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Old 22-07-14, 23:11   #1
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Oh Crap! PhOtOs-Tribe That Drinks Cow's BLOOD for Breakfast

Bright Bead Collars, Mud Make-up and Cow's BLOOD for Breakfast:
-Stunning Photos Reveal the Fascinating World of Kenya's Samburu

  • The related Samburu and Rendille tribes live in northern Kenya's Great Rift Valley and share a passion for beads
  • Both live on cow blood and milk 'smoothies' - a protein-rich diet that helps them survive in harsh conditions
  • Beaded collars worn by women offer clues to their marital status, health and even number of children
  • Elaborate necklaces worn by teenage girls are presented by their boyfriends and cost up to $100 (£58) each

With their necks encircled with beads, their chins painted red with ochre and massed bracelets jangling on their wrists, the women of Kenya's Samburu and Rendille tribes are a colourful sight.
But while the beads might look pretty, as photographer Eric Lafforgue explains, the elaborate jewellery is more than mere decoration. For not only does it denote wealth, it also reveals subtle clues about status as well.

'Beads are worn mainly for their beauty, but they also tell you about relationships and special events,' explains Lafforgue. 'Marnay bracelets are worn by everybody and are made of beads and bits of old tyres. Most wear brass anklets too.'

Spectacular: Both Samburu and Rendille women wear elaborate beaded collars, decorative headdresses and, once married, heavy brass earrings

Beginning: Girls get their first necklaces from their father - crimson strings of beads that indicate the girl in question has had a husband chosen for her

Engaged: This girl's crimson collar tells onlookers that a husband has been chosen for her but that she is yet to find a boyfriend. When she does, the collar will come off

Although separate tribes, the Samburu and Rendille are related and share several similarities, among them a passion for beads. Both are semi-nomadic pastoralists living in northern Kenya's Rift Valley and both make their living from cows.

Rather gruesomely, their staple food is cow's blood, drawn using a special arrow that pierces the vein without killing the animal, mixed with milk - a protein-heavy diet that helps them survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet.
But a penchant for blood shakes and cattle herding notwithstanding, both Samburu and Rendille are famous for their bright beads with women in particular wearing them every day.

'Samburu girls are given strings of beads by their fathers from a very young age,' explains Lafforgue. 'The first layers of necklaces are usually red, as it means the girl is engaged which takes place at a very young age.

Striking: The biggest collars are worn by teenage girls, who are given them by their boyfriends. When they marry, they have to return the elaborate necklaces

Status symbol: Collars are not merely decorative: They also reveal much about a woman's status and whether she is married or not

New addition: Thanks to the cheap Chinese goods that have flooded African markets, many Samburu headdresses now also include plastic flowers

Beautiful: Both of these women are from the Rendille tribe, a group closely related to the Samburu who inhabit the Kaisut Desert in northern Kenya

Modern: 16-year-old Elizabeth is one of the few Samburu to go to school and as a result, she has ditched most items of traditional dress with the exception of her collar

Grisly: Both tribes drink cow's blood and milk 'smoothies'. Blood is taken with the help of a specially made arrow that pierces the vein without killing the cow

'Before getting married, teenagers enjoy a degree of sexual freedom and wear heavy beaded necklaces given to them by their boyfriends - a Moran (warrior) usually from her clan or even her family.'
Each girl is given a house by her parents where she can entertain her warrior openly, while the men spend up to $100 (£58) - a huge amount of money for the Samburu - on elaborate necklaces for their 'nekarai'.
As a result, scraping together the cash to pay for a necklace can include some illegal business.

'To show my love for my girlfriend, I need to buy her a huge necklace,' says 18-year-old warrior Namusungu.
'But the price is too high for me, so I have to conduct a raid with my friends on the neighbouring tribes to steal some cows. Then Iíll sell the cows to get some money'.

'Once I get married, I will have to remove the necklace offered to me by my boyfriend,' adds 15-year-old Lariyon. 'I will have to give it back to him, and I will need to forget him as my parents have already chosen another man for me, from another clan.'

Engaged: 15-year-old Lariyon is engaged to a man who isn't her boyfriend and will have to return this elaborate collar to him when she gets married

Married: Women who are married wear elaborate brass earrings and layer on necklaces, the colours of which have different meanings and reflect her status

Pastoralists: Both Samburu and Rendille tribes are semi-nomadic pastoralists who rely on their livestock, including huge flocks of goats, to survive

Similarities: As well as being pastoralists, both Samburu and Rendille live mostly on cow blood and milk 'smoothies' and adore colourful beads

Symbolic: Women whose first born child is a son wear extra earrings as do those who have managed to add several boys to their clan

Spectacular: Like the Samburu, Rendille women wear elaborate beaded collars, decorative headdresses and, once married, heavy brass earrings

When Lariyon does marry, she will trade her huge, elaborate necklace for a pair of brass earrings, which symbolise marriage in Samburu culture. Should she have sons, she will add another: the Nkaiweli.
Married women also wear elaborate headdresses made from entai (buttons), ntarangrang (sequins) and sayen (beads) to show off their status and their husband's wealth.

'Rendille women also wear the Mpooro Engorio or wedding necklace for ceremonies,' adds Lafforgue. 'They used to make them from giraffe or elephant tail hair but because hunting is banned, they use fibre from doum palm fronds to make them instead.'

Rendille women are also famous for their elaborate doko hairstyles; an ochre daubed crest that tells anyone looking at them that their first child was a son and which they wear until their son or his father dies.

'The doko was made with the own hair of the woman so they couldn't remove it,' adds Lafforgue. 'Today, they wear an removable version made using palm fibre, red ochre and butter.'

But it's the beads that offer the most clues to a Rendille or Samburu woman's lifestyle, with different colours revealing different aspects of her personality, status and health.
White stands for purity and good health because it represents milk which comes from a cow, black is hardship, yellow and orange melded signify hospitality because they are the colours of animal skins laid out on guest beds. Red signifies danger, bravery and unity.

'Necklaces can even have magic powers,' notes Lafforgue. 'If a woman is sterile, she must see a witch doctor who will give her a collar of pearls. She must go to the first born man in any house, tie him up with the necklace and then leave with it.

'Three months later, she ought to be pregnant, while the man that she tied up with the necklace will become crazy or sick as in Samburu culture, the fortune of one will be the misfortune of the other.'

Meaningful: Different colours have different meanings with white standing for purity and health because of its association with cow's milk

Headdress: Head decorations are made from entai (buttons), ntarangrang (sequins) and sayen (beads) - all of which are expensive and denote wealth

Mothers: The Samburu woman (left) and the Rendille lady (right) both have sons - an earring denotes it for the Samburu while the doko hairstyle is the Rendille equivalent

Home: A group of Rendille women in their village or 'gob'. Villages are designed to be picked up and moved, with the tribe changing location five times a year

Colourful: The elaborate beads are worn with brightly coloured kikoy wraps that come in every hue imaginable from bright pink to saffron yellow

Elaborate: Beaded jewellery isn't limited to women: Men also wear elaborate headdresses and beautifully worked collars, as well as armfuls of bracelets

Warriors: The Samburu tribe's young men, or Moran as they are also known, don elaborate beaded collars and headdresses for ceremonies

Camps in Samburuland include Sasaab, which is situated on a rocky ridge above the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro with remarkable views across the Laikipia Plateau toward Mount Kenya.
Rates at Sasaab start from $648 per person per night based on two sharing on a full board basis. For more information, see thesafaricollection.com
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