Luo






PRONUNCIATION: luh-WO

LOCATION: Kenya; Tanzania

POPULATION: Over 3 million

LANGUAGE: Dholuo; English (official); KiSwahili

RELIGION: Christianity combined with indigenous practices (Anglican church [CPK], Roman Catholicism, and independent Christian churches)

1 • INTRODUCTION

Throughout the nineteenth century AD , the Luo migrated into the area they now occupy in Kenya. They left lower savanna grasslands for higher and cooler regions with reliable rainfall. As a result of this migration, their traditional emphasis on cattle was supplemented by farming and an increasing importance of crops in their economy. Bantu agriculturalists, with whom the Luo increasingly interacted, exchanged many customs with them.

2 • LOCATION

According to the last national population census conducted in 1989, the Luo number over 3 million people, or about 13 percent of Kenya's total population. Along with the Luhya, the Luo are the second largest ethnic group in the country, behind the Gikuyu. Most Luo live in western Kenya in Western province or in the adjacent Nyanza province, two of the eight provinces in Kenya. Some Luo live to the south of Kenya in Tanzania. Many Luo also live in Nairobi. Most Luo maintain strong economic, cultural, and social links to western Kenya, which they consider home. Over the past 500 years, the Luo have migrated slowly from the Sudan to their present location around the eastern shore of Lake Victoria. This area changes from low, dry landscape around the lake to more lush, hilly areas to the east. The provincial capital of Kisumu is the third-largest city in Kenya and is a major cultural center for the Luo.

3 • LANGUAGE

The Luo, like other Kenyans, are typically conversant in at least three languages. The two national languages of Kenya are English and KiSwahili. English, derived from the British colonial era before Kenya's independence in 1963, is the official language of government, international business, university instruction, banks, and commerce. It is taught throughout Kenya in primary and secondary schools. KiSwahili is the primary language of many coastal populations in Kenya and has spread from there throughout East Africa, including Luoland. Today, the KiSwahili language serves as a language of trade and commerce in urban markets and rural towns. Nowadays, KiSwahili is also taught in Kenyan primary and secondary schools. In addition, radio, television, and newspaper materials are available in these two languages.

Nevertheless, the indigenous language of the Luo, referred to as Dholuo, is for most people the language of preference in the home and in daily conversation. Dholuo is taught in primary schools throughout Luoland. Most Luo young people are fluent in English, KiSwahili, and Dholuo. This is particularly impressive because these languages are from three very distinct language families with drastically different grammatical principles and vocabulary.

Children enjoy playing language games in Dholuo. Among these is a tongue-twister game. For example, children try to say without difficulty, Atud tond atonga, tond atonga chodi, which means, "I tie the rope of the basket, the rope of the basket breaks." Acham tap chotna malando chotna cham tapa malando means, "I eat from the red dish of my lover and my lover eats from my red dish." Most Luo, irrespective of educational attainment and occupation, prefer to speak Dholuo at home and continue to teach this language to their children. Even young Luo teenagers, who nowadays live in Nairobi and rarely visit Luoland, nevertheless have learned to speak Dholuo fluently.

Children are given names that correspond to where they were born, the time of day, or the day of the week. Even the kind of weather that prevailed at the time of a child's birth is noted. For example, one born during a rain storm is called Akoth (male) or Okoth (female). Just about every Luo also has a pet name used among close friends.

4 • FOLKLORE

Stories, legends, riddles, and proverbs are an important part of Luo culture. They are traditionally recited in the siwindhe, which is the home of a (widowed) grandmother. Luo boys and girls gather there in the evenings to be taught the traditions of their culture. In the evenings, after people have returned from their gardens, they gather to tell and listen to stories. In the siwindhe, however, grandmothers preside over storytelling and verbal games. Riddles take the form of competitive exchanges where winners are rewarded by "marrying" girls in a kind of mock (pretend) marriage situation. Friendly arguments often erupt over interpretations of riddles. One riddle, for example, asks the question, "My house has no door," which is answered by "an egg." Another riddle is, "What is a lake with reeds all around?" The answer is, "an eye." Clever answers are frequently given as alternatives to these standard answers. Proverbs are another part of the siwindhe discussions and are common in everyday use as well. Some examples are, "The eye you have treated will look at you contemptuously," "A hare is small but gives birth to twins," and "A cowardly hyena lives for many years."

Morality tales teach all listeners the proper way to cope with life's circumstances. Such questions as, Why do people die?, What is the value of a deformed child?, What qualities make an appropriate spouse?, What is friendship?, Who is responsible for a bad child?, Why do some people suffer?, and many others are the subject of folklore. For example, the story known as "Opondo's Children" is about a man called Opondo whose wife continuously gave birth to monitor lizards instead of human babies. These lizard babies were thrown away to die because they were hideous. Once, however, the parents decided to keep such a child and he grew to adolescence. As a teenager, this child loved to bathe alone in a river. Before swimming he would take off his monitor skin, and while swimming he mysteriously became a normal human being. His skin was, in fact, only a superficial covering. One day a passerby saw him swimming and told his parents that he was a normal human being. Secretly, his parents went to watch him swim and discovered that he was in fact normal. They destroyed his skin and thereafter, the boy became accepted and loved by all in his community. For this reason, Opondo and his wife deeply regretted that they had thrown away all of their many monitor children. This tale teaches that compassion should be displayed toward children with physical defects.

In an origin tale concerning death, it is told that humans and chameleons are responsible for this calamity. Were (God) wanted to put an end to death, which strikes "young and old, boys and girls, men and women, strangers and kinsmen, and the wise and the foolish." He requested that an offering be made to him of white fat from a goat. A chameleon was assigned to carry the offering up to the sky where Were lives. Along the way, the fat became dirty and was angrily rejected by Were. He declared that death would continue because of this insult. The chameleon became cursed by the Luo, and ever since it must always walk on all fours and take slow steps.

