worse, their marginal status does little to help them as their complaints are met by a general lack of concern from the government. Aside from raiding, other challenges that the Kalenjin face include ethnicity, HIV/AIDS and land disputes.

Kenya’s Cultural Symbol; The Maasai Tribe

Performing the adamu (the jumping dance – performed when a circle is formed by the warriors, and one or two at a time enter the center to begin jumping while maintaining a narrow posture), they stand tall and slender in somewhat stylish long ochre-dyed hair with Shúkà attire (red sheet-like material with hints of other colours e.g blue wrapped around the waist or over the shoulder) completing their overall look. On other occasions you’ll spot them with a spear clutched on one hand and right foot hooked on the crook of the knee of the left leg; these are the stereotypical images we’ve become accustomed to when it comes to the Maasai in the tourism world.

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Maasai Warriors Dancing zuru kenya

They are undoubtedly the most known Kenyan tribe outside of Kenya, having grown into a brand in itself  not only for Kenyan tourism but also steadily for global fashion.  The maasai brand is all over; maasai carvings and merchandise are in display in numerous curio shops, the maasai market has also overwhelmingly grown overtime, the maasai themselves stand on display at many hotel entrances as an attraction to the guests, even the high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton has a maasai line that includes; hats, scarves, duffle bags and beach towels. The distinctive Maasai beading and decorative jewellery has become a fashion item in the West, and remain one of the most popular items taken home by visitors to Kenya. So popular has Maasai beading become that many modern functional items, including watchstraps, belts, handbags and even mobile phone covers are being produced in Maasai designs. There are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the maasai image or name; showing just how big a brand the maasai have become. Sadly though the ‘Maa’ speaking people aren’t part of the trade – anyhow, that’s a story for another day . But who really are the Maasai?

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Maasai fashion zuru kenya

Louis Vuitton maasai inspired fashion

Over the last one week, renewed effort has been put in, both in print media and on international websites such as BBC, on the pertinent issue of Who Really owns the Maasai Brand? The debate goes, Maasai brand is currently everywhere globally, and it is big money – but the community itself is receiving little benefit from their own brand. To quote from today’s issue of Daily Nation’s DN2 Pullout, “there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
Over the last one week, renewed effort has been put in, both in print media and on international websites such as BBC, on the pertinent issue of Who Really owns the Maasai Brand? The debate goes, Maasai brand is currently everywhere globally, and it is big money – but the community itself is receiving little benefit from their own brand. To quote from today’s issue of Daily Nation’s DN2 Pullout, “there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf
“there are currently about 80 companies around the world using either the Maasai image or name. These include a range of accessories called Maasai made for Land Rover; Maasai Barefoot Technology, which makes specialty trainers; and high end fashion house Louis Vuitton, which has a Maasai line that includes beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags.” – See more at: http://northkenya.com/2013/05/who-owns-the-maasai-brand-in-kenya/#sthash.A77AID3U.dpuf

Predominantly a warrior tribe, the maasai are a semi-nomadic group whose lives revolve around cattle. They cherish these animals so much so that “I hope your cattle are well” is regarded a common greeting among the maasai. They speak ‘maa’, a language family related to Dinka and Nuer and they also have a common ancestral tie to the Samburu and the Njemps. The Maasai have a strong belief that God entrusted cattle to them and therefore to them, wealth is measured by how many herds one owns. This very belief is what has seen result to many cattle raids among the ‘maa’ speaking groups as they believe that stealing from other tribes is okay seeing as cattle was given solely to them by the creator.

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Maasai warrior standing on the edge of Suswa crater

Maasai warrior standing on the edge of Suswa crater

The Maasai as a cultural people, have managed to retain their beliefs and lifestyle despite modern world temptations to change and adapt with new technologies. They live in small settlements in Kraals, surrounded by thorn bush fences. Their manyattas ( traditional house/hut) are made out of  branches, grass, twigs and cement made out of cow dung and urine. Animal skin and cushions of dry grass serve as interior decor for the huts. For survival, the Maasai rely on cows blood, meat and milk although recent times have seen them adopt agriculture as well. The blood is obtained from the jugular vein of the cow using an arrow and after drawing of the blood, the animal is cared  for ’till it heals.

child-in-the-maasai-manyattaImage credit; towelspacked

maasai zuru kenya

MaasaiVillage_zurukenyaThe Maasai tribe constitutes a highly developed system of initiation and age-sets. The highest ranked being the Oloiboni – a spiritual leader, who also takes the role of a political leader. Along with Oloiboni is alaigwanani, holding the political leadership role only, confined within clan parameters unlike the Oloiboni who has an added religious role that goes beyond clans to a larger community setting in Maasai land. The Maasai also consult diviners; Loibonok whenever misfortune hits the community who also double up as physicians treating diseases. The tribe’s clans are lead by Laigwanak (heads of clans) whose roles include settling land disputes, resolving conflicts between Maasai communities and other tribal groups, as well as serving as intermediaries between the Maasai community and the government.

 maasai elder zuru kenyaMaasai elder

The first initiation stage that the maasai go through is circumcision of boys who are considered junior moran afterwards. They then grow their hair into long braids, usually decorated with red ochre, which is also used to slather their upper bodies. A huge task that the morans previously undertook afterwards but is no longer in practice for wildlife endangerment reasons was lion hunting; Olomayio. This served as a testing for how courageous the young morans were and was a very daunting and daring task having to fight a lion and escape with their life. The victorious warriors would then perform a dance called Engilakinoto.

