Having finsihed crafting and fitting the wooden shaft, and several weeks after work initially commenced on this spear, Loura begins working on a spearhead cover (akuroru). At first he is assisted by his wife Nakiru, and later by a passing friend, Ekale. They remove a piece of cow hide that had been buried the evening before to make it moist and supple, cut strips from it and begin bending, shaping and beating it. A piece of metal wire is bound tightly around the tip. This bound wire section serves as a place to grip between the owner’s toes, for quick removal of the cover as and when necessary. When almost complete, the akuroru is painted with red ochre, to give it a red sheen.
Rights ownerSamuel Frederick Derbyshire
ParticipantsLoura Echuman Ekaale, Margaret Nakiru Lopwenya , Ekale Anam Lomekiniya
Techniques of productionCarved, Beaten, Cut-cut
MaterialsWood-persimmon (Diospyros scabra)
Cultural context/eventGeneral production
Social group settingCraftspeople working together
TemporalityThe construction of spears has long been an integral component of daily life in Turkana, and a skill that most adult men possess. In the deeper past, spears would have been constructed on a far more regular basis, up until the 1960s-70s most men would carry two spears on their person when moving about the landscape. In more recent years, the construction of spears has become less common in line with their declining ubiquity in everyday mundane activities (and the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons). Nevertheless, they remain integral to asapan, and a variety of other important rituals and ceremonies. The metal spear components utilised on this occasion were purchased from Lodwar and probably initially came from Samburu communities in Maralal. Far from reflecting any recent transformation in the production of spears in Turkana, this articulates a long history of trade and exchange with external, metal producing communities. Throughout history, Turkana communities have never produced metal locally, relying instead on variety of neighbouring populations for this commodity. Moreover, the purchase of spear heads and bases from Lodwar has long been a common activity, most probably dating back to Lodwar’s emergence as a regional administrative centre during the early colonial era. Spearhead covers are extremely uncommon in the present era, although many possess the ability to make them.
Date of creation2020-04-19