Robert E. Daniels
A paper presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society,
February 22, 1979, Memphis, Tennessee.
This paper examines how the Kipsigis of Kenya perceive and order their spatial environment at the levels of region, community, homestead, and household. Taking domestic celebrations as an example, it is argued that a significant component of the meaning of ritual gatherings derives from the ways in which the spatial arrangement of participants plays upon the ordinary associations of age and sex groupings with various public and private spaces.

I would like to introduce the topic of spatial patterns among the Kipsigis with a riddle. But first I must say a few words about the Kipsigis and about their riddles.

The Kipsigis are the largest of the Kalenjin-speaking groups in Kenya.1 Their home area, now organized as Kericho District, lies on the fertile western slopes of the Mau Narok highlands. In the nineteenth century the Kipsigis were organized on a tribal level with an economy based on cattle and elusine millet. The fertility of the area allowed many of the standard features of East African pastoralism (male and female initiations, age-sets, large bridewealth payments, a high rate of polygyny, leviratic marriage, woman marriage, etc.) to be combined with relatively dense permanent settlements in the core area.

During the twentieth century the Kipsigis have been transformed under colonial and independent administrations, and like other highland groups, have experienced a six-fold increase in population, from less than 100,000 to well over half a million. Millet is still grown for domestic purposes in many areas, but has long been oveshadowed by extensive maize cultivation both for subsistence and as a cash crop. Modern mixed farming is becoming widespread and virtually all men have had some experience with wage labor. Thanks, however, to a large land base which has compensated for much of the population expansion, the Kipsigis still practice pastoralism to an appreciable degree and the patterns of daily life in the rural communities of dispersed homesteads preserve many continuities with earlier times (Daniels 1980).

Thus, for example, while a large proportion of older children attend school, most come home to parents, younger siblings, and playmates who have had little or no education. Schools have introduced sports such as soccer and track, but at home children's pastimes continue to follow traditional forms. Boys and girls have a number of traditional games to while away a rainy afternoon or amuse themselves when not busy caring for the younger children or fetching for mother, and father and his pals are not around the homestead. But the most fun, of course, is on those moonlit evenings when several playmates sleep over together in one of their grandmothers' houses. After supper the children run around outside in the dark playing games like "monster" (Chemosit) or Ng'walo, the lame old man who tries to grab a bride.2 Finally they settle down inside on the floor next to the hearth. Various hand games may follow if grandmother's patience can bear it, but this is really the best time for playing riddles.


A good riddle, I suggest, is one in which the listener cannot guess, but immediately 'gets' on hearing the answer. In other words, it first frustrates and then surprises the listener by posing a metaphor which, because of the connotations of ordinary everyday speech, is not immediately available to consciousness, but is nonetheless implicit in a system of shared meanings. Riddles have thus been of particular interest to ethnographers and folklorists for a long time.

Most adult Kipsigis, however, disdain such things. Indeed the word for riddles,tanguchik [a glossary of Kipsigis terms follows the text], is derived from the verb meaning "to do something without object, thoughtlessly, futilely" (Orchardson 1961:50). When one leaves childhood and is transformed by elaborate, prolonged, and painful initiation to adult status, one leaves behind the behavioral patterns associated with childhood, including those things characterized as play. Thus I never met men spontaneously asking each other riddles, although I once chanced upon two old men speaking in riddles, holding a conversation which which left my two companions (who were then serving as my interpreters and language teachers) as lost as I was. Moreover, riddles are easy enough to collect from adults outside normal social contexts. Privately many men admire the type of wit found in riddles and the form parallels rather closely certain question/answer patterns used in ritualized instruction during initiations. It would be a mistake, therefore, to accept adult public opinion concerning riddles at face value.

The specific riddle I wish to discuss happens to come, not from the Kipsigis, but from the Pokot or "Suk" on the northern edge of the Kalenjin cluster, and was collected by the District Commissioner, Mervyn Beech, around 1910. Pokot and Kipsigis are generally classified as distinct languages but are closely related; in this instance, at least, all of the words in the riddle to be discussed have direct cognates in Kipsigis. More significantly, a Kipsigis, or indeed anyone from the East African cattle area would understand the allusion made in the riddle.

