Pokot girl with giant necklace - Kenya
This Pokot girl wears a necklace of beads cut from the stem of an asparagus tree.
The Pokhot live in the Baringo and Western Pokot districts of Kenya and in Uganda.
There are two main sub-groups depending of their location and way of life. The first group consist of the Hill Pokot who live in the rainy highlands in the west and in the central south, and are mainly farmers and pastoralists. The second group is made up of the Plains Pokot who live in dry and infertile plains, with their cattles. A homestead is composed of one or more buildings for a man, his wife and children; eventual co-wives live in separate houses. The role of the community in teaching children ethical rules. Most of the Pokot are nomadic and thus have interacted with different peoples, incorporating their social customs.The Pokot are very proud of their culture. The Songs, storytelling, and decorative arts, especially bodily decoration, are very appreciated. They adorn the body with beads, hairstyling, scarification, and the removal of the lower central incisors. Pokot girls wear a beaded necklace made of the stems of an asparagus tree. Most Pokot have some knowledge of herbal medicine, so they often use these treatments along with those of the hospitals. They belong to the Kenya's Nilotic-speaking peoples. .
For the Pokot, the universe has two realms: the above is the realm of the most powerful deities—Tororot, Asis (sun), and llat (rain); and the below is the one where live humans, animals, and plants. Humans are responsible for the realm that they inhabit, but they rely upon divinities to achieve and maintain peace and prosperity. They worship many deities like the sun, moon and believe in the spirit of death.The Pokot communicate with their deities through prayer and sacrifice. They perform it during ethnic festivals and dances. Oracles are responsible for maintaining the spiritual balance within the community. They are superstitious and believe in sorcery, so sometimes they call on shielding lucky sorcery. They have prophets, either male or female, who foresee advise, usually by the means of animal sacrifices. His or her ability is considered as a divine gift. Clan histories recount the changes of location, through poetry and song, emphasizing the vulnerability of humans and the importance of supernatural powers to help them overcome hunger, thirst, and even death. Ceremonies mark the transitions in the people's social lives. Among these are: the cleansing of a couple expecting their first child; the cleansing of newborn infants and their mothers; the cleansing of twins and other children who are born under unusual circumstances; male and female initiation; marriage; sapana, a coming-of-age ceremony for men; and summer-solstice, harvest, and healing ceremonies. The most important rite of passage for most Pokot is circumcision for boys and clitoridectomy for girls. These rites consist of a series of neighborhood-based ceremonies, emphasizing the importance of having a good behavior. When boys are circumcised, they acquire membership in one of eight age sets. Women do not have age-sets. After excisions, for several months, girls have a white painting on their face and wear a hood made of blackened leather with charcoal and oil. This means they are untouchable until the lepan ceremony, that marks the passage to womanhood. Unlike other tribes, the Pokot keep the affiliation to their clan throughout their lives, there is no disruption with marriage. Surprisingly, the agreement before marriage is made by gift giving, from the groom and his family to the bride and her family, often over a period of years (and not the contrary). It often implies the gift of a combination of livestock, goods, and cash to the bride's family, and the allotment of milk cows and rights to land to the bride. The bond between a husband and wife lasts for 3 generations, after what marriages can take place again between the two groups. Polygamy exists but is not prevalent among men before 40. The spirits of the elder anticipate reincarnation in their living descendants: when a child is said to resemble the elder, the same name is given. Disputes are resolved in neighborhood councils and in government courts. Some of the sanctions include shaming, cursing, and bewitching.
© Eric Lafforgue