I had never seen anything like it. My camera froze in my hand, as my eyes moved slowly round the Kraal. So much was happening, and for the first time, I was confused on where a photographer was to focus the camera lens. My nostrils had long gotten used to the stench and my eyes had finally given up the dust-wind fight and had teared up to their satisfaction. I looked hard at the spot where the bull had fallen with a spear wound that ran straight into his heart. He was long gone now and…
“Piga picha!”(Take the photo!)
I was startled back from my trance by a rugged old man. I couldn’t understand why he had on his shoulders a winter blanket with temperatures souring 40 degrees. “Piga kimila yetu picha!” He repeated. Before my eyes had wandered off, the old men had been preparing what is commonly known here as “the old man’s soup”. The ingredients: Fresh blood from a bull, I kg sugar, fermented milk and ghee. All this in a large sufuria where the octogenarians would take turns stirring using special carved sticks.
While waiting for it to be ready, I saw one of them drink ghee like one would milk. Gha! Anyway, soon the mixture was smooth and ready to be served in the waiting metallic cups. His feeble hands shook as he took a sip and subsequently gulped down the first, second and third cups. Yuck! I tried not to let my disgust show at the thick froth he seemed to enjoy. His mates shared this secret little joy. See, this was an elite club. Only old men who had married off their daughter(s) were allowed to sit with the mates and drink the delicacy.
“Hold him! Hold him before he hurts himself!”
A moran was having convulsions. It took three young men to pin him down. Whoa! What’s happening to him? I wasn’t expecting anyone to answer. Hmmm. Strange. Apart from the ones who’d rushed to help, no one else thought this was an emergency even when three more men went into a similar state and one even threw himself into a thorn bush! “Relax, wamepandwa tu na mori” Someone volunteered to ease me off my I’m gonna bolt out of here look. “Ati?” I thought they were possessed and I didn’t want to be there when the demons left them and sought a new home! “Wamepandwa tu na mori. Wameshikwa na uchungu mbaya kwa sababu ya hiyo wimbo inaimbwa.” Oh, that song! I thought it was pretty depressing for a wedding but I had quickly told myself I wasn’t allowed to think, or even voice my thoughts here. I knew nothing! The man revealed that the song, usually sang by a group of morans who sat with the groom, was meant to do just that…make them angry enough to go to war as soon as yesterday. The song taunted the young men, asking them why they were seated there, celebrating, while someone had made away with their pride, their cattle. Now if you know anything about the Turkanas of Northern Kenya, you know that their cattle are their pride, I would even dare say their everything. Maybe that would explain why they are almost always at loggerheads with their neighbours the Samburus, cattle raiding being the order of the day.
So after this revelation I just stood there, asking myself if there was anything/one I would die for…just like that moran who had thrown himself into that thorn bush. Eh. Pressure! Well, I would answer this question later, because soon enough the tempo picked up and I guessed something interesting, or scary was going to happen. The young and old men all stood up and walked round a huge pile of fresh dung that had been extracted from the bull. There was yet another ritual to be followed here. As the group went round the dung singing and chanting, some, mostly old men, would pick some dung, sniff it and then apply it on their leg. The others were only allowed to lightly step on the dung. Again, only men whose daughters had been married off could touch the dung and apply it. The rest, irrespective of age could only step on it.
Finally, two hours since he had bid me goodbye, I saw the groom in the procession. He smiled and told me…”Its over now”..as if sensing that I had been in a state of shock for sometime now. It was time to move on to the next phase of the Turkana traditional wedding.
Okay. Your facial muscles can relax now 😀 Look out for part two!! It will be less shocking and more jovial, like a wedding is supposed to be. I promise 😀 Here’s a sneak peak!