5 • RELIGION

Christianity has had a major impact on Luo religious beliefs and practices. Today, religious communities draw on beliefs both from indigenous practices and from Christianity. The Anglican Church, known as the CPK, and the Roman Catholic Church are very significant among the Luo. Many people, however, do not draw sharp distinctions between religious practices with European origins and those with African origins. Mainstream churches draw on a rich Luo musical and dance tradition. For many Christians, the ancestors continue to play a significant role in their lives. In traditional belief, the ancestors reside in the sky or underground, from where they may be reincarnated in human or animal form. Ceremonies are sometimes performed when naming a baby to determine if a particular spirit has been reincarnated. The spirits of ancestors are believed to communicate with the living in their dreams.

In the Luo religion, troublesome spirits may cause misfortunes if they are not remembered or respected. Luo refer to spirits by the term juok, or "shadow." The Luo refer to God by many names that indicate his power. For example, Were means "one certain to grant requests"; Nyasaye, "he who is begged"; Ruoth, "the king"; Jachwech, "the molder"; Wuon koth, "the rain-giver"; and Nyakalaga, "the one who flows everywhere." Prayers and requests are addressed to God by those in need of his assistance.

Christianity has fused most notably with traditional religious beliefs and customs in "independent Christian churches," which have attracted large followings. For example, the Nomiya Luo Church, which started in 1912, was the first independent church in Kenya. The founder of this church, Johanwa Owalo, is believed to be a prophet similar to Jesus Christ and Muhammad. Owalo later teamed up with a Catholic priest and began teaching a new theology that rejected both the Pope and the doctrine of the trinity.

6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Luo recognize the national holidays of Kenza and Tanzania, depending on the country where they reside. In addition, Luo celebrate the Christian religious holidays.

7 • RITES OF PASSAGE

People are discouraged from noting when someone is pregnant for fear that problems might result from jealous ancestors or neighbors. Older women and midwives assist the woman throughout her pregnancy and in childbirth. The birth of twins, which is believed to be the result of evil spirits, is treated with special attention and requires taboos (prohibitions) on the part of the parents. Only if neighbors engage in obscene dancing and use foul language will the burden of giving birth to twins be lifted. The Luo, however, did not adopt circumcision for men, as practiced in some neighboring Bantu groups.

Adolescence is a time of preparation for marriage and family life. Traditionally, girls obtained tattoos on their backs and had their ears pierced. Girls spent time in peer groups where conversation centered on boys and their personal attributes. Sex education was in the hands of older women who gave advice in a communal sleeping hut used by teenage girls. Lovers sometimes made secret arrangements to meet near these huts, although premarital pregnancy was strictly forbidden. Nowadays, neighborhood and boarding schools have replaced communal sleeping huts and elders, although sex education is not taught in these schools.

Since there are no initiation ceremonies in earlier stages of the life cycle, the funeral serves as the most important symbol for family and community identity. Burials must take place in Luoland, regardless of where a person may have lived during his or her adult years.

8 • RELATIONSHIPS

Social relations among the Luo are governed by rules of kinship, gender, and age. Descent is patrilineal (traced through the male line) to determine kinship. Kin align themselves for purposes of exchange of goods, marriage, and political alliance. Names are received through the male line, and after marriage women reside in the homesteads of their husbands. A married woman builds up alliances for her husband's family by maintaining strong relationships with her brothers and sisters who live at her birthplace or elsewhere. It is expected that after marriage a woman will bear children for her husband's lineage. Bride wealth, given by her husband and his family, contributes to the woman's ability to maintain ties with her own family throughout her life.

By having children, a woman greatly enhances her power and influence within the lineage of her husband. As the children grow, they take special care of her interests. Perhaps as many as 30 percent of Luo homesteads are polygynous (in which a man has more than one wife). This contributes to solidarity between a mother and her children, and between children born of the same mother. Polygyny is commonly accepted by both men and women, provided traditional ideas and regulations are maintained. These include, for example, a special recognition for the first wife or "great wife," whose house and granary are located prominently at the back of the homestead opposite the main gate. Subsequent wives have homes alternatively to her right and left in the order of their marriage. Sons are provided with homes adjacent to the main gate of the compound in the order of their birth. The husband maintains a homestead for himself near the center of the compound. His own brothers, if they have not yet formed their own homesteads, reside on the edge of the compound near its center. As Luo become wealthy in Luoland or elsewhere, it is common for them to build a large house for their mother. This is especially necessary if she is a "great wife," as it is considered improper for younger wives to have larger homes than wives more senior to themselves.

Visiting and being visited is the major source of pleasure for the Luo. The social principles regarding age, kinship, and gender impose a heavy schedule of ritual obligations on Luo, regardless of their place of residence. Attendance at funerals is a significant obligation for all Luo. At funerals, Luo consume large amounts of meat, beer, and soft drinks and socialize with friends and relatives. Funerals last for four days for a male and three days for a female. After the burial and expression of grief through speeches and viewing of the body, there is a period of feasting and celebration. After the funeral of a man, a rooster (which symbolizes masculinity to the Luo) is taken from his house and eaten by his relatives. This signifies the end of his homestead. (When a new homestead is founded, a man is given a rooster from his father's home.)

Visitors for funerals gather from far and wide and are housed around the compound of the dead person, which is where he or she will be buried. This location and the duration of the ritual is an excellent opportunity for young people to meet and observe members of the opposite sex, or for elders to discuss marriage alliances that they might wish to promote. Dating may well follow initial meetings or deliberations at the funeral.

