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Friday, 10 May 2013

Cultural heritage of the Pokot

 By Joseph Nderitu
The mention of Pokot in Laikipia sends a chilling feeling down the spine of Laikipia residents. They are known for their ruthlessness and strong affiliation to livestock that has made them raid other communities over time. Although they are not the original inhabitants of the county, they have however made a footing in the place.

Photo of a Pokot woman
The name Laikipia has its origins with the laikipiak Maasai who once moved through this area. They were defeated and dispersed by the ancestors of the modern Kenyan Maasai in a series of major battles during the 19th century.

Some western tribes belonging to the collective group also live in laikipia. One of the most populous of this group is the Pokot. Pokot have a unique culture, divided into two major groups, that is ;people of the cattle(pipa tix)and  people of the corn(pipa pax),cattle herders and agriculturalists. No other tribe in Kenya is so distinctively divided.

T he two groups are fundamentally different with differently designed structures for housing. Despite this division Pokot culture is essentially a nomadic cattle culture. Even ‘corn people’ keep cattle. Customs and traditions closely are linked to the Karamojong of Uganda and Teso of western Kenya than other Kalenjin peoples. It is worth noting that Pokot Kalenjin (otherwise called highland nilotes) unlike Teso, Turkana and Samburu who are plain nilotes.
Pokot youth outside a manyatta

Pokot value cattle so much. Bulls with distinctive horns that is horns facing forward and others facing backward. The relationship between the Pokot and these bulls was one of near mystical worship. Corn people like many tribes adapted to initiation rituals-based rites of circumcision. Cattle people do not circumcise, sharing opinion of the Karamojong and Teso that circumcision is barbaric. Instead they developed a rite of initiation called the sapana initiation  which meant entry  into one of two sets either; Tukoi(zebra)because of their distinctive pattern on their brass jewelry or  the Nyimur (stone)reference to their dark copper  jewlery

Pokot women wear distinctive brass jewelry including large looped earrings. After marriage, women generally pierce their lower lip and fit with a decorative plug.
Laikipia is rich with diverse culture worth exploring.
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