The Turkana inhabit a particularly arid area of Kenya, dotted with volcanic rocks, where the water becomes a precious element to be consumed sparingly.
Since the water is so rare, it is only used for drinking and not to wash; the Turkana instead use animal fat to clean their skin.
The Turkana women therefore use the fat of the animal or butter mixed with red ocher and scented leaves of local trees to protect the skin from both the sun and insects.
For their dental care the Turkana use sprigs of esekon, the Salvadora Persica that, chewed and then rubbed on the teeth, releases antiseptics and detergents that sanitize the mouth.
The stick is precisely chewed until natural bristles are formed, and they are then rubbed on the teeth and gums; the benefits of this plant have been recognized and promoted by the World Health Organisation.
The Turkana remove the lower incisors during childhood, this is a tradition that originally served to protect people in case they contracted tetanus, that locks the jaw making it impossible to eat.
The removal of the teeth takes place with the use of a finger hook called corogat, an aluminum and iron ring-knife that, in addition to being used to remove the teeth, in battle served to blind enemies gouging out their eyes.
In the past, both women and men used to drill the lower lip to include wooden, ivory or iron jewelry, this custom has been lost over time and now only older people have this body modification.
Tattoos are common and have a meaning related to the life of their owners, in the past they were tattooed on the shoulders or upper arm each time they killed an enemy, on the right shoulder if they killed a man, on the left for a woman.

Life, tradition and culture of Turkana people

  • Turkana clothing and jewels
  • Turkana rituals and ceremonies
  • Turkana body care and modification 
  • Turkana religion
  • Turkana society and the importance of breeding
turkana people kenya