The Turkana tribe of northern Kenya is the third largest pastoral community in the country, and they are known for being proud and rather aggressive. Like the Maasai and Samburu, the Turkana people keeps herds of cattle, goats and also camels and it’s a very important part of life and culture of the tribe. The animals are the main source of income and food, but because of recurring droughts in the area and larger groups of Samburu living in the same area, these two tribes have been in constant conflict with each other.
Like the Maasai and Samburu tribes, the Turkana people are very colorful and adorn themselves with beautiful beadwork from leather, metals, wood, glass and shells. Beads are an essential component of everyday dress, worn to signify their age grade, marital status and station in society. The Turkana women can easily be identified wearing multiple strains of beaded necklaces around their neck in mostly red, yellow and brown colored beads of glass and seeds. These necklaces represent her wealth. They also shave their head, but leave a thin strip of hair from front to back where they use braids and decorate them with beads attached to the loose ends.
The Turkana are also well known for their ostrich eggshell beads, a traditional bead making material used for over 9000 years in Kenya. The men brought the egg shells back home to the women who chip the tough shell into rough shapes using stones or their teeth, smooth the edges on a stone and drilled a hole in the center. Then they used them for decorating their traditional leather clothes, as belts and necklaces, and were used to distinguish between age groups, development stage, occasions and status of individuals or groups in the Turkana community. This group is also the only East-African tribe that uses metalwork – often as a part of the decoration of their leather clothes or as necklaces. Turkana belts made of iron and copper beads are worn by married women, and the type of metal indicates what clan their husbands belong to.
A big thank you to my Flickr-friend Rita Willaert for giving me permission to use some of her beautiful Pictures https://www.flickr.com/photos/rietje/