Traditional Nandi Culture
Name of the Institution
Traditional Nandi Culture
The Nandi are a people who are found in East Africa mainly in Kenya. The Nandi people have over the years maintained their pre-colonial activities amidst the growing western influence. Nandi people are found in a district on the highlands of Kenya. They have vast lands that they use for herding and farming. They also have a rich heritage that is however being eroded by external influence (Oboler, n.d.).
In the Nandi traditional culture, boys who have not yet circumcised are considered as children. This applies no matter the age of the boy. At fifteen years old, a boy is considered as a child. This is the case until the boy is circumcised. Nandi boys are initiated into adulthood at the age of fifteen and sixteen years. They will now be considered as young men and thus they can indulge in sexual activities.
‘The problem was that boys are “children” as long as they remain uncircumcised, which can be as old as sixteen or eighteen’ (Oboler, n.d.).
Nandi girls, on the other hand, are closely watched and supervised by their mothers. They do house chores and take care of their siblings. They fetch firewood and do a lot of cleaning. The Nandi girls also have a rite of passage. They are usually elevated to the status of womanhood after undergoing the cut. This is a type of female circumcision. According to Oboler (n.d) this entails removing the girls’ clitoris, a procedure known as clitoridectomy. Before the boys and girls are circumcised, they are usually allowed to mingle and interact with each other. This interaction goes to the extent of boys hosting their girlfriends in their huts. All this happens and yet no sexual intercourse occurs. Girls know that they have to be virgins by the time they are circumcised.
Nandi young men have to spend more than ten years after being circumcised before they can marry. This is so as to enable them attain a certain status and accrue enough cattle for himself so as to be a real man. He needs these cows to pay bride price. Young women in the Nandi community, contrary to the young men, are married off as soon as they heal from their initiation. Usually, they would have already been booked for marriage such that after initiation, they go to their husbands. Their marriage is mostly arranged (Oboler n.d). Young women of the age of sixteen and seventeen are often married to men more than twice their age.
‘At the wedding feast, the animals are displayed so that the bride’s brothers can come later to take them away. The cattle given as bridewealth for a daughter should be used for the marriages of, or inherited by, only her full brothers’ (Oboler n.d).
Men are the head of the family. They are respected by their wives. Men of the same age-set usually socialize together. Men do not frequent the kitchen area. The kitchen is a preserve for women. A man may physically punish his wife if she disrespects him. Disrespect would bring shame to the man. Men control most of the family property though they may have to consult some issues first with their wives before making a decision. A further study into the family setting indicates that there is usually some property that is owned by the both the husband and the wife. This means that as much as the man is the head of the family, he does not control all the assets the family owns (Oboler n.d).
The Masai do not differ a lot from the Nandi people in terms of their family settings. They also have initiation performed on both boys and girls. Boys have the responsibility of herding and girls take care of their other children. Something worth noting is that, the Masai women construct their huts which are made of cow dung (African Crafts Market. (1998)
The Nandi culture is different in several aspects from our culture. First of all, we do not have female circumcision. This to us is considered barbaric and a violation to the woman. This is a big difference because the cut usually has a lot of negative effects on the woman. Another aspect that is different from ours is the sharing of items among an age-set. The Nandi men of the same age-group share belongings to the extent of sharing wives.
A major difference is the treating of grown up teenagers as children. The women undress before anyone they consider a child regardless of their age. This is different from our own culture that considers nudity as a personal and a private matter.
Gender roles between the two cultures are different. Boys and girls have their roles defined. This is not so with the American culture. Here, gender roles have been abandoned. Men and women can do as they choose. There is liberty to choose your spouse. There is freedom to get married or remain celibate. Women here have taken the roles that men play in the Nandi community. American women are the heads of their families, if they are single parents. Men have entered into professions such as cooking. Cooking is considered effeminate in the Nandi and Masai cultures. Also, the tradition here in America promotes a marriage between one man and one woman. Polygamy here is not welcomed leave alone tolerated.
No doubt that female circumcision promotes gender inequalities in the Nandi and Masai cultures. This tradition prevents the woman from enjoying her sexuality. She suffers a lot during child birth, something which is unfair. The cut is supposed to prevent the woman from being unfaithful to her husband, an idea that is outdated. Girls are married off at a young age making them less likely to complete their education. Lack of equal opportunity to formal learning has promoted gender inequalities. In that case, girls are unable to self-actualize themselves.
Traditional Nandi culture has changed with the introduction of formal education. They are now able to be more innovative and bring change to their society. Christianity has also made move away from their polygamous practices to a monogamous family. There is also a massive campaign against female circumcision. These changes have helped women rise from the past cruelties and are now claiming their rights.
Oboler, R. S. (n.d). Nandi: From Cattle-Keepers to Cash-Crop Farmers. Portraits TOC
African Crafts Market. (1998). Tribes & People Groups: Maasai (Masai). From http://www.africancraftsmarket.com/Maasai_people.htm