Karimajong Culture

               THE KARAMOJONG

The Karamojong are a Nilotic ethnic group of people that occupy the Northeastern part of Uganda. They are indigenous residents of the seven districts for example Moroto, Kotido, Kabong, Nakapiripiti, Napak, Abim and Amudat. They speak a common language known as the Ngakarimojong and have occupied this area since 1600 AD.

                KARAMOJONG ORIGIN

The Karamojong ethnic group of people are the migrants from the Nyangaton of Ethiopia. The Karamojong being the nomadic pastoralists [Nomadic meaning cattle keeping and pastoralists meaning people who move from place to place], they had lacked enough pasture and water to feed their animals so this forced them to migrate to in search for fresh pasture, water and enough land to graze their large herds of cattle. Karamojong migrated as a large group but went on splitting and occupying different parts of Africa. One group settled along Lake Turkana where they acquired the name the Turkana and they intermarried with the settlers they found giving birth to the current tribes of Masai and Karenjin. The second group continued to the current day South Sudan that is the Jie and Toposa of south Sudan. The Karamojong as a group is the blood cousins of the jie group who continued south wards to Uganda where they occupied some part of the Northern Uganda. The elders were tired of moving and the young moved further to look for more fresh pasture, free space and water for the cattle and one group called Tipeth opted to live in the mountain and the other groups occupied the flat areas.

                 KARAMOJONGS WAY OF LIFE.

The Karamojong ways of living are so much different from other tribes since they still strongly believe in their traditional values.

The Karamojong are tall dark skinned because they are most of the the times exposed to the Sun in their semi arid areas and they have facial markings and body piercing on face on nose, ears, lower lips to convey a hidden meaning among them. These people spend most of their entire life grazing and looking after their cattle and they value these cattle even more than their life to an extent a Karamojong can decide to die defending his or her cattle or a Karamojong sees it as an act of evil to kill his or her cattle for meat and he would rather keep more cattle just for pride. They keep large herds of cows, goats, sheep and the young kids and men move from home with the cattle to look for places with pasture and water for almost about months and the women remain home doing some home works. Traditionally the Karamojong formed warrior groups, cattle rustlers to raid the neighboring communities for cows and to protect their own herds from raids by other communities. They were armed with weapons like spears, arrows, machetes and guns like AKS

The Karamojong live as an extended family especially the married ones in very large homesteads and produce as many children as they can. The women and their children are the ones to build the grass thatched huts called the Manyattas sharing compound, thorny fences for protection, they don’t sleep on beds but they sleep on the skins of animals and the kraals are also built in the centre of the Manyattas for protection with thorny  for protection from the cattle raiders. The men make fire places around the kraals to protect animals and their families but go out during the day to drink, play games and tell stories as women and children do the house work.

Traditionally, they used to feed on fresh blood got after puncturing the vessel of the cow and milk but they desorted to growing food crops like sorghum, millet, maize and sunflight. They grind millet to make millet bread or porridge and beans which act as their staple food. They also brew the local beer for drinking.

About their clothing style, the Karamojong dress traditionally at the village using the Masai cloth or animal skin called Abwoo; this also works as a mattress or mat. The men tie the Masai cloth around their waist and ladies wear round skirts called Nyankatukok. All the Karamojong gender wear car tire sandals and jewelry on their arms, legs, waist, lower lips, and these jewelries may include copper bangles, cow horn rings, feathers, plant materials and others. The Karamojong men always move with traditional stool, walking stick, spear and gourd for drinks

When it comes to marriage in the Karamojong, they always perform the traditional marriage. Here a man has to seek for permission from the parents of the woman to marry their daughter, here the boy is supposed show his potential that he can protect the family against intruders and the community sets a day for the wrestling festival where the boy must be victorious to take the lady.  if the man victorious, the process of bride price starts and the man is supposed to pay intermesh of cows, sheep, goats and other gifts [Akichul].  After accepting the bride price is the moment of joy, celebrations for some good days, eating, drinking and performing their traditions like dances, clothing styles, games. Traditionally if the woman is not officially married she will stay with her parents until the man pays all the bride price and an officially married man or woman will remain single for the rest of his or her life in case a partner dies and take care of the family.

Another way of marriage in the Karamojong is where a man grabs a lady and marries her by force, this done in case a man has no bride price or if the family of the girl refuses to accept the man. It’s funny but up to now some of them still practice such marriage.

Long time ago, the Karamojong were thought to be very primitive and arrogant people in that they wanted to interact with other but now in recent period it’s a free community to visit and are very loving to the visitor. The Karamojong also never used attended school and they practiced traditional type of education where the parents used to teach their children about their traditional norms and customs but for few past years, some of them have started acquiring formal education since the government, organizations, churches have started building schools in the region. But up to now some of them still think that going to school is wastage of time.

                                             CULTURE AND RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

Karamojong are people with pride and love for their culture and religious beliefs and always protect their culture from their outside World. The Karamojong pay allegiance to the Akuj, their traditional god who they believe gave them all the cattle in their region. The Karamojong have a lot of cultural beliefs they believe in. when a Karamojong baby is born, they carry out some cleansing to cust away bad luck to the new born or family and also put feathers or skulls of animals, bones in front of their doors to chase away evil spirits and also when a Karamojong with herds of animals dies, he or she is buried in the center of the Kraal where his animals are in a sense that he or she will be with the cattle everywhere they go and sometimes abandon the home and start a new home because they think death is bad luck which may follow the family.