Period: 15 December 2002 - 28 March 2003. Country: Kenya
(1) Anthropological Study on Changes in the Age System and Body Adornments of the Samburu, a Pastoral People in Northern Kenya
NAKAMURA Kyoko  (Division of African Area Studies)
Key Words: Moran (Warrior), Beaded Adornments, Social Change, Market Economy, Social Identity

A Samburu moran (warrior)

A moran selling beaded adornments to tourists on the beach of Mombasa
(2) The main objective of this study is to clarify the dynamics of the age system, a central social system of the Samburu.  I made use of changes in their body adornments as a key clue toward this work.
          The Samburu age system divides all the men of the society into three age-grades, "boyhood (from birth to initiation)", "moran-hood (from initiation to marriage)", and "elderhood (after marriage)."  I focus mainly on the "moran," who are initiated, and in the status of prolonged adolescence, because their marriage is socially postponed.  Body adornments indicate a person's social or ritual status, and the transfer of adornments establishes social relationship between the giver and the recipient.  In particular, the moran wear many beaded adornments, and in recent years these adornments have become increasingly flamboyant and eye-catching.
          This study examines changes in the adornments in relation to the new experiences of the moran under such modern conditions as school enrollment, migrant work, tourism, and the market economy and analyzes what changes they have effected in the age system.

(3) Many Samburu moran go to work as migrants in Mombasa, a coastal tourist resort area located 800 km from Samburu.  There they perform "traditional" dances and sell beaded adornments to tourists.  On this trip, I carried out field research in order to: (1) grasp the overall conditions of this migrant labor, and (2) gather data for the comparative study of adornments of the moran in Samburu and Mombasa (I had already accumulated data from Samburu during my 20 months of field research since 1999).  The research period was from 15 December 2002 to 28 February 2003.  For the first few weeks I did supplementary research in Samburu and then went to Mombasa.

The findings of my research are as follows:

1. Outline of migrant labor in Mombasa: I clarified the history of Samburu migrant labor in Mombasa (late 1960's-present), types of employment (night watchmen, dancing, selling beaded adornments), the number of people in each category of work, forms of contract, payment, and existence of mutual aid associations.
2. By comparing the adornments of moran in Mombasa with those in Samburu, it became clear that the "biography" of moran adornments in Mombasa is quite short, as they are in the process of commoditization.  The designs and color patterns of adornments in Mombasa are also different from those in Samburu.
          I will discuss how these experiences of the moran, as they interact with and sell their adornments to foreign tourists, relate to the social changes in Samburu society, especially the age systems, and their ethnic or moran-hood identities.

21st Century COE Program -Aiming for COE of Integrated Area Studies-  HOME