The Turkana are a Nilotic ethnic community connected to Turkana County, in particular Lake Turkana. One of the largest nomadic communities in Kenya, they are known for their basket weaving and annual Turkana Festival. The Turkana are mostly located in Turkana and Marsabit counties. Notable personalities include Olympic champion Paul Ereng and supermodel Ajuma Nasenyana.

Social structure and clans

The family was the basic social unit of the Turkana community. A group of families made up the clan. Traditionally the Turkana had a very unique alternating division, where the father was in the ngersai (leopard) division of the clan, the son would belong to the ngimor (stone) division, and the son’s children would belong to the leopard division. The girls would take their father’s division until they were married, then joining their husband’s division.

Turkana women
Turkana women traditionally took care of the children and household duties. They excelled in making beaded ornaments and building new semi-permanent houses each time the homestead shifted as a result of their nomadic lifestyle.

Young Turkana girls adorned in their traditional attire and characteristic hairdo.


Hunting for food

This stick was cut from wood of the edome (cordia ghara) tree and used by men and boys for throwing at animals and birds. Angles were cut on head to make sharp spikes for killing. It was thrown sideways so that it has a flat irregular rotary motion.


Pastoralism, hunting, fishing, and camels

The Turkana are known for pastoralism, hunting and fishing. They kept cattle, goats, camels, sheep and poultry, especially ducks. Their animals provided them with milk, meat and skins which were used to make bags and clothing items. Camels were seen as a source of wealth, and slaughtered at major ceremonies in exchange for brides or to affirm friendship