In posing a riddle the questioner describes something which is understood to be a metaphorical image, and the partner must guess its literal referent. Some riddles are reasonably straightforward, for example "all white cows, red bull" for which the answer is "teeth and tongue". Others strike the western reader as a bit obscure, for example "I lingered on the road" for which the answer is "the moon". The riddle I wish to focus on is Mit-o kwan mu, "there are entrails in the stomach", i.e. "what is like a stomach or belly full of entrails?" The answer is ko ole mi bich, "a house where there are men" (Beech 1911:45).

The phrase "a stomach full of entrails" refers to a recurrent image in pastoral life: at each slaughter of a domestic animal) ox, cow, sheep or goat) there is a scrutiny of the intestines and organs for signs that it is propitious to continue with the event being celebrated -- a process combining what we might describe as a health inspection and a reading of omens.3


123RF stock photos                           

The other image given by the answer, a house full of men, requires some explanation of social and spatial categories among East African pastoralists.4 Although metaphors do not unravel in neat linear fashion, I will first consider the meaning of the word ko, "house", in some detail, and then briefly discuss the word bich, translated here as "men".

The Spatial Organization of Homesteads

A typical Kipsigis homestead of traditional design contains a number of structures and labelled spatial features. ko (or kot in the definite form) can be used to refer to various buildings, but most generally means the largest structure, kot ap mosop, the house built for each married woman. Polygynous or extended homesteads thus have two or more korin (the indefinite plural form). A few yards outside the door of the kot ap mosop is the mabwaita, a sheaf of tall thin branches tied about a post in the ground. Mabwaita can be glossed as "the family altar." It is renewed with fronds from several sacred plants at ceremonies involving family members, and becomes the focal point of many domestic ritual activities. Associated with most houses is a smaller structure, a granary (choget), or a combined goat house and storage shed. Many women maintain a small fenced garden (kabungut) close to their houses where they grow a variety of greens, calabashes, and so forth, manured by the sheep and goat dung swept out of the main house each morning. A bit farther from the house, and in a different place each year, each married woman traditionally grew her personal patch of millet in the imbaret (cultivated plot) ap mosop (women sometimes plant these together in order to minimize fencing but nonetheless observe separate plots). Finally there is a common field over which the husband has authority, the imbaret ap soi, formerly planted in millet but now used for maize and occasionally other cash crops (Peristiany 1939:130).

A Single Household Homestead

In the past many homesteads had another sort of house, a singroina, or bachelors' hut, where unmarried young men and older boys slept, often with their teenage girlfriends.5 The British colonial administration appreciated neither the warrior ethos nor the sexual mores associated with the singroina and did an effective job of supressing it as a social institution. Still today, however, older sons on a homestead will have a separate house, usually small and quite plain, for from adolescence onward children cannot sleep in the same house as the parent of the opposite sex, and men cannot sleep in the same house with members of age-sets other than their own.

Some of the larger homesteads contain another small house which serves as a private bedroom for the elder and a place apart from his wives' houses where he can entertain his friends and put up male visitors overnight. Called the kaptich, or cattle hut, this building is often used to house the calves at night and is usually built near the kraal (biut) where the rest of the herd are penned up at dark.

The other significant feature of the homestead is the kok, ideally a small mound with good drainage and a tree or two for shade.6 It is here that men sit to discuss local news, receive visitors, and in good weather are served their daytime meals and refreshments by the women and children. Women and girls do not linger near the kok and boys are tolerated on the understanding that they remain quiet and are available to fetch stools, water, tobacco, or whatever the men require. If the men wish to discuss adult matters boys are sent off to check on the animals or perform some other chore.

