Turkana - Marriage and Family

Turkana marriage is polygynous and often patrilocal. Bride-wealth is unusually high among the Turkana; a typical bride-wealth payment might include 30 to 50 cattle, 30 to 50 camels, and 100 to 200 small stock. This high bride-wealth often means that a man cannot marry until his father has died and he has inherited livestock. The high bride-wealth also requires that the prospective groom collect livestock from all his relatives and friends, thus reinforcing social ties through the transfer of livestock.

A Turkana homestead ( awi ) is composed of a man, his wives and their children, and often his mother and other dependent women. Each wife and her children build a daytime sitting hut ( ekol ) and, in the rainy season, a nighttime sleeping hut ( aki ). When a new wife comes into the homestead, she stays in the ekol of the mother or first wife of the household head until she has borne her first child.

Wives are often inherited by a brother or the son of a co-wife upon the death of a husband. A woman has the right to refuse to be inherited and can live with one of her sons, if she chooses. As each wife comes into the household, the head of the family allocates milking livestock to her. Although she has no ownership rights to these livestock, they will form the basis of the herds that will be inherited by her sons. Most of a woman's livestock will be inherited by her firstborn son.

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