John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
Studies of the Maasai, the Luhya, and Nairobi's Urban Fringe
1. Land and People : 001-008
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001. Though many of the issues covered in this portal apply to East Africa as a whole, the case studies on which it is based are drawn just from Kenya, by reason of its environmental and cultural diversity. It extends inland from the Indian Ocean to encompass a wide area of highlands, and its climate types range from forest through grassland to arid and semi-arid lands -- plus tundra on Mount Kenya! 
002. Its cultural mosaic is also diverse– derived from ancient migrations of Bantu peoples from the west and Nilotic and Cushitic tribes from the north – plus survivors representative of the aboriginal population (like the Ndorobo, El Molo, and Okiek who now survive by hunting within the few small forest fragments that remain). The Somali shown here belong to the Cushitic speaking group. 
003. Kenya is slightly smaller than Manitoba and half the size of Queensland, yet it now has 42 million people, significantly more than Canada (33 million) and twice as many as Australia. Almost half of them are under 15 years of age, compared with 30% for the world as a whole: and disenchanted youths, with limited education and little chance either of employment or of progression now in tribal hierarchies, feature significantly in crime statistics. (The Samburu and the Maasai are Nilotic speaking peoples.)
004. The life expectancy at birth of children born in Kenya is limited – just 49 years for men and 50 for women (compared with 68 and 64 years worldwide). It also has a high rate of AIDS infection – 15% of the population aged 15-49, compared with a world figure of 1.2%. It has nevertheless had the fastest growing population in the world till just recently – at 3% per annum, twice the world average. (Luhya school boys.)
005. As a result, the government must find food, clothing, shelter, some form of education, and one day perhaps even paid employment, for an extra million people every year! These young men are washing cars in an informal settlement outside Nairobi. In addition to unemployment, poverty in Kenya is associated with shortage of farm land, inability to feed one’s family, lack of proper housing, poor health, and inability to educate one’s children and pay medical bills. In 1992 44% of the population lived below the poverty line, and this had risen to 56% by 2002. 
006. Many anthropologists believe that our human species originated north of Lake Turkana. However, what we now know as “Kenya” is a product of the colonial era. There was no ancient kingdom here, but rather a number of different tribes, each with its own territory . (Gabbra woman and children, from area east of Lake Turkana.)
007. These tribes were grouped together under British rule, and won their independence in 1963. In other words, Kenya's boundaries do not enclose one group of people with similar traditions but 40 very different tribal groups with different languages and different customs. This woman, grinding grain, belongs to the Alego-Kogelo clan of the Luo, the tribe of President Obama’s father.
008. One of the main tasks facing the government of Kenya, therefore, and that of many other newly independent countries in Africa, is how to build a nation state from so many different cultural groups -- groups that in some cases were enemies for hundreds of years. Entrenched animosities cannot easily be overcome: and national elections, in particular, are times when ancient rivalries surface as politicians play one tribe off against another. This Turkana family have fled an area devastated by both drought and inter-tribal conflict.


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