Domestic spatial categories are inseparable from family organization, and while not wishing to plunge too deeply into a discussion of Kipsigis kinship, I must point out that the word ko in the answer to the riddle is generally used to refer to both the house as a structure and the social entity, the household composed of a married woman and her children. This is the house of the 'house-property complex.' A man with two wives has two houses, i.e. dependent households, but is not a member of either. The house is the social unit to which garden space and living space are allotted and particular cows are assigned from the husband's herd. In subsequent years major expenses, such as bridewealth, are accounted for by house and after an elder's death his property is divided first by houses, i.e. sets of full brothers, and then among the heirs within each house. When it is necessary to specify that people are full, rather than half siblings, they are spoken of as having shared the same breast, or being from one womb, or from one house.

Further understanding of the normal association of the kot ap mosop with women, and thus the significance of the phrase "a house where there are men" can be gained by an examination of the wider spatial concepts of community and ecological zone.

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 discussion7 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.

Regional Spatial Categories

The several local variants of Kalenjin culture are each based on a similar ecological adaptation maintaining a dispersed but relatively dense population spread over the various zones between high forest and low plains with a mixed economy of millet and pastoralism. Almost all the various Kalenjin groups occupy land masses with a dominant overall slope such that within any one tribal area higher land generally lies in a single direction, though the cardinal direction of higher land is different in different groups. Altitude variations are critical while compass directions are not, and the language does not contain terms for north or south (Orchardson 1961:3). The Kalenjin do, however, distinguish east and west, with the east, kong' asis (the eye of the sun) having significance in ritual contexts. But the terms used to indicate direction in everyday speech, in keeping with many other aspects of Kalenjin cognitive structure, are relative rather than absolute. Mosop refers to the higher elevations where, in the past, the bulk of the dependent population, gardens, and milk cattle were kept. Etymologically the term means "nothing but prosperity" (Orchardson 1961:3). Strictly speaking mosop and the other related terms refer to directions away from the speaker rather than to given locations, but in general usage are associated with zones of differing economic emphasis. Land at the same elevation or slightly higher than the speaker, particularly bush land opened by grazing and cultivation, is referred to as Embwen (en, in, and kwenet, the middle), while lower land used to produce grain is referred to as Waldai (ke-wal, to exchange). Low land in the opposite direction from Mosop is called Soin, from soi/soito, grasslands (Huntingford 1935:133; Orchardson 1961:2-3). Here in the past homesteads were fewer and open grazing areas with cattle camps more frequent. Here men also built huts for themselves and their calves. The term kaptich literally means the house of, or the place of cattle, but in different contexts the meaning can vary from a specific hut to the general area in which cattle predominate.

The Kipsigis Region

Above Mosop to the east lay high forest occupied by small bands of Kalenjin-speaking hunters and gatherers (Okiek or "Dorobo"), while beyond the lowlands to the north, west, and south were traditionally hostile Luo, Gusii, and Maasai peoples. Thus a typical homestead with its kot ap mosop and its kaptich and singroina encodes on the familial level the basic polarity between Mosop on the one hand with associations of fertility, refuge, dependency, women, children, agriculture, and domestic rituals of birth, marriage, etc., and kaptich or Soin on the other hand with associations of pastoralism, adventure, danger, independence, and romance, where the concerns of men are paramount. Thus also the woman's field is called imbaret ap mosop and the man's imbaret ap soi though both are to be found on any one homestead. It is also interesting to note that while female initiates are secluded in a special room in a kot ap mosop (the somet, Orchardson 1961:88), male initiates are isolated in a separate crude hut, the menjet (or menjo) built in the bush away from any homestead. Men who wish to refer to a menjo while at a homestead where they might be overheard by women or children usually use the euphemism kaptich.

