Kipsigis - History and Cultural Relations



Kipsigis say that both they and the Nandi come from a place called "To," which some of them locate in the vicinity of Lake Baringo. In the course of their southward migration, sometime between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Kipsigis and the Nandi separated. Today the Nandi are their immediate neighbors to the north. Pushing farther south, Kipsigis displaced the Luo, Kissi, and Maasai, the descendants of whom are currently their neighbors to the west and south. The Kipsigis once called these people puniik, meaning "enemies" or "strangers," although relations with these populations were never completely hostile. Relations with the Maasai were often characterized by fierce competition for grazing land. Despite reciprocal cattle raids, Kipsigis and Maasai intermarried and occasionally adopted one another's children. Exchange with the Kissi seems to have been more frequent, particularly in times of famine, when Kipsigis would exchange cattle for Kissi grain. There are a number of Kipsigis clans of Kissi origin. Okiek hunters occupy the forest to the west. Like the Nandi, the Okiek are Kalenjin speakers. Both groups have maintained intimate cultural and political relations with Kipsigis—they intermarry, share clan affiliations, participate in joint initiation ceremonies, and, in the case of the Okiek, they previously exchanged forest products for Kipsigis grain. Indeed, before the imposition of colonial administration, ethnic boundaries between the Kipsigis and their neighbors seem to have been quite fluid and permeable. The arrival of the British (around the beginning of the twentieth century) radically transformed Kipsigis society. White settlers alienated nearly half of Kipsigis land. Through a series of pressures and inducements, the Kipsigis were gradually drawn within the orbit of the colonial market economy. In the late twentieth century structural changes in the regional economy forced thousands of western Kenyans, mostly Luo people, to come to Kericho in search of employment. Many find work on Kipsigis farms, and they may spend years working for the same family.


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Joseph Arap Lang'at
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Jan 16, 2013 @ 6:06 am
Excellent piece. But were the Kipsigis from Sudan or Egypt? When did the Kipsigis become distinctly separate from other Kalenjin-speaking nation? Did Kipsigis have laibons initially like the Nandi counterparts? How did the Kipsigis clans commence and when?

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