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.
1. this Lorora is of the Lngwesi Clan situated in Ol Donyo E Lengala, Kipsing. While this is fairly modest some Lorora will grow to be much larger.
The site of the first house, the clan’s first family, is situated at the closest point to Nyiro – the Samburu sacred mountain in northern Kenya. Each mother has her own house and entrance into the Lorora, in which to bring her cattle at night. It is her responsibility to close the door each evening.
In the centre of the Lorora is the Naapo, the elders’ fire. This is where the elders sit late into the evenings, bless the Lorora and plan the ceremonies taking place. Married women are not allowed to enter the sacred elders circle.
2. Ngilai August 2012. Morani wake to check on their cattle – Early morning in the Lorora.
The Samburu tribe is made up of eight clans; the clans belonging to the Black Cattle and the clans belonging to the White cattle. Each clan has its clan HQ in northern Kenya dating back hundreds of years when families settled in different areas and valleys, dominating the area now recognised as their clan land.
Although ownership of land is altogether foreign for the Samburu, an exception is made at Mount Nyiro, the sacred mountain recognised as belonging to the leading Masola clan, the star readers who predict the future.
3. Elders around the sacred Naapo fire.
The Black Cattle. (ngishu naarok). The clans of the Black Cattle lead all ceremonies. The order is as follows; the Lmasula clan, followed by Nyaparai, Lngwesi and Lpisikishu. This order is never broken.
The White Cattle (ngishu naibor). Lorokushu clan is highly respected. Followed by Lukumai, Longeli and Loimisi.
4. a Mowuo horn, from a Kudu, kept in the elders Naapo in the middle of the Lorora and is used to pass a message – blown in different sounds – one sound to call the warriors another to call elders. A serious siren is blown when under attack or something is seriously wrong in the Lorora.
Annual and Lunar Cycle
The rhythm of the Samburu fits in with the lunar cycle and the rains. It’s all about the cattle, the migration of wildlife and birds; all these factors control when ‘coming of age ceremonies’ occur and the correct months in which to build a Lorora.
Between 28th April and 10th June, the Pleiades constellation lies beyond the sun, and during the time in which it cannot be see no age-set ceremonies may take place.
5. an elder
From 20th June the reappearance of Pleiades in the early morning sky is seen as the best time to initiate a new age-set (generation). July is also a favorable month for initiations. August is coming into the middle of the dry season, so not as favorable for initiation ceremonies, as it may lead to hardship.
Between October and April (known as Lmagero; months of the eagle), migratory black kites are a massive problem for the Lmuget ceremony feasts as they steal meat and bones, so these months are avoided for initiation ceremonies. The Samburu are so closely linked to the land that the migration rhythm of these kites directly affects their most important cultural events.
7. a young girl walking through the Lorora. August 2012, Ngilai Lorora, Lmasula clan
There are five stages and three rites of passage common to all clans;
1. Initiation: Peari lmogo la layiok.
The first group of boys are identified and placed in one age group and are prepared for the next rite of passage.
2. Circumcision: Muratare e Layiok.
All the boys identified in the ‘peari lmongo to layiok’ are circumcised and become morani – warriors.
3. Graduation: Lmuget le sikia.
The graduation ceremonies are many and diverse in nature among clans. They mark the beginning of ‘bringing the warriors home for them to become junior elders’.
8. a junior elder from the Lmoli age-set tending to goats in the morning.
4. Lmuget Nikarna.
Launoni (the moran chosen to be the leader of the warriors within a clan) is secretly elected.
5. Lmuget le Mowuo.
Where the presiding clan commorate their moranism and finally phase out and become elders, ready to celebrate the rites of passage of their children.
As the Chapters continue to evolve, we hope to bring you an in-depth look at the coming of age ceremonies and what it means to be a Samburu elder, amongst a mix of Trust projects and stories.
All Images and text ©2012 Samburu Trust. All rights reserved.
1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7: J. Francombe
4, 8: S. Kenyon