9 • LIVING CONDITIONS

There are several types of rural houses. A common house is made of mud and wattle (woven twigs) walls with a thatched roof. Another style includes mud and wattle walls, with a roof made of corrugated metal. A more elaborate, permanent house has brick walls and a roof covered with iron sheets or tiles. Bricks, iron sheets, and tiles are all items of prestige, and their ownership symbolizes success in farming, animal husbandry, or some modern occupation such as teaching, the ministry, or shopkeeping. Homes vary in shape as well as size. Some homes of the old variety made of wattle and mud are circular. Those with more permanent materials tend to be rectangular. A prosperous man who is the head of a large extended family may have several wives whose homes are situated by their rank within a large circular homestead.

Luo living in Kisumu, the regional capital, or in Nairobi have homes that vary according to their social status. Some Luo are numbered among the elite Kenyans whose homes are elaborate, with facilities for automobiles, sleeping accommodations for visiting relatives, and servants' quarters. Other less fortunate Luo live in Nairobi's crowded slums where homes are quite temporary, made of wattle and mud and short-lived materials such as tin, paper, and plastic.

Malaria is a major killer in Luoland. Children's diseases, such as kwashiorkor (a form of protein malnutrition), are a threat in those families without access to a balanced diet or knowledge about nutrition and health standards. In villages, there is an emphasis on preventive medicine; most rural communities have clinics with medical workers who emphasize sanitation, prenatal care, nutrition, and other practices known to reduce the risk of disease.

10 • FAMILY LIFE

Marriage was traditionally considered to be the most significant event in the lives of both men and women. It was thought inappropriate for anyone to remain unmarried. Large families ensured adequate numbers of workers. The system of polygyny (multiple wives) guaranteed that all people married.

The significance of bride wealth is increasing, even among educated Luo. Members of the groom's family initiate a process of negotiation with the bride's family that may unfold over many years. Negotiations can be intense, and for this reason a "go-between," who is neutral to the interests of each family, is used. Luo believe that divorce cannot occur after bride wealth has been exchanged and children are born. Even if separation happens, the couple is still ideally considered to be married. Failure to have children, however, is thought to be the fault of the bride and, for this, she will be divorced or replaced by another wife. Cattle are the primary item given in bride wealth. In determining the value of a prospective bride, her family takes into account her health, appearance, and, nowadays, her level of formal education. Failure of men to raise a high bride wealth prompts many of them to propose elopement, a practice that is on the rise today.

Young people in Kenya still tend to marry within their own ethnic groups. Tribal elders frequently caution against "intertribal marriages." The more distant the ethnic group in space and customs from the Luo, the greater the cautionary warnings. For this reason, Luo intertribal marriage is most likely to occur with members from neighboring Baluya societies, which are Bantu. However, most Luo marry within their own ethnic group.

11 • CLOTHING

Traditionally, the Luo wore minimal clothing. Animal hides were used to cover private parts, but there was no stigma (shame) associated with nudity. Nowadays, clothing styles are largely Western in origin. They vary according to a person's social class and lifestyle preferences. It is not uncommon to see people in remote rural areas fashionably dressed according to some of the latest tastes. Luo living in Nairobi tend to wear clothing that is cosmopolitan by rural standards and similar to the clothing worn in New York or Paris.

In rural areas, most people dress according to their work routines. For example, women wear loose-fitting dresses made of solid or printed cotton fabric while farming or attending market. Wearing sandals or going barefoot are typical while working. Men wear jeans as work pants while farming. During the rainy season, the roads can become very muddy; consequently, boots and umbrellas are especially prized by both men and women. These days, there is a strong market in second-hand clothing, making slacks, dresses, coats, undergarments, sweaters, shoes, handbags, belts, and other items available to even poorer families. Luo enjoy dressing up for funerals and weddings and are considered throughout Kenya to be very fashionable.

12 • FOOD

The primary crops are maize (corn), millet, and sorghum. Coffee, tobacco, cotton, and sugarcane are important cash crops. Important animals include sheep, goats, chickens, and cattle, which are used for bride wealth. Fish from Lake Victoria and its streams are important, especially talapia. Many foods are purchased, including sugar, bread, and butter, which are consumed with tea on a daily basis, a custom known as "tea time" and derived from the British colonial era, which ended in 1963.

The staple food eaten several times a day is ugali. This is made from maize meal stirred in boiling water until it becomes a thick and smooth porridge. Ugali is always eaten with an accompaniment such as meat or stew. Greens (sukumawiki) are also frequently eaten with ugali. Maize, popular throughout Kenya, is frequently sold for money. This has led many families to sell their maize when financially pressed for money. For this reason, there is a periodic famine throughout Luoland that occurs every year during the long, dry season prior to harvest.

13 • EDUCATION

Kenya introduced a new system of education in the 1980s known as the "8-4-4 system," modeled after the American system. Luo now go to primary school for eight years, to secondary school for four years, and to college for four years. The previous system was modeled on the British educational system.

After completing high school, Luo attend technical, secretarial, nursing, computer, teacher training, and business schools as alternatives to the university. There is a new university at Maseno near Kisumu, which provides easy access for those Luo who want to attend a university. Education is highly valued among the Luo, and they are well represented in the professions. Nevertheless, there still remains a high level of illiteracy (inability to read and write), especially among females. In polygynous marriages there is a strong tendency for younger wives to be more educated than their older counterparts. More Luo are now recognizing the importance of sending girls to school.

The Luo success in academic pursuits may well be related to the value given to "wisdom" in their culture. Modern philosophers have applied the term "sage philosophy" to describe individuals among the Luo who, in the past and present, excel in teachings and reflections on the human condition. The Luo society is an open one. All individuals are encouraged to express themselves publicly. Truth (adier) is expressed through songs and folklore by respected elder men and women who are acknowledged as wise. Most respected, however, is the japaro, a term that translates into English as "thinker," who is consulted on all matters of interest to community welfare. The most famous sage until his death in the mid-1990s was Oginga Odinga, a widely respected elder and former vice-president of Kenya. He spoke out publicly during colonialism and in post-colonial politics against what he considered to be injustices. In his writings, he emphasized communal welfare and concern for preservation of traditional values.

