MARRIAGE CEREMONIES AMONGST THE TURKANA PEOPLE
BY EMMY MAKOKHA, LIBRARIAN, KITALE MUSEUM
Back in Turkana amongst the NGIKALEESO tribe, marriage ceremonies happen quite often but they are never carried out during the long dry season because most of their cattle die due to lack of pasture and water for the animals and that also includes the bride wealth. Marriages are for everyone but amongst the NGIKALEESO they are organized for young men and women and it must be according to the communities customs and rites on which states that amongst the men they must marry from the oldest son to the youngest son in the family, the last born male can’t marry before the oldest male son marries, and if a girl has been seen fit for marriage by a man a snake is seen quite often at the girls’ homestead from time to time and it signals that a girl from that family is going to be married by a Ngikaleeso man. The young suitor interested in the girl will soon be escorted by his age mates to the girls homestead in need of the girls’ hand in marriage, on the first visit the suitor and his age mates will carry either a goat or a sheep which will be later slaughtered for the guests, after the meal the head leader from the suitors’ group and his age mates will act as the mediator and ask for the girls’ hand in marriage on behalf of the suitor himself, and if the leader is able to convince the girls’ parents, the girl will go with the suitor to his home which will be the girls’ home to be after the wedding.
When the material day arrives for the wedding ceremony, animals are brought in large for the ceremony by the groom and his mates and some contributed by the girls’ family for the large feast ahead, and after the wedding union it is centralized by the killing of the ox (Ekuma) and after that the marriage will be finalized. The groom, dressed in leopard-skin and ostrich feathers. The ceremony is sealed by the men of the groom’s family drinking the blood and partaking of the meat cooked by the women of the homestead.
Sandals worn by men
In welcoming the bride to her new home and making her feel comfortable and welcomed, she is given skins of the animals killed during the marriage union (lokumul) together with porridge and two sheep which are slaughtered. The mother or co-wives dress her in wife’s clothing, remove all her girlhood beads and decorations and give her a small supply of beads to wear. Her old decorations are distributed among the girls of the groom’s family. A small child is placed on her lap as she sits in the hut, to symbolize her future fertility.
After a marriage when the husband and wife cannot stay together anymore, the wife will leave her matrimonial home to her parents’ home and the husband is allowed to re-marry but before that at the girls’ homestead one of the animals [must be a white sheep or a grey or yellow camel] received as dowry is going to be killed and a cleansing rite performed. After the animal is killed and slaughtered, the meat is eaten by the family members marking the end of the marriage for their daughter and the animal’s intestines are smeared on her body to cleanse her, and the other bride wealth remained are returned to the former husband for him to find another spouse.
Unlike the NGIKALEESO they believe that if a disagreement erupts between the husband and wife, and the wife decides to leave her home to her parent’s house she is bound to encounter with a snake on her way which will coil round her arms, neck, legs and leave the head out staring at her eyes till she decides to go back to her matrimonial home, but if she decides to move on to her parents’ house the snake will bite her and even cause death upon her.
If a couple tries to have a child and they can’t, and find out that the woman is barren they assist her by taking her to a medicine man who will massage her to restore her fertility but if it becomes unsuccessful they allow her to adopt a child from either her father’s home, or her unmarried sister’s child or the child of the next wife his husband marries, on which is legal if the wife is barren, but if the husband is found impotent it is a custom for his brother or cousin to bear for him kids but cleansing rite must be performed before the sexual intercourse. The sexual relationship only lasts till the woman is made pregnant and that finalize the hard efforts of the brother but he won’t have the right to the baby as a father but as a family relativ
The sexual act must happen outside the legal husband’s homestead preferably the grazing grounds or somewhere private and quite.