Indoor Space

Having sketched the structure of countryside and homestead, let us turn briefly to the kot ap mosop itself. A round mud hut with a thatch roof, permeated with the smell of wood smoke and goat urine may not appeal to foreign sensibilities, but the typical example of a kot ap mosop is a skillful rendering of a complex and highly evolved design, efficient, comfortable, and hygienic in its own fashion. Each of the scores of separate pieces and furnishings has its own name and many are associated with the particular statuses and activities of its occupants. At the apex of the roof, for example, is the kimonjogut (Peristiany 1939:157; Orchardson 1961:87), a wooden post sticking up like a lightning rod. Often carved in geometric patterns, and frequently phallic in appearance (cf. Johnson 1902:868; Hollis 1909:15), it represents the man of the house, and is removed upon his death. In contrast the word toloch/toloita, the interior post which supports the primary attic beam, is used metaphorically for the woman of the house upon whom the social unit depends.8

Most traditional Kipsigis houses consisted of one circular room undivided by interior walls.9 Essentially this room serves as a married woman's bedroom, kitchen, and nursery; hence the norms requiring older children to sleep elsewhere and the tendency of the husband, even if he sleeps in the kot ap mosop, to spend the daytime hours outside. When one crosses the threshold one moves from public to private space. Men do not enter the houses of other men's wives unless invited in by a man of the homestead. Those who ignore this convention do so at their own risk.10

Whether a man spends every night in a particular kot ap mosop, divides his time between two or more wives (who may be on the same homestead or miles apart), or has a separate kaptich, he still has a bed and personal space in the house. Only age-mates are allowed to sit on his bed, traditionally a solid platform plastered into the adjoining wall and floor. Over his bed are kept his few personal possessions, including eating utensils, which must not be touched by children. Children are taught from a very early age that this area of the house is out-of-bounds.11

Interior Space

The door is always located on the downhill side of the house, though never directly on the east-west axis, and the man's bed is on the western side of the room, the side toward Soin (Orchardson 1961:84). This area is called koima after the hearth stones (koi, stone; ma, fire). Ma, or mat, fire, is used metaphorically for each of the three dimensions of Kipsigis society in which men find a sense of shared fate: agnates address each other as manyun, "my fire", and a man who has a son "has fire", additionally in the age-set system of the closely related Nandi, the sub-sets of men initiated more or less contemporaneously are called fires (mostinwek) (Huntingford 1953:58). Neighbors are described as "those who share fire" which they literally do. Conversely the Kipsigis equivalent of "damn you" is mein ma, "may your fire die". The man's area inside the house is thus associated with his agnates, age-mates, and close friends, in other words those people whose social identities are most similar to his own.

To the other side of the doorway, the eastern side of the room, toward Mosop, is the area known as injor. Here is the woman's bed. Infants and toddlers sleep with their mothers while older preadolescent children sleep on a skin on the floor next to her bed. Outside, the mabwaita is placed to the east of the door and thus signals which side of the interior space is injor.

While koima is associated with the husband's agnates, injor is associated with his affines. Whenever the men of the wife's natal family or clan are guests in the house they are seated in injor, as are the husband's sister's husbands, daughters' husbands and their kinsmen. Most houses are arranged with the man's bed closer to the door such that the floor space on the injor side is greater than on koima as indeed affinal relatives greatly outnumber agnatic ones among networks of neighbors.12

The association of injor with in-laws is found in a number of verbal expressions and rituals. Many houses in the past had a small open window in injor. At times wild civet cats would enter by this window at night hunting rats in the attic granary. This unincorporated but not unwelcome visitor who was attracted to the house and gained access through injor was nicknamed sandet, "the suitor" i.e. brother-in-law or son-in-law (in the sense of wife-receiver, i.e. "sister's husband" or "daughter's husband"). Similarly, some clans built and then blocked off a door on the east side known as kurg' ap san (the door of the brother-in-law) which was broken open for certain rituals (Orchardson 1961:53).

Kipsigis clans are grouped into four non-exogamous phratries or boriosiek. Membership is normally determined patrilineally, but in the past when one's destiny was tied to one's boriet, a man who had suffered many setbacks might hold a ceremony to place future sons in a boriet other than his own. During the ceremony to do this, the father sat in injor while the guests sat in koima, an inversion of ordinary spatial patterns which dramatized the association of injor with givers, and koima with receivers of the right to filiate the sons of the house (Peristiany 1939:163).

Age-Sex Categories

The above, I hope, gives some appreciation for the complex connotations of the word ko, house, in the answer to the riddle. Having already described many of the aspects of Kipsigis social organization in passing, I will discuss the other key word in the answer, bich, more briefly.

