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Kipsigis people

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The Kipsigis are a pastoralist ethnic group in Kenya, speaking the Kipsigis language. Currently the community practices farming and they are famously known for growing Kenyan "green gold" - tea.

They are a sub-group of the Kalenjin and originated in the Sudan, moving into the Kenyan area in the 18th century. The current settlement of the Kipsigis is in the Rift Valley province of Kenya.

The Kipsigis are the most numerous of the Kalenjin.The latest Census population in Kenya put the kipsigis at 1.972 Million speakers accounting for 45% of all kalenjin speaking people.They occupy the higlands of Kericho stretching from Timboroa to Mara River in the south, the west of Mau Escarpment in the east to Kebeneti in the west. They also occupy, parts of Laikipia, Kitale, Nakuru, Narok, Trans Mara District, Eldoret and Nandi Hills.

The Kipsigis are considered to be the most exposed of the subtribes, though job opportunities and prominence diminished under Moi due to tribal jealousy and fear by Moi of the educated Kipsigis. Education standards fell and general development failed and the people were subjected to political manipulation.

It is not uncommon to find the Kipsigis living in abject poverty compared to the Tugen and Elgeyo tribes, Moi's favourite subtribes of the Kalenjin. The Kipsigis were used as the electoral vote generators, but real development and enrichment went to Tugen and Keiyo, though they are less educated and live in arid lands. The Nandis faced the Kipsigis' plight to a lesser extent.

Most Kipsigis are known for humility, hardship endurance and their strong emotional expressions. They are also characterised as loyal and courageous people. The kipsigis are among the most hospitable and courteous ethnic groups of Kenya.

Ever since, the Kipsigis has produced a large number of Kalenjin artistes including Joel Arap Kimeto and the late Kipchamba Arap Tapotuk among others.

Men undergo circumcision at an average age of 14 years. Traditionally, boys are housed in a 'menjo' next to a forest, or away from homesteads and fed there as they await their genitals to heal. During this period, they undergo three main traditional ceremonies:Kelab-eun,Tyenjinet and Kayaet.After the first ritual, the boys are allowed to go out in the forest for hunting using bows and wood-made-arrows. It's at this point in time that they master the use these weapons-essential in traditional warfare.

Christianity has seen the three stages phased out and replaced with biblical teachings in a number of areas in Kipsigis land although the location of 'menjo' remains unchanged. Female circumcision used to be practised but is currently losing ground to Christian beliefs and government legislation.

The Kipsigis are a part of the Highland Nilotes group of People. Apart from the Kalenjin, the other tribe in this group is the Tatonga of Western Tanzania. In their expansion Southwards, the Kipsigis and the Tatonga people reached presentday Shinyanga Area in Western Tanzania only for the former group to return to the Kericho area before some went back again going Southwards but could only settle at Angata Barigoi in Trans mara next to the Tanzanian Border

Although the Kipisigis are traditionally pastrolists, pressure on land and high population have forced them to live both as farmers and pastrolists. According to history they are also believed to be originally of cushitic lineage, language being a good example of how this might be conceivably be true.

Community Organization


The word kokwet, derived from kok, a man's sitting place, is used to signify the neighborhood or primary community of 20 to 40 interrelated homesteads. Adult brothers tend to establish homesteads in different areas and thus the dozens of exogamous clans (ortinwek) are dispersed and intermingled. On the other hand marriages tend to be between nearby families, and neighborhoods become small networks of direct and indirect affinal relationships with a few further connections of direct agnation or common clan membership.

Strictly speaking kokwet refers to the occasional gatherings of homestead heads and junior men to make group decisions, settle local disputes, reprimand wrong-doers, celebrate communal work harvests, etc. Kokwet meetings are held some distance from the personal space of any particular homestead yard. The meetings are open and attendance consists of those men who have, or take, an interest in the matter at hand. Whether the issue arises out of domestic problems or breaches of the norms of public conduct, individual interests are expressed in terms of kinship. Senior men, with manifold connections to their neighbors, represent themselves at most meetings and dominate discussion. Some of the younger men who attend do so because of their connections; others come along as friends of their age-mates. Younger men speak only when their opinions or knowledge of a case are solicited. Women and children may be called to kokwet meetings to give evidence but otherwise to not attend.

Streams and rivers hinder interaction and local networks tend to develop on particular hillsides or higher ground. Thus although the composition of the group is slightly different in each instance, the large majority of men present are always close neighbors. Hence communities are spatial entities although they are not ultimately defined by topographical features. Similarly, place names refer more often to a past event or a significant natural feature within a community than to a naturally demarcated area. The referents of Kipsigis place names are neither hierarchically arranged nor mutually exclusive. The term koret, used to refer to a coherent land area of a few communities, and emet, used to refer to a wider region or even the land controlled by a whole tribe, are likewise indefinite. In short, the key to understanding Kipsigis spatial concepts beyond the personal space of homesteads is the realization that they are defined in terms of nodes or focal points and lack true boundaries.

The Kipsigis Clans

Here is a list of Kipsigis clans. Kapcheboin kaptuiyek Kaparsingil kapbecherek Kapbororek Kapkolwolek Kipkendeek Kapbomoek Kapbarangweek kobasisek Kipsamaek kapsoenik kapmochoek kaptotonek kipintoek chepkesek kipbaek kipcheromek kipkeles kapkechwoek kapsoikoek narachek babasik Kapmagu

External links Edit

http://www.unc.edu/~rdaniels/papers/riddle/riddleglossary.html

Kipsigis community are agriculruralist and are one of the tea growing communities in Kenya apart from the kisii and kuikuyu communities they inhibit the larger Kericho district which has tea as the main economic activitie.

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