14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Luo consider their entire traditional way of life to be an important community resource. There is a great deal of disagreement over what should be preserved and what should change. Customs centering on marriage and gender relations are hotly debated.

Songs are popular today as in the past. Musicians praise and lament political, generational, economic, and cultural contradictions in contemporary life. Luo devote much time to listening to music, and regularly purchase records, tapes, and CDs. Christian church music is also a form of entertainment.

It is said that the short story was a well-developed art among the Luo in traditional times. Such stories were often accompanied by music. The most important short-story writer in Kenya today is a Luo woman, Grace Ogot. In her stories she includes traditional themes as well as modern dilemmas, such as an educated woman living in a polygynous arrangement. Some of her best-known stories are "The Other Woman," "The Fisherman," and "The Honorable Minister."

15 • EMPLOYMENT

The most notable fact about the Luo economy is that women play the primary role in farming. Before the introduction of the modern money economy, the garden was the centerpiece of the women's world of work. Industrious women could earn considerable wealth by exchanging their garden produce for animals, handicrafts, pots, and baskets.

A young girl is expected to help her mother and her mother's co-wives in farming land owned by her father, brothers, and paternal uncles. Even though a girl may go to school and rise to a prominent position in society, there is often still a strong association with the land and digging.

Men are preoccupied with livestock and spend a great deal of time in "social labor" concerned with placing their cattle in good contexts, such as bride wealth exchanges, trading partnerships, and commercial sales. In the modern economy, cattle and goats have a monetary value as well. Men have control over animals and cash crops.

16 • SPORTS

The Luo participate in all of the major national sports currently played in Kenya. Soccer is a particularly popular sport. Secondary schools provide an assortment of sports for young people, giving them an opportunity to engage in competitive games such as track and field and soccer. Children enjoy games in the village, such as racing, wrestling, and soccer. Some boys enjoy swimming.

17 • RECREATION

Childhood play activities for girls include grinding soil on a flattened stone in imitation of adults who grind grains. Girls play with dolls made from clay or maize (corn) cobs. Boys and girls play hide-and-seek and house. Girls play a game called kora using pieces of broken pottery or stones. In this game, stones are collected and then thrown into the air. The main purpose is to catch more than one stone on the back of the hand. Boys and girls between six and ten years of age play separately. Girls spend more time at home caring for younger siblings and helping with household duties and gardening. Boys have more freedom and combine play activities with herding and care of animals.

Children and adults both play a game called bao, a board game played widely throughout Africa. This game of strategy involves trying to place seeds on the opponent's side of the board and capture their seeds.

Radio and television are both available to most Luo. Radio programs are in KiSwahili, English, and Dholuo. Virtually all homes have radios, which are a significant source of both entertainment and education. Books and printed media have now largely replaced public speaking as a form of entertainment. Nevertheless, visiting family and friends continues to be a valued aspect of Luo culture. Visits are typically very lively with lots of animated discussion. The verbally skillful person is still widely admired.

Birthday parties are now much more important than they were in the past, when individuals did not reckon their age in years. Parents try to make their children's birthdays special with a cake, cards, and gifts. Weddings and funerals, as in the past, are still major forms of entertainment for old and young alike. Church groups, clubs, women's organizations, and schools are important organizations for their members' social calendars.

18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

See the article on "Kenyans" in this chapter for information about crafts and hobbies.

19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS

During the colonial era and since independence, the Luo have been isolated from national leadership even though they are the second-largest ethnic group in the country. Specific social problems follow from this isolation. Economic development in western Kenya is poor, Luo roads are badly in need of repair, rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are comparatively high, food shortages are frequent, and infant mortality is among the highest in the country. The municipal water supply is so badly treated that residents suffer from water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, common dysentery, and diarrhea. Tourism has bypassed Luoland and Lake Victoria, even though Lake Victoria has hippopotami, freshwater fish, and cultural attractions.

Teenage pregnancies are a major social problem in contemporary Luoland. Social responsibility for teenage pregnancy falls entirely on girls, who generally leave school if they become pregnant.

20 • BIBLIOGRPAHY

Arnold, Gay. Modern Kenya. New York: Longman, 1981.

Dinesen, Isak. Out of Africa. New York: Random House, 1972.

Kenya in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1988.

Liyong, Taban lo. Popular Culture of East Africa. Nairobi: Longman Kenya, 1972.

Stein, R. Kenya . Chicago: Children's Press, 1985.

Themes in Kenyan History. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1990.

Webb, Lois Sinaiko. Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx, 1995.

WEBSITES

Embassy of Kenya, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.embassyofkenya.com/ , 1998.

Interknowledge Corp. Kenya. [Online] Available http://www.geographia.com/kenya/ , 1998.

World Travel Guide. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ke/gen.html , 1998.