Although translated in the context of the riddle as "men", bich or bik (in the singular chi or chito) literally means people (or person). In certain grammatical contexts, for example the verb kotunji (ko-tun + chi), "to marry someone", the word means a woman (in Kalenjin men "marry" and women "are married"). At other times chi or bich is used when the referent is a child or children. The Kalenjin language does not, however, simply divide adults into men and women, but uses four words which emphasize the relationship between age and social role. Senior men, or "elders", are boisiek, from the verb ke-boi, "to decide". Young men are murenik. Usually translated as "warriors", this term derives from the verb meaning "to place something horizontally", a reference to their tendency to be active along the frontiers with enemy tribes, that is in Soin. Women of child-bearing age, all of whom traditionally were married, are kwonyik, from ke-kwony, "to cook". Old women are chebiosok, derived from chep-, the female prefix, and yos, which means "old".

In addressing people, deference is conveyed by using the senior terms boisiek and chebiosok while the term kwonyik is avoided. Politeness is also expressed by use of the plural forms, particularly with men. Young men are always addressed as murenik even when encountered singly, and when arriving at a homestead at which the man is absent one respectfully asks his wife not "where is the elder?" but "where are the people?" (Ngoro bik?). Thus there is a sense in which men are properly identified with, and found in, groups.

Furthermore, in most ordinary conversation the word bich has the restricted meaning "men". If one asks, for example, how many bik live in a local area one is told the number of independent male homestead heads. The term kapchi, a contraction of kot ap chi, "the house of a person", refers on a variety of levels to the descendants and dependents of a common ancestor or elder. In contrast to this use of /bik/bich, the term for children, logok, is broadened to include all dependents, and especially women and children. When greeting an adult, one first asks how they are, using the second person plural (Ochamege?) and then inquires about their "children" (Chamege lagok?). Further, the most common term by which a husband addresses his wife is "children" (lagochu, the vocative being the same form as the demonstrative "these children"). In all but the most intimate domestic contexts, or those involving only young people, the primary spatial differentiation of behavior is between men, bich, and others, logok.

When Men Fill Houses

Returning to the riddle, it simply remains to be pointed out that although a man may be in his house in the evening, or a few men may gather indoors on a rainy day, men (bik), that is homestead heads, only gather as a social entity and take over a woman's house, both koima and injor, on special occasions: ceremonies to bless children, the many stages of arranging and sealing marriages, celebrations at the beginning and end of initiations, and so forth. At all such occasions beer is served in a large pot set in the floor and the room is packed with male kith and kin from near and far. The domestic living space is usurped, and women and children are displaced to the back room, if there is one, or to another house on the homestead where they visit with each other while occupied with the sizable task of serving a houseful of men with a constant flow of beer and the full range of Kipsigis foods. Such parties can last for several hours or several days. At major events the food consumed in a day equals at least a month's normal consumption for the household; as a proportion of family resources the expense of an initiation or marriage party compares with an American wedding.

Clearly such propitious events occur more frequently in those "houses" in which there are many "people", i.e. agnatically extended families containing many brothers and sons. But I think the answer to the riddle should also be taken more literally. At one wedding celebration I attended, the guest of honor, the father of the bride, reprimanded me for chatting: "Robert, be quiet! We're not here to talk, we're here to eat!".


elders' beer party, male initiation

The meaning of such ritual gatherings derives in part from the ways in which ordinary associations of status and space are inverted. Men crowd into "the house of prosperity" of a private family and fill their intestines just as surely as entrails had packed the abdomen of the animal brought from "the place of cattle" and sacrificed next to the mabwaita just outside the door. The support of the domestic household within a network of agnation and affiliation, defined in terms of cattle, is dramatized by turning spatial categories inside-out. When Soin and Mosop are brought together, the community exists inside the house.


