The Samburu are semi-nomadic shepherds who live in Kenya to the North of the equator and to the South of the Lake Turkana, in an area that offers various habitats, ranging from mountain woods to pasture plains and desert areas.
The Samburu social life has a simple organisation and close ties to tradition; decisions are made by the community and the power is in the hands of the elderly men who play an important role within the social system.
When a decision is to be made, the elderly gather in a place, usually under the shade of a tree; they sit down in a circle and discuss the problems of the community; the young morans and women form an outer circle from where they attend the discussion of the elderly, without being able to intervene directly in the discussion; they can only put forward their opinion
The Council of the Elderly makes decisions regarding the community, is committed to solve problems, and establishes sanctions for those who infringe the rules; it also decides on marriages and, more importantly, makes arrangement about the marriage and decide how many wives an individual can have.
In the Samburu society, polygamy is permitted and homesteads reflect this aspect, every family has as many huts as the number of wives of a man.
The village, that is called manyatta in Samburu language, consists of four to ten families; a village is generally not permanent; it settles in one place for two months at most, after this it moves to other places, in the constant search for new pastures for livestock.
The huts are built by women using interwoven sticks, mud and cow dung; they can be easily dismantled and transported and mounted elsewhere.
The huts are round in shape with a small entrance closed by a blanket; they have no windows but only two holes which serve to filter the light and let the smoke of the fire that usually burns inside, to be released outside; it is usually used for cooking.
The interior of the hut is divided into two small rooms, one for the husband and sons, the other for the wife and daughters.
A fence is built at the centre of the village where the cattle is accommodated during the night, another external fence made of thorny branches protects the village from possible raids from cattle thefts and predators.
In the village, men take care of the cattle, are responsible for the safety of the tribe and go hunting.
Women have the task of collecting edible roots and herbs, procure water and firewood, take care of the children and keep the hut clean and tidy.

Life, tradition and culture of Samburu people

  • Samburu social organisation and villages
  • Samburu religion
  • Samburu rituals and ceremonies
  • Livestock farming and diet in Samburu communities
  • Samburu jewellery and clothing