User Contributions:

bonface ochieng
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Oct 7, 2006 @ 1:01 am
this is prety good work. but my question is, did the luos have the diviners, and how was the burial right carried out. in cas of death , how did the uos view it, sorrow or happy moment when one joined his/her ancestors?
Brian Noble
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Jun 16, 2007 @ 5:17 pm
I'm an English journalist and I married a Luo (Nyakaruoth). She is the light of my life, and I recommend this tribe as loyal, thrifty and hard working. If you want a good wife marry a Luo!
steve
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Aug 24, 2007 @ 8:08 am
a well done job .may tou continue with this kind of work to help the young ones from. luo community
daniel rateng
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Oct 31, 2007 @ 12:12 pm
fantastic work thanks for bringing out this treasure it goes along way to reach millions in the world
Antony Chienjo
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Feb 27, 2008 @ 6:06 am
A true reflection of what it means to be Luo.
Good work, well researched.
I particularly like that the societal obligations of a Luo are so well captured.
thank you!
Luo-dinka
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Feb 29, 2008 @ 10:22 pm
Thank to my people of Luo tribe of Kenya and Sudan. I'm from South-Sudan and I'm one of Nolitic. Thank for good job!
Sewe Vitalis
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May 1, 2008 @ 3:03 am
Great information indeed. I recommend it for many who often have wrong information or picture about the Luo. Bravo
Grace Awuor
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Jul 23, 2008 @ 4:04 am
this realy is a wonderful job,i live in Australia and i have an Australian friend who is so much interested in this site and cant afford to keep his eyes off this site,it is interesting.
justine awuor
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Jul 28, 2008 @ 4:04 am
Nice read.Very well researched. I now know much more about my people of Luo. Well done to the team who did this good job
odhiambo
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Aug 30, 2008 @ 6:18 pm
good job. very thorough. I'd like to suggest only one thing; that the luo language of kenya and tanzania be compared to the other languages which are similar to it such as padhola and acholi for we are one
Edgar Omondi
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Jan 20, 2009 @ 3:03 am
this is a good way to educate people and especially the luo about their culture.
most of the people in towns should visit this site to know more about the luo culture.
cheers
Demetra Tasakou
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May 30, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
Thanks for this information.I hope I'll find out about more Luo resources.I'm a greek teacher and I've met here,in Athens(the capital of Greece)a Luo man.I hope we'll stay together forever.We don't belong to the same tribe but we have the same blood type and it's a rare one.And similar souls.
Gillo Michael
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Aug 6, 2009 @ 7:07 am
Good piece of work for informing the world about the Luo. Am a Luo and am proud of that. However the write up glosses over the underlaying causes of the problems afflicting the communuty.
Am an Epidemiologist and has an intuition that the problems particularly health related ones like HIV and adolescent pregnancies have some association with the the community's socio-environmental predisposition. Research is needed to lay this bare so that the community's mindset is changed.
Salome Olonde
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Aug 13, 2009 @ 2:02 am
Hi, the article is very informative and educative. i came across this site as i was searching for answers about luo customary and marriage culture. I happen to be a kikuyu lady and i have a very loving luo boyfriend. Things btw us are very ok, despite the tribal clashes that hit kenya in the past year. my problem is that well, he doesnt want us to move in together since am expecting our first child together, which he cites is kind of 'chira'( a curse) if he takes me in without paying bride price first. i have no problem with that since i also respect myself and wud want him to pay dowry to my parents, but is there such a law prohibiting a man from staying with his expectant girlfriend until she gives birth within the luo community if he hasnt paid dowry?
Prof. Bob Jalango
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Aug 16, 2009 @ 9:09 am
You have mixed up the format of giving names to Luo children when they are born (refer to chapter 3: Language, last paragraph). Note that Akoth is female and Okoth is male. Hence the female name would start with "A" while male name start with "O". Other examples are: Achieng' (female) and Ochieng' (male) - born during the day.
Daniel Onyango
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Sep 9, 2009 @ 10:10 am
I sincerely do appreciate the work done on the Luo in this article, however, I do have my doubts about the above Bibliography as the main source of the Luo anthroplogy and culture. For instance, Lo Liyong's Popular culture is a poetry book or free verse, while to be honest, I cannot see how Isak Dinesen(1972) and Arnold Gay's book could make any contributions to the information we have in this article.

The author would be better off by suggesting that his sources were oral interviews and I suspect that some of his data are from Ogot, B.A(1967) History of the Southern Luo and Paul Mbuya(1938)- Luo Kitgi Gi Timbegi. It is important to be honest with sources of information or data, otherwise one should never assume that readers will not try to find out the truth. Best of luck with your work
Ngana Kagonya
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Sep 30, 2009 @ 6:06 am
Its good piece of work though i feel there should be a little more concerning luo music as a folk medium
Richard Orenyo
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Oct 24, 2009 @ 9:09 am
This is a great job. It can however do with some editing especially on names and context.

Hey where are the custodians of our history. Lets build on this.
Kenn Odhiambo
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Nov 16, 2009 @ 9:09 am
bravo ,this is good job keep it up AND i also think it will enrich those in the diaspora so that they can give us additional comments.
Keep on keeping up
Janet Achieng
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Dec 8, 2009 @ 5:05 am
I found the History I have been longing for keep it up! and keep us informed about our heritage that we may have something to tell and I mean to write! to write! is the best storage for such precious History how I wish my grandma was able to write and keep the Stories... Oh its something to be proud of Erouru Kamano Jotelo!
fred okoth
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Jan 10, 2010 @ 5:05 am
am so glad that we still have people under the sun who are still interested in letting the world know that African people also had and have reach culture that is worth its wealthy content.Am a tv presenter on Literature in English but most are the times that I meet very few who are ready to kiss their roots.Hallow the world,get to know that Africa was virgin and holy and not all ills that have been propagated about African religion,political and social history is fair.

