A Lorora is a clan manyatta, where members of a particular clan amongst the Samburu meet and settle for a short while either for protection during times of tribal fighting or to celebrate rites of passage for its members young and old.
A Lorora can have up to 300 houses in it, so many that the women often forget where to find their home and the children get lost in the maze of houses. The layout of homes begins with the oldest family within the clan, moving in a clockwise direction outwards. The Samburu relate this to the structure of a cow; beginning with the head (the first families) moving down the back with houses of families, and finishing with the tail.
From the outset it appears to be a life without calendars and deadlines, however the Samburu live in a cycle dictated by their environment and followed with regimental precision. An example of this can be seen in the precisely organised structure of the Soko market system.
In Samburuland word travels fast over the vast bush telegraph, however day to day life is fairly remote, with families living in manyattas and most social contact coming from individuals passing through.
Samburu fashion is world renowned and totally distinctive, this week we’re going to look at the fashion of the morani.
The one thing that surprises most people to learn about morani fashion is how fluid and organic it is, constantly evolving like the fashion of any other culture.
Samburu beadwork originates from about four centuries ago when trade brought colourful beads from Eastern Europe. This has spawned an obsession with bright colour that flows through clothing and jewelry and into storytelling; the greatest channels of Samburu self expression.
For the warriors it’s the pinnacle of beauty and strength, nothing impresses more than big healthy bulls, a big herd of cattle, striking and colourful beadwork, and stories of great courage to back it all up with.
We are now in week 14 of the Chapters and have covered most of what you could call ‘the basics’ of the traditional Samburu way of life. We are now looking to introduce you to lesser known, highly sophisticated aspects of their culture. This week we begin with the singing wells.
The link that the morani have with their cattle is a focal point of Samburu culture. Singing itself is one of their most vibrant forms of self expression and deserves a Chapter of its own later, but generally can be described as a singing free form of storytelling.
When morani take their cattle to water it is a powerful experience, they are literally feeding their obsession and maintaining their greatest asset, it’s a sacred moment with their greatest passion.
The warriors are one of the most fascinating aspects of the Samburu.
Their fashion, their battles, their status is so interesting for many people that when looking at the Samburu the morani are all they can see. People are drawn to them.
In society the morani are revered and secretive. Their sole purpose is to protect the sacred cattle, so by association they are revered as demi-gods. Their influence in society is massive; they drive the boundaries of the land, increasing the grazing and protect them for the tribe.
There is nothing in Samburu society more important than Cattle.
They are the most blessed; simultaneously the family’s life savings, their bank, and even the money itself. The cattle are their greatest asset, and wealth can be greatly admired.
On top of their financial importance they are in themselves a free, self-replenishing, self-expanding supermarket chain. You can cover a majority of the Samburu diet by drinking their milk and blood alone and for extremely important ceremonies you can slaughter them then eat and wear them. Absolutely nothing is wasted.
‘The herdsman’s relationship to his domestic animals is . . characterized by neither preying nor becoming a parasite on them . . in bad times, the successful pastoralist loses weight with his herds rather than maintaining it at their expense’ – Mike Rainy
On my first day living with the Samburu, Julia told me that during drought some morani (warriors) would take all the family’s cattle and climb a mountain where there is better pasture for grazing.
1. moran on Lekurugi
They’ll go alone and if the drought becomes extreme the cows will get thinner and thinner and start dying off, and the moran will get thinner with them because he will be living off only their milk.