The Cost Of Getting Married - Turkana

From 1976 until 2007 Helimission had a station in Kitale, Kenya. From there they flew numerous missions with the helicopter to the Turkana people in the Northwest of the country. They flew doctors and nurses into these difficult to reach areas and held many mobile bush clinics.


Then, if a Turkana man wanted to marry he had to prove his ability by killing a lion or a person. In addition, an attractive bride cost up to 30 head of cattle. Where should a young Turkana get this kind of wealth? From the neighboring Pokot, Randili or another tribe? When Ernie Tanner visited the Pokot for the first time, a Turkana warrior had just killed four Pokot men and stolen their cattle.


The Turkana live in the Northwest of Kenya. Their territory is bordered by Lake Turkana to the east; the Pokot, Randili and Samburu people to the south; Uganda to the west; and South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north. With around 1 million people, they make up about 2.5 percent of the total population of Kenya. Traditionally they are nomads and keep camels, cattle, sheep and goats, but it is becoming more common for them to settle in one place.


The Turkana live in remote areas in round huts. To make these they stick young trees into the ground in a circle and bind them together at the top to form a dome. This frame is clad with palm fronds, plants and animal skins. During the rainy season the huts are smeared with cow dung. They are home to a man, his wives and his children; their livestock is kept in pens.


Water is precious and is not used to wash. Instead the Turkana clean themselves using fat or butter.



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