Not least.thanks a great deal for the marvelous research work you have put forward however,when it comes to naming,the 'O'S start the male name as 'A's start the female names.Joka Nya Nam kik uol.
Delia Mwadime
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Jan 15, 2010 @ 8:08 am
That is a great piece of work I tell you. It is good to know more about the Luo people and their culture. Personally, I come from the Coastal part of Kenya (Taita) and have always been a secret admirer of the Luo people. Fortunately, as luck would have it, my fiancé is a Luo and we are set to get married this year. He is such a wonderful man, loving and very hard working, tall and very handsome. Am very proud of him. Soon I am going to know all about the Luo people and their culture, and their language too, which I really really admire. I cannot wait. Kudos to those who provided the much needed information. Keep up the good work.
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Apr 12, 2010 @ 8:20 pm
Let's not be so quick to criticize someone for actually spending sometime and researching our culture. I say kudos, and keep it up. Even though some of the details were missing, such as fishin, which is a major economic activity of the Luo. Such details however, are minor as this is mainly a summary for anyone who doesn't know anything about the Luo.
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Jun 16, 2010 @ 6:06 am
I have really benefited as a Luo from reading this. I was just wondering if there was a special type of initiation for the women or girls?
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Jun 18, 2010 @ 5:05 am
Luo's are very proud people who believes that being a Luo is a very important thing.Luo's respect and adores their heroes and there's always one hero at a time like the days of Lwanda Magere,Odera Kan'go,Gor Mahia and recently Oginga Odinga,Raila Odinga and even Barrack Obama.
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Jun 25, 2010 @ 5:05 am
I LIKE THIS I PRAY THAT OTHER LUOS KNOW THEIR ROOTS
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Aug 22, 2010 @ 11:11 am
thanks for the information, indeed this will quite informative to the younger generation!
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Sep 9, 2010 @ 2:02 am
Thanks a lot for this piece of good work.It gives us a very good analogy of our people,our roots which to me is why I am proudly LUO
glynn thomas
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Oct 4, 2010 @ 6:06 am
I have been looking for some luo information and this is very comprehensive well done. I met a luo woman and am about to get married and live in nyanza. I can agree with all the comments about the close family ties and what good wives luo women make. It was very useful to get an over view of the customs as this fills in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. Thank you.
Emmah Obura Johnson
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Mar 31, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
Good job, considering that most of it comes not from a Luo but from research. I would however like to add that the Luo's rite of passage was removal of 6 bottom teeth, even though it is no longer practiced today. I would also like to mention that polygamy among the Luo is not as common as it used to be in years past.
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Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:11 am
Good work keep it up proves what it is to be a REAL luo. Thanks
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Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
Thank all the working team, some splendid piece of work, once again am proud to be a Luo.
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May 24, 2011 @ 4:04 am
the content is pretty so good and lovely have gained a lot about my community member's had little knowledge abaut them thanks for the work done in an excellent manner
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Jul 30, 2011 @ 8:08 am
good job. the summary reveals what happens in most african societies in which boys and men are privileged.
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Sep 12, 2011 @ 1:01 am
This cite is really redefining the real Onagi from the origin to where they are today, am very happy and now loaded with the features of the real nyakwar Ramogi Ajwang
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Sep 30, 2011 @ 7:19 pm
I am a New Testament Theologian and Priest, did Earopean History and African History still working on bits and pieces, this is very encouraging it is a tip of the iceberg of the Luo Community. Look at the world in its totality from Sudan where the Luos originated, where ever they passed they formed Kingdoms with top class Wisdom, Knowledge, Science and Culture of Tolerance. Hence we can say with confidence that Africa is the Promised Land according to God. Look at the Ibos in West Africa who do they look like? Roots, roots roots, what are their life Style. Life originated in the Garden of Eden, where Luos are pivoted? For this remember Dr. Leakey the famous World Acheologist.

Examples: Kingdoms of Sudan, Ethiopia that made many other Semitics to move to those parts of Africa, along the Nile upwards they may have been responsibl for the Kings of Egypt the Pyramid Builders, check features of the Luo and those Kingdoms, Dah. As they followed downwards via Uganda they established the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, down into Kenya the emergence of the likes Tawo Kogot, Mien Olanda, Odera Akang'o, Luanda Magere Gor Mahia MakoGalo,movement in the early fortys of Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga Not Yet Uhuru,, Achieng' Oneko, Thomas Joseph Mboya, Argwings Kodhek,Ondiek Chilo, Arina DC, Makasembo Robert Ouko, in the sixties. Climax Barrack Obama Wuod Alego.Luos take note of the number forty, following the Luo History, Culturally we have made people who never used to eat fish now eat it for reasons that are best to say are bestowed upon us By NYAKALAGA. Joluo emane ongeyo wach Nyasaye in detail, before the rest of the World did, talk to me about it and you will know more. This is just the preface of a book which by the time it's done it will be more than JALUO ENCYCLOPEDIA. Remember Raila Odinga Alot Kibul.The bedate and Search continues.

Greetings and Love to ALL Nyikwa Ramogi everywhere, indeed all humanity as well. Remember Professor Ogot the writer of Zamani

With Love

Rev. Auma Jalang'o +
African Community Empowerment Institute
Michael Owino
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Oct 2, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
This is some good piece of work. well said! i never knew we originated from Sudan, for some reason i always thought we had migrated from west Africa. it's nice to know the history of my people and i want to teach my son all about home and his heritage.
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Nov 11, 2011 @ 11:11 am
a good source for the upgraded information about the luo. i am doing philosophy and this helped me a lot in my reseach paper which i am working on.may may continue educating nyikwa ramogi
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Nov 16, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
Hello!! I seen this Forum/Blog and it interested me!!

I have a 1 year old daughter. Her father is Kenyan and from the Luo Tribe!but has lived in the states here in Indiana for 11 years. He left us when i was still pregnant for my daughter. He has never seen his daughter. while him and I were together i learned about Kenya and the Luo tribe.. I was wondering if you knew where i could find item's that i can show her about her heritage, hang in her room such as decorations.. ect.. Im actually really interested in finding her fathers siblings that are still over in Kenya but i would have no clue how to ...