Maasai morans zuru kenya

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Age-sets to the maasai are an integral part of the society. These are derived during circumcision where a group partaking in the exercise together form an age-group. Each group has a specific role in the community. For instance, boys (age six and seven) begin to learn herding from their older brothers before undergoing circumcision. There are four age groups in total; junior warriors, senior warriors, junior elders, and senior elders. The junior warriors learn about warfare under the tutelage of the senior age group, prepping to be defenders of the land. They also learn about the customs and traditions of the Maasai people as it will be their duty to pass it on to the next generations. The senior warriors on the other hand assume a tremendous responsibility of defending the land from all sorts of enemies. These two groups serve within a time period of about twenty years until another group gets circumcised. There are no age groups for women, instead they automatically fall into the age group of the men that marry them.

maasai rituals zuru kenya

maasai rituals zuru kenya

Women are the heart of the Maasai tribe, having to carry out many of the chores in the community. Aside from building manyattas; a task that takes them a period of about seven months to complete, the women fetch water and firewood, milk cows, pick calabashes and gourds decorating them with leather and beads, look after their homes amongst many other duties. Even though women in this society have a strong voice in their culture functioning as religious leaders and educators, they are on the other hand, considered a minority. They have no right to own neither cattle nor land and are represented by their fathers when it comes to sensitive matters and tough decision making and later on after marriage, their husbands. If unfortunately one doesn’t get sons in her marriage, the poor woman will be left on her own with no money, possessions or anyone to take care of her.

Masai Ladies in Manyatta zuru kenya

Masai-Tribe zuru kenya

The Maasai are not only known for their traditional beliefs but also for their exquisite artistry. To some of us it appears simply as fashionable but what many do not know is that beading to the Maasai is actually symbolic. This tribe has about 40 types of bead work that mostly feature the colours red (colour of the Maasai), blue (Godly and reflecting the colour of the sky) and green (colour of God’s greatest blessing, fresh grass after rainfall). The bead work is done by the women but is worn by both genders of the community. Unmarried women adorn one of the beautiful pieces created; a large flat disc that surrounds the neck, made up of rows of beads threaded onto wire, secured and spaced with cow hide strips. Married women on the other hand, wear long blue beaded necklaces, and also decorate their earlobes with long beaded flaps. This amazing bead work has gained the Maasai a large market for their creations with locals as well as tourists serving as big customers.

maasai woman zuru kenya

maasai jewellery zuru kenya  maasai woman zuru kenya The Maasai tribe is crippled by a number of challenges today; competing with wildlife for their land, natural calamities such as drought causing loss of herds, illiteracy is another thing that short changes the community and constant cattle raids leading to loss of life and property. Despite being seen as a rigid society for preserving their traditional ways, their conservatism has undoubtedly gone a long way in bringing the Maasai a lot of fame overtime.  Today, they are revered as a community of beautiful culture that has earned worldwide respect.

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Borana Tribe

The Borana tribe originally hails from Southern Ethiopia with their language “borana” falling under a broader Oromo grouping; originally of an Eastern Cushite family of the Afro-Asiatic language.The Borana people shifted from Ethiopia into the South and Northern areas of Kenya in the early years of the 16th century and are currently residents of  Isiolo, Tana River, Garissa, Moyale, and Marsabit Districts.

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The Borana are nomadic people who deal with harsh weather conditions; dry and hot with irregular torrential rain, and are often forced to migrate in search of greener pasture for their animals. These people depend on milk and its products e.g yoghurt for survival and will seldom slaughter their animals for meat as livestock is extremely valuable to them. Milk supplemented by corn bread is their staple food.

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Not only do the Borana keep their herds for food, but also as major resource of wealth, and are applied to payment of bride price as well as legal fines. The animals are also believed to have strong linkage to their belief systems and are vital for sacrifices and rituals to guarantee fertility, health, and assistance from spirits. Animals  reared include; Cows,  goats, sheep and at times camels.

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Polygamy is rife among the Borana and therefore a majority of the men have at least two wives; or even more. Family relations are closely knit; and children are very important, therefore fathers are caring to their small children. The Borana strictly practice segregation of duties between the men and women. Men take care of herds whereas the women stay home taking care of the children and partaking in day-to-day chores.

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In essence, the Borana women play a major role in the community having to; build houses, usually portable traditional round grass huts called the dasse, do tea ceremonies during the opening ceremony of the new houses and they also have the responsibility of  relocating the villages from place to place by camel or sometimes donkey.

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The Borana cultural dress code is made up of a shawl or light blanket type over-wrap. Women wear scarf head coverings while men often wear a “prayer beanie” cap or a turban.

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The Borana people are very artistic and produce beautiful cultural things that can be gotten as souvenirs; from beaded leather jackets to prettily designed jewelry. 

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