Excitement built up as our guide announced a detour to the Lorokul Community during a trip in remote Kidepo Valley National Park. We would finally get to meet the passionate Karamojong warriors, arrayed in colorful Shukas whose unique jumping dance is a site to behold! We would finally experience the life with the karamajong!
The parks sparse population and isolation from the rest of the country could only mean that extraordinary nature will unfold in eyes of visitors each time. At this point, we were already amazed by resident wildlife sightings and couldn’t wait to see the people whose love for cattle has an obsessive quality rivaling that of Maasai in Kenya & Tanzania.
Proud & fierce is what the habitats of the aforementioned community are. These warriors of a semi-nomadic background live in a communal setting of approximately 800 people, of which 350 are youngsters. That is almost half that population! And it is quite evident right from the entrance point; there are numerous cheery kids running around, some after chicken, a sisal ball, another-child or just nothing. The noise they make is a sign of an active & energetic community.
Apparently, the Karamojong are renown to run around half-naked – we were about to find out! It’s amazing how a small section of people find fulfillment and delight in a simplistic way of life. There’s a lot to learn from these people, who haven’t been fully engulfed by civilization. And also you are welcome to be your own judge of unfolding events.
Over the years, there has been mounting need to improve livelihood in the community and with this came the necessity to charge a small fee at entry. This teeny fee is extremely important to the community as it facilitates construction of health centers, classrooms and toilet facilities.
In some occasions the Chief may dispense some of the collections for food. Overall, this fee is supposed to mutually help the entire community
The Karamojong lifestyle is made of a rich and distinctive culture that stands out, from attitudes, living conditions, dress code, values and world views. They are one of the few tribes that have retained their old age traditions and folklore.
As we take a small path leading us into the Manyatta, we are met by our guide, who is covered in a brightly decorated Shuka – the traditional wear. He then briefs us & walks us through the community, with various stops in the middle of his explanations.
Most Karamojong live communally, extended families being the norm. As a result, a single Manyatta (homestead) shelters generations. Largely, everything they do is for the greater good of the entire community. In this homestead are sleeping-huts, cattle enclosures (kraal) and granaries. On the ground are locally weaved mats covered with sorghum, spread out to aid drying and occasionally there’s a woman rotating it so the ones below can catch some sun. After drying up, these are used to make local brew.
In the Karamojong community, polygamy rules and cattle equal royalty. And the measure of a man is not how tall he stands, but in the number of cattle he owns. The roles are quite simple; the men are responsible for grazing cattle and everything in-between even sleeping by the kraal to safeguard their wealth. Historically, they rely on these cattle for milk, cowhide, meat and blood. They make household items such as spoons, bowls from cattle horns & bones. Cowhide is used to make sandals, clothes, and sometimes roof.
The men also have a responsibility of constructing huts. Boys may also be involved in small scale fence-assembly as they train for adult roles. However, to achieve warrior status in the community, they were expected to portray courage by killing a large animal like a lion or elephant. This alone posed as a threat to wildlife in the Karamoja region, and it is such instances that probed the government step in and minimize human-wildlife conflict.
The women on the other hand, stay home to take care of homesteads and children, tender gardens that supplement their diet. Furthermore, they sell charcoal and firewood for little money to buy food.
It’s impossible to beat a Karamojong in their traditional dance called the Edonga, which is mainly a repetitive high jump. We had no idea a dance performance was organized for us. In this performance, a group of dancers & singers lined up in a semi-circle while revelers were chosen to participate, and to be honest- it’s impossible to attain the height these people jump to.