MLT01201

THE BORANA

 

Originally from Ethiopia, the Borana are the largest Galla speaking group in the country with a population of 34.000. Their name means "free" in Galla and traditionally distinguished pastoral Galla of Southern Ethiopia from the agricultural Galla of the highlands. The Borana left the Ethiopian highlands between 1000 and 1720 to form a new Kenyan group in The northern region of Kenya. They were forced abandon their cattle for camels, mainly because of the increasing desertification but also because of the bandits or shifta in the sixties. This change was particularly dramatic because the Galla considered camel herders as inferiors. The two highest possessions of the Borana are their stock and the concept of "nogya Borana" or peace of the Borana. This idea is the expression of their identity. Whatever the conflict in between Borana and non Borana, the unity of the tribe must prevail. The concept of unity has guaranteed the cohesion and survival of the Borana in the midst of feuds with non Borana. A Borana village traditionally is made of eight to ten huts, sometimes this number can reach forty. Every settlement has a titulary father who is the head of all the grouped households. Divided in clans, the Borana use a very particular system. A child belongs to an age-set of which he remains a member all his life. As a member of his age set, he must pass through different grades or "gada". Each gada lasts eight years, The last Gada are the elders who hold the political and Social power for eight years. After that they leave the Gada system and remain in their age-set but without any power of decision. The system is very equalitarian and no clan is of a higher lineage. The most important passage ceremonies are the circumcision and clitoridectomy. These are ancient practices pre-dating lslaim. An increasing number of Borana have turned to Islam but the majority remains content with their traditional beliefs. Water is the gift of heaven and grass the gift of earth - two gifts essential to pastoral people.

 

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