Nandi and Other Kalenjin Peoples - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, marriage took place in two stages: ratet, a small ceremony after which the couple lived together, and tunisiet , a large public feast held only at the completion of bride-wealth payment. Among the Nandi, these stages have typically occurred in rapid succession since about the turn of the twentieth century; among some other Kalenjin, at least during certain periods, a separation of many years has been customary, probably depending on availability of cattle or other livestock. Most Kalenjin—with some exceptions, notably the Okiek—pay bride-wealth in cattle. Once payment is complete, marriage is theoretically irrevocable. Traditional divorce grounds and proceedings exist, but divorce is in fact extremely rare, even in modern times. Permanent separations occur but do not technically negate marriage.

Polygyny is prestigious and, in the 1970s, was practiced by about 25 percent of ever-married Nandi men. Christians were monogamous slightly more frequently than non-Christians. Woman-woman marriage, found among Nandi, Kipsigis, and, since about the mid-twentieth century, among Keiyo, is not customary among other Kalenjin. Both women and men are active in negotiating marriages and reconciling separated couples. Husbands are jurally dominant, with the right to beat wives for certain offenses. Wives are publicly deferential; private relations are more nearly egalitarian. Leisure is spent with same-gender companions more than with one's spouse.

Domestic Unit. Each wife has her own field, cattle, and house within the family compound. A separate farm for each wife is the ideal. Compounds may include the husband's parents or mother, and other kin, depending on circumstances. Brothers and their wives may share a compound, although this is rare.

Inheritance. Traditional norms of cattle inheritance have been extended to land, money, and other property. Each wife's house-property consists of cattle given to her at marriage, acquired by her on her own, or given as bride-wealth for her daughters. These may be inherited only by her own sons (or, in Nandi and Kipsigis, the sons of her wife). A man's other property is inherited in equal shares by each wife's house. Failing lineal heirs, a man's property reverts to his brothers or their sons, a woman's to her co-wives' sons.

Socialization. Infants are treated indulgently, but strict obedience (enforced by corporal punishment) is expected from children by about the age of 6. Routine care of infants and toddlers is largely the responsibility of girls between ages 8 and 10. Children are economically important and have heavy responsibilities. It is common to spend a part of childhood fostered by a relative, helping with domestic work in exchange for board and school fees.

Adolescent initiation (circumcision for boys and clitoridectomy for girls, and instruction for both) is a key feature of Kalenjin life and ethnic identity. These are sex-segregated rituals for most, but not all, Kalenjin groups. Adolescents are allowed a period of license to indulge in courtship and sexual play—before initiation for girls and afterward for boys. Girls marry directly following initiation; boys become warriors. Today some (mostly highly educated) girls refuse initiation.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 5, 2010 @ 8:08 am
I always find myself falling for kalenjin girls & by the look of things i think iam going to marry a kalenjin. Is there restrictions when it comes to intermarriages with other tribes?
kerich joseah
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 17, 2012 @ 2:02 am
Thankz to my kalenjin men and women who have tirelessly researched and brought light to the new generation of how things were done in the past.What has been in my thoughts is that in the resent past,21st century,we find that sexual relations outside marriage has been a normal thing for women who are married.Does the scrapping of FGM among our community brought all these infidelities in marriage lives?
Maritim Kipngetich Evans
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 30, 2013 @ 2:02 am
I would want to answer Moses Ndengwa that there is no restriction when it comes to marring a Kalenjin girl.You will only be required to pay dowry as it is expected.And I want you not to worry because the cattle required today for you to marry a Kalenjin girl is not many, not like in the early days when you were required to to pay up to fifty herd of cattle.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:07 am
Thank you for this forum,i am a lady in the 21st century which means i never got a chance to learn alot about tradition from my parents..i have been proposed to by a handsome gentleman and i don't know the first approach to this walk into i visit the gentlemans home fast or our home,or what am i to do. Help a stranded thought here brothers.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 8, 2015 @ 1:01 am
This is such a great forum. With me I'm not a Kalenjin but several times I have interacted with Kalenjin ladies and I do admit their good look and impression to me. However, my fear of attempting a marriage relationship with them is due to the tight and procedural cultural practices involved for one to be married to a Kalenjin lady. For me I no longer believe in culture anymore. Can this desire be fulfilled without fear? Thank you great people.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 6, 2019 @ 2:14 pm
I like this.I really wish to marry a Nandi.Their culture is really pleasing.I like it!Despite the fact that the female circumcision should be done away with.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 17, 2019 @ 5:05 am
Am so in love with kalenjin guy again, after a past relationship with another kalenjin guy ended so brutal...
Am a luo but I have a soft spot for kalenjin men.
Is it true that you'll always go for kalenjin ladies even after marrying from another tribe.
It happened to me with a marakwet and am scared for the repeat!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 21, 2020 @ 12:00 am
Thanks for the insight. I havea question. Did nandis have wife inheritance in the old days. If yes how was it done.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: