Borana and Gabra are members of nomadic pastoral communities living in the border regions of Kenya and Ethiopia. They are tied together by their common origins (Cushitic), language (Oromic), livelihoods (pastoralism) and environments. Owing to their nomadic way of live, both groups depend on their rituals and traditions for community cohesion. The rituals are characterized by use of a range of objects including special containers for various ceremonies performed across the landscape. Containers are made from light materials to reduce their weight during migration and yet are durable and strong enough to contain fluids while on the move. Similarly, houses, also a form of container, are designed to be portable, made from organic materials and capable of being transported on camels.
All such ‘containers’ act as symbols of power, transitions (marriage and initiation), and social status. It is through ceremonies and embodied performances using significant traditional containers that identities are acquired or discarded. Due to sentimental and ceremonial value, and raw materials scarcity, containers are continuously repaired to ensure longevity and memory retention as they are passed from one generation to the next. The knowledge and skills associated with container production and the mechanisms of intergenerational transfer of these are threatened by changes in pastoralist economies. This project aims to document through film, photographs, interviews and observation these diverse forms of traditional container, their histories, how they are made, by whom, their uses, materials, and tangible and intangible heritage values, to enhance the preservation of this knowledge and associated material practices.
Freda Nkirote M’Mbogori
Paul Jeremy Lane
Location of Research:
Marsabit County, Kenya and Yabello, Ethiopia
National Museums of Kenya
Top Banner Image: Chiicho miju- New milk containers specially made for a wedding ceremony (Photo: Hassan Wako Godana)