Im excited to learn more and more of my daughters tribe... my email is Cassandra0269@gmail.com

if u have any places or websites i can find items to buy for her.

thanks. Cassandra
odhiambo charles onyango
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Dec 2, 2011 @ 9:09 am
luo is a very good tribe both in hard work and other culture work .they are usually working at a target in order to earn a living,under normal circumstances the luo language is almost being ignored due to interactions with other communities.on my side i like this very much because is doing away with the tribalism which is a major decease affecting my country Kenya.some communities has been considering luo as nothing but i am highly challenging them. nowadays its difficult to speak a luo language without cropping in English and kiswahili. so soon the language will be one and the Kenya will be united as one.
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Dec 7, 2011 @ 6:06 am
That was a great work educative and informative.keep it up!
peter candy
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Dec 19, 2011 @ 2:02 am
I like this article n it helps me as aluo boy thanks in advance people
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Jan 17, 2012 @ 5:05 am
Am a proud luo coz luo culture is the most organised and civilised in the world. By getting to any homestead you could see the order of how houses are built and know where first or last born is. The culture was surely to instil responsibility and order.elderly married men moving to their own homes to start their families unlike where people get married in their parents house in some culture is a sign of dependent adult. Love the variety of music in ohangla, dodo,orutu,nyatiti among others in same tribe.more so luos live their life fully and die without regret. Thumbs up my kinsmen and lets not abandon our culture.finally lets take sex education with our children and not leave it to teachers to reduce unwanted pregnancy and STD/HIV infection. These youth luck knowledge with noone talking to them about sex. Elders, Aunts and uncles this was your traditional role, not just hook ups.
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Jan 27, 2012 @ 4:04 am
This surely a great piece of work. I am actually a student of law in Kenya. I would like the admin to elucidate on THE BURIAL CUSTOMS in a magnified and detailed way. Pliz...if tht's posible.
Allan Aguko
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Feb 12, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
Quite a masterpiece.Kudos to the group that reasearched thoroughly and tirelesly thereby coming up with this piece of writing.I think i now have a reason to appreciate my culture.I didnt know much because the grandomthers to narrate these to us are not there.Continue educating other communities of their cultures as well.
zachaues okoth adet
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Feb 27, 2012 @ 11:11 am
i have really appreciated this article. it has of been great help to me especially in my research. thank you very much.
odipo odhiambo
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Apr 25, 2012 @ 6:06 am
this is a praiseworthy content it makes one to retrieve his lost tradition, because the contemporary society is continually swerved away with secularism and globalization that we may end up uprooting fully our tradition.
keep it up.
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May 14, 2012 @ 3:03 am
A true ethnographic detail of the contemporary Luo. Research more on the rich Luo music and dance. good work.
Seline Adhiambo
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May 25, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
Good work! am a real luo woman and proud to be one. howevwer, we need to know the social stratification that exists in the luo community. Kuddos, keep it up!
Emmah Auma Nya-Yala
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Jul 11, 2012 @ 9:09 am
Good, but rather brief. Expand by including contemporary issues including inetrmarriages, the language question, among others/
Sarah Robbertze
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Jul 22, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
I am part of a group that is planning to build wells and water towers in western Tanzania, and while this is excellent background material, I am frustrated that is geared solely to the Kenyan Luo. The modern situation is not necessarily the same in Tanzania. And one point - in the area near Lake Victoria, there are two rainy and two dry seansons. The shorter rainy season has hard fast rainfall, and the longer a gentler rainfall. This makes water towers a more feasible choice in considering water resources.
Job Wasonga
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Jul 27, 2012 @ 7:07 am
This id good work, it gives a preety history of the luo. I would love if you could wxpound on the contemporary luo culture which should be well articulated so as to avoid ethnocentrism mostly witnessed in Kenya.
Caoimhin O Neel
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Aug 13, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
Brilliant research, and results.I will be marrying a LUO girl, before the year is out, and am delighted @ the cultural background, from the European point of view,
victoria bridge
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Sep 19, 2012 @ 10:10 am
Does any one know the luo story about two sisters, Adungairo and Adilero?
josephine awino
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Sep 20, 2012 @ 11:11 am
fantanstic work but i'm just asking about the heroes.don't we have heroes or warriors?
stephen owino
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Oct 26, 2012 @ 7:07 am
well done you did great.but is true that being a Luo is a calling.i mean we are so proud of ourselves.
James Jumma
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Oct 27, 2012 @ 2:02 am
I am very much pleased to have come across this site with valuable ideas, infect the cultures are very diverse and good,, they have the most beautiful girls and I am currently running after one and I hope God let me go through. May God bless this wonderful tribe of Kenya.
Odhiambo Evance
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Oct 30, 2012 @ 3:03 am
The article is wow! But please include some of the factors which have affected Luo music since independence.
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Nov 12, 2012 @ 3:03 am
Its a good work luos are the proud lot I came to realize that even in the Holy Bible (Isaiah 18:1) Sudan is mentioned where we came from and recognized as a powerful tribe. Am proud though i don't know where this history of being proud come from, can someone help me please.
fredrick oochieng'
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Nov 17, 2012 @ 1:01 am
this is so fascinating at least i have known my roots at long last..kudos
Eng. Samwel Alima
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Nov 29, 2012 @ 12:00 am
This is great work. I was looking for some of the innovations in the traditional way of life among the Luos, glad to have got some through this great work.
Bishop Eng. Calleb L. Olali
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Dec 24, 2012 @ 1:01 am
This is an impressive writeup. It is true that not much detail can be printed regarding Religion and Politics because Luos can be very passionate on something that develops to be euphoric.Contrary views are not easily tainable.particularly in Politics,Religion and sports. As much as it is known that Nomiya Church is the first Independent Church in Kenya, the History and background given by many writers, is not generally accurately given due to unresearched details. Nomiya Church is an impressive blend of Christianity and the Luo culture. This write up is however, splendid. Keep it up.
