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A glimpse into a Pokot rite of passage

Wednesday December 16 2015

Well-turned: Men congregate at the homestead of Mr Chesmkat Ngoletiang for a Pokot initiation ceremony at Chepungus village of Tiaty Sub-County, Baringo. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Well-turned: Men congregate at the homestead of Mr Chesmkat Ngoletiang for a Pokot initiation ceremony at Chepungus village of Tiaty Sub-County, Baringo. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FLORAH KOECH
By FLORAH KOECH
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For decades the Pokot people have been associated with violent cattle rustling and aggression, an image that is sometimes projected without a nuanced examination of the sociology of pastoralism.

Little is, however, said of their rich culture.

At Chepungus village at 6am on a Monday, the Paka Hills of Tiaty Sub-County stand out.

The main activity is the Pokot initiation ceremony which starts at the crack of dawn.

The rite of passage involves 18-year-old males.

After the rites they can sit with ‘kokwo” (elders) and participate in sacrifices commonly called ‘kirket’.

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Old women in leather and generous bead accessories welcome visitors by blowing a special horn, the ‘lal’.

At the kraal are three initiates, among them a whiteman.

The ceremony is a prerequisite for every Pokot man who will want to vie for any political position in the society or marry.

PIERCE THE BULL

The three initiates; Kuren Achio, Charles Sorot and a German man (Peter Vehrs) who was given a Pokot name Rionokor are dressed in sarongs.

Peter Vehrs, a researcher, has been around for more than one and-a-half years studying Pokot culture.

The trio is ushered in to the kraal brandishing their spears to pierce the bull on the right side of the neck.

When the animal collapses it must be pierced again. This is the  way to honour the animal. It must not die on the first attack.

Each of the initiates repeats the process to prove their mettle. This is accompanied by ululations and singing by women to motivate the initiates.

The slaughtering is done by skilled old men who then lay the meat on leaves.  All serving is done on Pokot old wooden utensils.

According to David Ng’onge, a resident, the Pokot tradition stipulates that during the slaughtering of the bulls, no woman or young men who have not undergone the rite is allowed to be near the kraal.