By: Casey Garcia
The Kipsigis Tribe
The Kipsigis are a tribe of the most southern and populous people living in Kenya, east of Lake Victoria. They inhabit the highlands of Kericho from Timboroa to Mara River in the south, the west from Mau Escarpment to Kebeneti. The Kipsigis also live in parts of Laikipia, Kitale, Nakuru, Narok, Trans Mara District, Eldoret and Nandi Hills. The Kipsigis speak Kipsigis as a mother tongue. It belongs to the Nilo-Saharan family, with dialects of the language most similar to Nandi. Kipisigis is a fascinating tribe in terms of communities, culture, and geography. As with some Bantu groups, the Kipsigis and other Nilotes in the Great Lakes region have through interaction adopted many customs and practices from neighboring Southern Cushitic groups, including the age set system of social organization, circumcision, and vocabulary terms. Traditionally, members of the Kipsigi tribe distinguish themselves from other Kenyan tribes by removing their front bottom teeth and making large holes in their earlobes. Along with their diverse culture, Kipsigis have a tradition of humility, endurance of hardship, strong emotional expression, loyalty, courage, hospitality and courtesy. The word kokwet, derived from kok, a man's sitting place, is used to signify the neighborhood or primary community of 20 to 40 interrelated homesteads. Adult brothers establish homesteads in different areas and thus the dozens of clans (ortinwek) are spread out. On the other hand, marriages tend to be between nearby families, and neighborhoods become small networks of relationships with a few further connections of common clan membership. Kokwet refers to the occasional gatherings of homestead heads and junior men to make group decisions, settle local disputes, celebrate work harvests, and so on. Kokwet meetings are held close to the personal space of any particular homestead yard. The meetings are open and attendance consists of those men who have, or take, an...
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