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AfriGeneas Africa Research Forum

The Samburu People & Culture

The Samburu are related to the Masai although they live just above the equator where the foothills of Mount Kenya merge into the northern desert and slightly south of Lake Turkana in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya.

They are semi-nomadic pastoralists whose lives revolve around their cows, sheep, goats, and camels. Milk is their main stay; sometimes it is mixed with blood. Meat is only eaten on special occasions. Generally they make soups from roots and barks and eat vegetables if living in an area where they can be grown.

Most dress in very traditional clothing of bright red material used like a skirt and multi-beaded necklaces, bracelets and earrings, especially when living away from the big cities.

The Samburu developed from one of the later Nilotic migrations from the Sudan, as part of the Plains Nilotic movement. The broader grouping of the Maa-speaking people continued moving south, possibly under the pressure of the Borana expansion into their plains. Maa-speaking peoples have lived and fought from Mt. Elgon to Malindi and down the Rift Valley into Tanzania. The Samburu are in an early settlement area of the Maa group.

Those who moved on south, however (called Maasai), have retained a more purely nomadic lifestyle until recently when they have also begun farming. The expanding Turkana ran into the Samburu around 1700 when they began expanding north and east.

Messages In This Thread

The Samburu People & Culture
Ethnic Classification

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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