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Title: Body adornment among the Samburu: a historical perspective
Authors: Njoroge, Ruth Nyambura
Keywords: Body adornment
Issue Date: Sep-2015
Publisher: Egerton University
Abstract: Self-adornment plays a significant role in ensuring the continuity of the political and cultural life of pastoralists. This study outlines changes in Samburu body adornment from the pre-colonial period to the present. In the study it is argued that Samburu body adornment in the pre-colonial period was influenced by interaction with neighbouring communities like the Rendille. Colonial policies and mingling of cultures in the post-independent period also shaped Samburu body adornment either positively or negatively. The study employed cultural theory of history. Cultural history combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look into popular cultural traditions and cultural interpretations of historical experience. The ideas were borrowed from Edward Tylor and Simon Gunn. Tylor’s main concern was on the evolution of human culture. He stated that culture developed from primitive stages. He argued that communities within each stage of development had distinct traits which show slow replacement as new generations set in. As societies advanced some traits survived to present day culture. On the other hand Gunn had interest in periodization of body history and stated that modernity was specifically focusing back to the changes in the ancient symbols with the belief inspired by modern science towards social and moral development. Thus there is need to write a history of historically specific bodies, which provides an understanding of the body that is neither static nor coherent. Data was collected from literature search in the libraries and Kenya National Archives, photography and oral interviews on individuals and groups. Data from both primary and secondary sources was analyzed chapter by chapter within the parameters set by the research problem and the theoretical framework. Findings indicate that forms of body adornment among the Samburu are pre-historic. Many forms of traditional body adornment have evolved overtime and still exist within the community, however, examples of recent forms of body adornment, show that although still very much in practice, in many cases the meaning has been lost. The impact of Christianity, colonial policies, trading of new materials, have all played a major part in the evolving patterns of Samburu body adornment. Tourists brought new fashions, materials, creations and designs that changed Samburu views of everyday body adornment. Body adornment among the Samburu is today is based on what looks good as apposed to a ritual or rite of passage that marked one's body. The study will contribute to the preservation of the Samburu cultural values in Kenya’s historiography. Further, the research findings will used as reference for researchers who may want to understand similar or different aspects of the Samburu cultural practices and of other communities in Kenya.
Appears in Collections:Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

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