The Turkana have more than 20 different clans and the 300,000 members of the tribe occupy the north west of Kenya. Described by the 19th century British as being ' war-like and aggressive and of gigantic height' they lead a semi-nomadic pastoral lifestyle herding goats, sheep and camels. In the wet season the women cultivate millet and gourds and in the dry season the men can be found fishing on the shores of Lake Turkana.
Traditionally the Turkana have remained isolated as they continue to wander their desert homelands. Traditions and age-old customs are still practised; for the Turkana, marriage is a three-year ceremony that binds the two families together. The sons will remain with their own family and are joined by their wives where the extended family lives together as a group in a common homestead or awi. Their animals provide most of the Turkana's needs; milk and blood, which forms the main part of their diet; the hides used for making containers, panniers, sleeping mats and sandals.
The predominant tribe in the region is the Pokot. The Turkana and Pokot are old rivals and flare-ups of inter-tribal disputes take place on occasion, usually caused by clashes over water and pasture during periods of drought or cattle and goat rustling by the young men as they endeavour to pay bridal prices.
Churches and community groups are working to improve peace and security in the region and no incidents involving tourists have been recorded. The Pokot and Marakwet have increasingly turned to sedentary agricultural practices, particularly in the mountain regions.
The photograph (above left) shows Pokot women in traditional costume. The boys in the other picture are dressed for one of the many tribal ceremonies.
Music and dance that has been handed down from generation to generation remains a major part of their day-to-day lives. The Pokot produce carved stools, elaborately decorated storage gourds, headrests and colourful necklaces and baskets. These and other local curios can be found in the local markets. Unlike the Masai, these tribes see few tourists and the majority of the population have never been exposed to western ways or even seen a television.