cheyech
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Feb 8, 2013 @ 2:02 am
this is great work iwas doing something on luo cuisine and challenges they face in acquiring food and maintainig nutrition status.educational.
Lea Lane
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Feb 10, 2013 @ 2:14 pm
This was so interesting and informative. Helping to fill in the gaps as I had many questions about the unknown. I met a Luo man who is a hard working, respectful, loving man with strong morals and family ties. He has given me a lot of information and fascinated me with many stories. However this helps me to understand the fabulous person he is. I only hope to one day visit the home of the Luo tribe myself.
Moses Okumu
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Feb 16, 2013 @ 9:09 am
Great piece of work. this made me know our luo tribe more than ever. Being where this info is now placed, I am sure the generations will value it.
odongo moses
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Feb 25, 2013 @ 3:03 am
it is a great job being delivered to people you my fellow tribe. thank for that wonderful voluntary work. i pray that God should give you abundant blessing.
Achola nyar gem
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Mar 2, 2013 @ 7:07 am
A very informative piece. I am very proud of the Luo nation, not just the kenyan branch but luos everywhere, including in the sudan where they have and continue to stand up to arab imperialists.The piece should perhaps speak more about the wider luo nation as well. I worked amongst joanuak refugees from ethiopia and I am happy to say they have really kept our culture alive and are every bit as spirited as all the rest of our great nation.I am married to a scotsman and live in edinburgh, the uk, but I am teaching my daughters dholuo and they definitely understand when i speak to them.Keep up the good work and as long as the information is mostly accurate, I dont mind where it comes from. As they say in luoland "adieri e kende" : truth only. The lady who asked about adolero and adungairo-post number 54(I remember my aunt ruth telling me this story in the dead of night,when I was about 4 years old and what a huge impression it made on me, and still does today)I think you will find it in the book "keep my words", I dont remember the author but if you can get a hold of this book, please do.I would give you the same advice cassandra.I will email you shortly.Keep up the good work.
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Mar 21, 2013 @ 4:04 am
This is a cornucopia of good information to the Luo youth, it is always important to know where your ancestors came from , i find it interesting knowing my origin , culture and ways of life of my people, but my appeal is that if much concern is not taken then these indigenous languages will erode completely because most schools are not teaching them and particularly in urban areas, i think our education system needs to be revised to synchronize the study of local languages in the syllabus.
otieno odindo
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Apr 10, 2013 @ 6:18 pm
this is the most accurate piece on our culture i have read so far. very informative! keep the good work up n God bless you.
could do a piece on our language? Dholuo
ngoya omondi
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Apr 13, 2013 @ 6:06 am
this piece of work is wonderfull ,i am a luo staying in Tanzania but i did not know much about our society i have apricieted this man who created this blog that ifeelproud of our culture.the question is who should take over after raila's challange?. i personaly regret for it such that my sprit is still in hell .iask my fellows.who next...
victor kidhawa
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Jul 1, 2013 @ 3:03 am
Excellent work. this is very wonderfull work concerning this wonderful community
Wagaka Erick
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Jul 14, 2013 @ 5:05 am
This is one of the best writings that enlightens the mind. I urge that the young be engaged to trace their roots well so that we do not JUST embrace civilization blindly. This is where Japanese are superior at, they love new technology yes, but one has to first appreciate the previous developments as well. Great is this art.
JOwinga
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Nov 14, 2013 @ 10:22 pm
A great cultural analysis, although the authors should probably engage the contemporary minded luo's to provide readers with a modern insight on the community, by for instance recognizing other significant churches like Legio Maria, political icons like Raila, ICC judge Aluoch, and the close ties or direct kinship with the most powerful man in the free world, Barack Obama Jr.
RONALD
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Jan 1, 2014 @ 4:04 am
This information is really true, i was worried when i met this young Kenyan girl, Its like am falling in love with her, i was amazed the way she took care of me, hard working, caring for me so i really don't get surprised Luo ladies are real wives, thank you for this information..
Bonnyveture Joech.
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Apr 22, 2014 @ 11:23 pm
This is astonishing! Great work. I love this it helped my sister who is in form one to learn some Luo history.
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May 24, 2014 @ 5:17 pm
This is awonderful job.I am proud to be a Luo.Thank you for your work as this will help our generations to come know what our culture means.
Steve Omondi
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May 30, 2014 @ 5:05 am
I like this! Let us maintain our Luo heritage. Luo is lifesyle and it can be seen in the likes of Raila Odinga, Barack Obama, Lupita Nyongo, Denis Oliech, Steve Omondi and many others. Kudos Luo! and long live Luo culture and God bless Jaluo!
Oyoo
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Jun 11, 2014 @ 4:04 am
Very impressive work here.
i wish to know how "East coast fever (ECF)" disease of cattle is called in Dholuo.

Regards
Oyoo
Omenya
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Jun 13, 2014 @ 5:05 am
Pronounciation of luo as pronounced by the native speakers is LWO with the "O" being closed
OtienoDullo
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Jun 21, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
Good Work. And really constructive comments in the thread. Let's build on this. And share it widely.
Ann Nyamai Otieno
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Sep 23, 2014 @ 2:02 am
This is amazing! ! I am totally proud to be a luo and greatful for your work. About the traditional food, add in the famous sadines (omena).
Billy Achia
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Sep 26, 2014 @ 11:11 am
this article has really helped me greatly as a student of literature and i have to say thank you a lot.
Jashon
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Oct 7, 2014 @ 5:05 am
You did a great work men, lets keep the Luo culture up. Congrats.
Brian Owino Kamau
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Oct 19, 2014 @ 9:09 am
Great Work, keep it up!!! I would just propose that you continue with the research to keep the page updated and make some minor corrections as as been proposed by other readers too.

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