Luo Tribe

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The Luo people live in the west of Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria. Along with the Maasai, they migrated south from the Nile region of Sudan around the 15th century. Although they clashed heavily with the existing Bantu-speaking people of the area, intermarriage and cultural mixing occurred.

The Luo are unusual amongst Kenya’s ethnic groups in that circumcision Is not practised in either sex. The tradition was replaced by something that one can imagine being almost as painful — the extraction of four or six teeth from the bottom jaw. Although it is not a common practice these days, you still see many middle-aged and older people of the region who are minus a few bottom pegs.

Although originally cattle herders, the Luo have adopted fishing and subsistence agriculture. The family group consists of the man, his wife (or wives) and their sons and daughters-in-law. The house compound is enclosed by a fence, and includes separate huts for the man and for each wife and son. (There is a good reconstruction of a Luo homestead in the grounds of the Kisumu Museum.)

The family group is a member of a larger grouping of families (dhoot), several of which in turn make up a group of geographically related people (ogandi) each led by a chief (ruoth). Collectively the ogandi constitute the Luo tribe. As is the case with many tribes, great importance is placed on the role of the medicine man and the spirits.

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