Top > African Study Monographs > ASM Supplementary Issue Back Number > No.37 (2007)
BRIDEWEALTH NEGOTIATIONS AMONG THE TURKANA IN NORTHWESTERN KENYA

Itaru Ohta


pp. 1

Preface

Itaru Ohta

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pp.3-26

MARRIAGE AND BRIDEWEALTH NEGOTIATIONS AMONG THE TURKANA IN NORTHWESTERN KENYA

Itaru Ohta
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
    This article first provides basic information on kinship structure, livestock ownership, the process of arranging marriages, and amounts of bridewealth transferred among the Turkana of northwestern Kenya. It then describes an actual case of bridewealth negotiations that took place on September 6–7, 1998, and details how people behaved during face-to-face negotiations and how they obtained mutual agreements on numbers of bridewealth animals. Among the Turkana, the amount of bridewealth is not fixed, but is rather determined after long negotiations between the families of the groom and bride. A large number of livestock is transferred, sometimes amounting to two-thirds of the property of the groom's family. Although people talk about the number of bridewealth animals in advance, final figures are settled at public meetings in which harsh words are often exchanged in heated negotiations. However, those involved in bridewealth debates also try to appear generous. The groom's side tries to give out enough animals to satisfy their future in-laws. The bride's side also withdraws their demands gracefully when necessary. Before they start bridewealth negotiations, both parties are usually firmly confident that they will reach an agreement, although their serious negotiation is a "game" played in earnest.

Key Words: East Africa; Face-to-face negotiation; Livestock transfer; Pastoralism; Wedding rituals.

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pp. 29-152

ENGLISH–TURKANA TEXTS OF A CASE OF BRIDEWEALTH NEGOTIATIONS IN NORTHWESTERN KENYA

Itaru Ohta
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University 

Introduction
    The following texts are transcriptions of bridewealth negotiations that took place on September 6–7, 1998. The first day of the negotiations was carried out at the homestead of the bride's father, while the second day was conducted at the groom's homestead. These homesteads were located about 10–20 km north of Kakuma town, which lies about 100 km northwest of Lodwar, the capital of Turkana District in Kenya. By the end of the second day of the negotiations, all the bridewealth livestock had been transferred. Wedding rituals were then performed at the bride's homestead on September 8–10. Part 1 of this volume (pp. 3-26) provides basic information on kinship structure, livestock ownership, the process of arranging marriages, and the amounts of bridewealth among the Turkana. Analysis of the negotiations and descriptions of the amount of bridewealth transferred in this particular marriage are also presented in Part 1. All the utterances in the following texts appear in the appended DVD video (Part 3 of this volume).

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