On the surface, the Karimojong appear to be a simple people, farming and herding cattle, sheep, and goats. But upon further study, one realizes the society is actually very complex. I’m not even entirely sure how to describe this people group other than to list some of the things I have learned on my short visit to Karamoja.
1) Men and women are treated equally with complimentary roles
a) Men tend to and herd the animals
b) Women farm, cook, and take care of the children and elderly
2) Males are divided into 3 groups
a) Elders – those responsible for making decisions concerning the tribe
b) Warriors – those responsible for carrying out the raids
c) Boys – those responsible for helping tend the herds
3) Polygamy – the practice of one man having many wives is almost complete a necessity in a society where raiding leads to the death of so many young men. It is a means to preserve the population as women are meant to have many children. The Karimojong have a belief not unlike the Biblical mandate of the Lord to “be fruitful and multiply”. Therefore it is necessary to make sure all women have a chance to bear children.
4) Dress – One finds the Karimojong in various states of dress.
a) Children run around naked to half-dressed to fully clothed.
b) Women and older girls where t-shirts and colorful flowing skirts.
c) Men and boys wear a blanket draped around them like togas. Men also wear hats that are colorful and look to be a cross between a bowler and top hat. An ostrich feather in the hat signifies that a man is looking for cows to “buy” his betrothed.
To be continued…