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In some cultures, your social status is based on your wealth or position you hold in the society. At times, your dressing alone speaks volumes. Most African communities have their unique clothing art which they pride themselves with. The Turkana tribe in northwest Kenya is one of such communities in East Africa that still maintains their clothing culture.

Their dressing is simple and ornate with colorful beads for women which determines their status in the community. Men put a cloth that is knotted on the shoulder in the form of a tunic while women are dressed with two pieces of leather or cloth wrapped round their chest and waist. They use of animal skin for clothing is widespread. Their women skillfully work leather to come out with beautiful skirts that are adorned with beads of different colors and pieces of ostrich eggs.

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As part of their dressing, men carry wrist knives made of steel and goat hides. They also carry along stools known as ekicholong. They use it as stool during the day and at night as a headrest to protect their decorations and hairstyles from damage when sleeping. Men’s clothing and hairstyles help to highlight status, age groups and the importance of a ceremony. Hairstyles are made with ocher and clay and decorated with ostrich feathers. This helps to identify warriors. When they get old or pass the warrior age group, they shave completely.

The Turkana women put on many necklaces. The colorful necklaces also represent the status of the wearer and are never removed except in cases of bereavement or illness of a relative. The men work hard to increase the number of necklaces for their wives. At birth, fathers offer to their girls bright-colored necklaces. Around age 20 or when they are ready for marriage, they would have accumulated a lot of necklaces which they sell to their sisters as they have to put on only that bought by their husbands. Married women also put on a flat metal necklace that has the same significance as a wedding ring.

The Turkana have a rich clothing culture and they are proud to wear their traditional clothes.

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Photo Credit: Kristopher Ragnar P.