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Kalenjin Wedding Tradtions


The Kalenjin are a Kenyan ethnic community that comprises of eight tribes. They are about 2.7 Million Kalenjins who live in the Kenyan western highlands. The name Kalenjin roughly translates to ‘I tell you’. Weddings and wedding photos are a blend of tradition and modern style. There are certain preparations that a couple must go through before a wedding and one cannot be considered marriageable until they are fulfilled.

First, the young men and women must have gone through some traditional initiation passages or tumdo, which graduate them to join members of certain age-sets known as ipinda. The males undergo circumcision and stay in seclusion for a long time. Here, they are instructed on how to take care of the home and the cattle. There are also lessons on how to be good warriors. The young women learn how to make pots and gourds for carrying water, how to fetch and carry firewood and how to find wild vegetables, which they used as their meals. They are also taught how to take care of their children and cook.

Although there are no wedding photos at this stage, Kalenjin weddings, just like Toronto weddings, are usually graced with a lot of traditional food including the staple ugali, prepared from white corn and boiling water, meat and whole milk that is fermented and stored in a gourd, which is cleaned using charcoal. There is music with dancers wearing ankle bells and drums, flutes and horns being played. Traditionally, the bridal party would wear animal skins, hides, traditional ornaments and earrings. Today they can wear suits and weddings dresses and even have wedding photos at the ceremony. The Kalenjin weddings can also include some local brews like busaa, which is prepared from fried and fermented millet and corn.

After the wedding, the man takes his new wife inside or near his father’s homestead where a house has been built for the new couple. Polygamy is still allowed if one can afford to pay the bride price for more than one wife. Children are seen as a blessing in the Kalenjin and other Kenyan communities and, until recently, Kenya was the leading country in population growth worldwide. Today most Kalenjin weddings are made up of monogamous nuclear families with many wedding photos as memorabilia.

In Kalenjin weddings like Toronto weddings, much consideration is taken in the bride’s beauty and health, bridal showers, flowers and decorations. Much planning goes into the wedding photos, honeymoon, travel, jewelry, gifts, transportation and reception. Regardless of where the couple may be there are traditions that must be done including paying of the bride price if they are to be wed.

The main difference between Toronto and Kalenjin weddings is the bride price. The bride price is a token of appreciation to the girl’s parents for taking such good care of her over the years. In Kalenjin weddings, this is usually counted in cattle. However, modern Kalenjins normally take the equivalent in cash. In Toronto, a bride price is not considered at all. With cultures, merging each day there might soon be no difference between a Toronto and a Kalenjin wedding.

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Listed: October 22, 2008 8:08 am