front apron

Front apron of cow hide decorated with beads and cowrie shells, made and worn by girls after circumcision.

Rethinking Relationships Commentary by Antony Njoroge: Nkila is a small leather garment that is traditionally made from goat's skin or cow hide. Its decorated with charcoal, red ochre, cowrie shells and beads. Its made and worn by girls during puberty after circumcision. Once the girls get married, they stop wearing nkila and start wearing logesana - A Skirt of goat's skin decorated with beads, cowrie shells and worn by married women only. The nkila was also used in certain rites. At times when people were in need of the help of a laisi, they would go to him and fasten the nkila around his neck. They would then start insulting him saying: "Ira ldia , meata ngolon niata , meata ntoki nindim ataasa, meitoki ira te kwe ltung'ana" ( "You are a dog ,you do not have any power whatsoever, you can't do anything. If we will be overcome by these enemies, you will be valueless in the eyes of people ".). They did that purposely to make him angry so that he would use all his power to help people in their needs. The collector, Dr. Jean Brown, came to Kenya in 1954. She was in charge of the Material Culture Project at the Institute of Anthropology and African Studies of the University of Nairobi and worked as an Ethnographer at the National Museums of Kenya until 1974. She researched on Samburu culture and the likelihood that the objects were acquired through donation or purchase is high.

Collection Information

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