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The Kipsigis



The Kalenjin number 1,200,000 and the Kipsigis are the largest sub group with 470,000 members. They live on the western Highlands at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,000 metres.

The climate is cool, the rainfall good, and the land fertile. The Kipsigis are cultivators of maize, wheat, pyrethrum, and tea. Traditionally the land belonged to the group and the individual had the right to cultivate it. He did not however own it and therefore there was no question of selling it. The Kipsigis are also cattle owners, and the elders like to talk about the raids between Maasai and Kipsigis. But all this belongs to the past they have adapted readily to die new economic realities. The Kipsigis family is focused around the homestead. Several of these homesteads form a "kokuet"; and again several of the kokuets a central unity run by three chiefs, military, administrative and ritual. The homestead usually consists of a couple of houses and an adequate number of granaries.

The homestead is situated either on or within the edge of the fields. The kokuet is a kind of economic cooperative, which might give the necessary assistance to a helpless family. The Kipsigis are divided into fourteen exogamous patrilineal clans or "ortinwek". The age-set system is used and the most important ceremony is of course die circumcision.



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