Some 423 warriors. Hundreds of cattle slaughtered. A gathering of 130 families to create a grand ceremonial village. This is a strong culture in Kenya, thriving in a world that pushes many indigenous people toward unwanted change.
In an unabashed celebration of masculinity, the moran (Samburu warriors) are passing through a vital graduation ceremony that shows they are rising up in their community. The ceremony, or Lmuget, is a ritual that comes once every seven years and marks the middle of the 15-year period after which a moran becomes an elder.
The Samburu are pastoralist (nomads who raise livestock on natural pastures), ethnic Nilotic people with language and traditional similarities to those of the Masaai, who are more well known in the West.
The Samburu are also known as the Butterfly People, a moniker given to them by neighboring tribes in recognition of the bright colors they adorn themselves with. The enormous land of the Samburu (8,000 square miles or 21,000 square kilometers) lies in the north of Kenya, ending just before the road turns off to Lake Turkana.
In many parts of Samburu County (see map), one can stand on the edge of a cliff and gaze into the night without seeing a single electric light. Given this huge area, the landscape changes quite a bit from dry, dusty, and drought-prone to lush greenery where agricultural plots abound among the ubiquitous cattle herds.
The endangered Grevy’s zebra is thriving in this region. They are a surreal sight, grazing alongside cattle and sheep.
Maralal, the capital of Samburu County, lies a nine-hour drive—most of it unpaved, muddy, and rocky—north of Nairobi. Just outside town the only signs of modernity are an occasional dirt bike and the cell phones in the hands of nearly every adult.Published in