The Samburu People

The Samburu people inhabit an arid region in northern Kenya. They have traditionally herded cattle, though lately some have taken up farming. Others have started raising camels, which do well in this dry area. The Samburu share many customs with the Maasai.

Like the Maasai, the Samburu have rather elaborate "coming of age" traditions. Boys are circumcised in their early teens in a ceremony attended by the entire village. The boy who even flinches dishonors himself and his family.

Once circumcised, the young man becomes a member of the warrior class – a moran – and must live apart from the village with the other warriors. The moran braid their hair, color it with red ocher and let it grow until they become a junior elder of the village, in their late teens or early twenties.

Among the photographs you will see Frances, a moran about 20 years old. Frances had received some schooling and was able to speak English well enough to carry on a conversation. He told me a bit about his life and showed me how he uses his spear, club, machete and cattle prod. He is from the Dorobo tribe, which were traditionally hunters instead of shepherds.

Frances has already married, but as a moran he must still live outside the village and apart from his wife. He is also forbidden to eat meat in the presence of his wife until he becomes a junior elder of the village. That time will come within the next few years. Then, he will cut his hair short and forgo the red ocher and tight braids he now wears.

Other indigenous peoples: Herero People of Namibia, Himba People of Namiba and Maasai.