OKIEK / OGIEK (Dorobo, Kenya)


IndexAfricaKenya → Okiek


Featured in Kenya: Pokomo, Amwimbe, Kore, Kuria, Masai, N’Jemp, Ariaal Rendille, Kamba, Tiriki, Chuka, Maragoli, Kikuyu, Kipsigis, Gusii, Luo, Meru, Samburu, Tuken, Nandi, Okiek; ®Iteso


Boys are circumcised, girls are excised, a “central initiation trial” (Kratz, 1994:p341)[1]. Boys and girls are initiated into adulthood around the age of 14 through a series of four single-sex ceremonies. The first ceremony is a public day-long sequence of ritual events followed by circumcision or excision the following dawn. The next two ceremonies are secret and performed in seclusion over a period of months. The final ceremony brings initiates out of seclusion and reintroduces them as young adults. “Women married soon after initiation into adulthood, at about age sixteen, living with the husband's family; men usually married in their twenties. Families arranged marriages during visits to the bride's family, discussing the match and bridewealth property given by the groom's family (today an average of six or seven cows). Elopement - not always successful - was one alternative to arranged marriage. Revently, more young Okiek have refused arranged marriages, instead eloping or delaying marriage. These shifts are related to demographic and economic changes in the area”[2].


Kratz stated that


“[…] the Okiek women in Kenya with whom she has worked and lived " are not circumcised until after they reach sexual maturity and are often in a position to compare pre-and post-circumcised sex." Yet circumcised women "speak of sex with relish." Some women insist that female circumcision enhances sexuality”[3].


Similar to the western Christian, the Okiek consider disobedience, disrespect and sexual promiscuity sinful. A notable difference is that the Catholic confesses frequently, while the Okiek boy or girl will confess only once in their life as a rite of passage (Kratz, 1991)[4].


“No uncircumcised person would marry or be married to an Ogiek. A specialist, as narrated by Mzee Mutai, was the only one to confirm this. When asked why the circumcision was important, Mutai explain that this is when the young men would be taught issues like sex, responsibility and many others. The young men were declared adults who could be responsible for their own behaviour. It is then that they could have there own singira (houses) and subsequently marry at their own pleasure. Early marriage among ladies was very common since the initiation paved a great way for that.”[5]





Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004



[1] Kratz, C. A. (1994) Affecting Performance: Meaning, Movement and Experience in Okiek Women’s Initiation. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution

[2] Kratz, C. A. (nd) The Okiek of Kenya. Online paper [http://www.ogiek.org/indepth/Okiek.pdf]

[3]Washington, Harriet A., The Rite of Female Circumcision, Emerge, 09-30-1996 [http://www.africa2000.com/bndx/circum.html]

[4] Kratz, C. A. (1991) Amusement and Absolution: Transforming Narratives during Confession and Social Debt, Am Anthropologist 93,4:826-34

[5] Ogiek Community History - story from Henry Migingo, Kenya. August 11, 2004 [http://blog.onevillage.tv/archives/2004/08/ogiek_community_1.html]