Having started with a children's riddle, I would like to end with an adult saying. Some of these, like the expression "sour grapes" in our culture, are drawn from the punch lines of well known moral tales. Others are easily understood adages, for example "don't flavor the milk gourd before the cow produces" (mat i sut sotet ko tomo koi teta). Those sayings which hold the most interest for me are the ones which do not uphold the values of the social system as much as make poignant comment on the predicaments of individuals caught up in it. For example, on the tendency of sons to covet their father's property there is the saying "feed a person, get an eye" (kibai chi, kosich kong').

I hope I have conveyed enough of the specific spatial terms and the ways in which they are associated with social dynamics to give you an appreciation of these words of wisdom from the Kipsigis: "one looks after both koima and injor, yet there comes a time when one looks after injor alone" (kitobe koima ak injor ta gai ketop injor inegan). I understand this to say that in early married life a man establishes himself as a separate part of his natal family and a self-supporting individual in his community but inevitably his actions come to be dominated by the need to provide for his sons and daughters and that part of his identity which will outlive his immediate self through them. For all its cultural specificity, it is, perhaps, a very general comment.

kraal, cattle yard
elders (older men)
boriet / boriosiek
exogamous phratry or "regiment"
old women
chi, chito / bich, bik
person / people
settled area at same altitude
large land area, "country"
imbarekot ap mosop
household millet plot
imbaret ap soi
homestead millet or maize plot
eastern side of room
vegetable garden
the house of (descendants of)
cattle hut (elder's hut)
apical roof post
kirwogindet / kirwogik
adjudicator, "chief"
ko, kot / korin, korik
house / houses
western side of room
kong' asis
the east
men's sitting place outdoors
kokwet / kokwotinwek
neighborhood, primary community
local region
kokot ap mosop
married woman's house
ma, mat / mostinwek
fire / fires
family altar
menjo, menjet
boys' initiation hut
higher, fertile land
young men
oret / ortinwek
descent category, "clan"
sister's husband
bachelors' hut
lower grasslands, open grazing
girls' initiation room
toloch (talach), toloita
support post in house
lower land, extensively farmed

1 Research was conducted among the Kipsigis from August 1965 to March 1968 and during June 1972, supported by a grant from The National Science Foundation, by The Cross-Cultural Study of Ethnocentrism Project, and by The Child Development Research Unit of the University of Nairobi. The latter two projects were funded by The Carnegie Corporation of New York. I also wish to thank Charles C. Ng'elechei for sharing with me his knowledge and appreciation of Kipsigis riddles and sayings.

2 In this game one buy plays the role of Ng'walo while the other children line up by age, the oldest boy and girl being father and mother and the rest their children. Each of the girls is asked if she wants to marry Ng'walo and each refuses. When Ng'walo comes limping over to demand a bride for a debt he is owed, the mother tells him to take the one behind her. Ng'walo then does down the line trying to drag off each girl as she clings to the larger child in from of her and repeats the mother's words. One girl, describing the game in a school essay, added "I didn't want to be the last irl when this game was played - it was done in darkness and I would cry thinking it was true."

3 For a discussion of the non-differentiation of 'practical' and 'ritualized' aspects of East African animal husbandry see Schneider, 1957.

4 European values (and furniture) have led many families to switch from round to rectangular houses. Land enclosure, which first appeared in 1930, was virtually total by the 1950s (Manners 1967, Pilgrim 1961). Nonetheless, this intrusive spatial order generally complements rather than competes with pre-existing patterns. I have therefore limited this paper to an analysis of traditional (and persisting) spatial and social forms, leaving the discussion of modern changes to a later date.

5 Beech reported in 1911 that amongthe Pokot "unmarried men sleep outside.but unmarried girls have a house to themselves (1911:7).

6 Despite differences in homestead size, the following description of a Dodoth elder suggests many parallels with the Kipsigis data:
"Lopore spent a good deal of time at home. He would sit amid a pile of boulders near his dwelling. This was his etem. his sitting place. All households have one because each court or group of courts, each house within the uphill portion of a dwelling's walls, is the place of a woman; and the lower portion is for cattle. The man who owns it all has no place inside, so sits outside and oversees it all (Thomas1965:17).

7 In dispute hearings one or two highly respected elders from the community or from the surrounding area may be invited to lead the meeting, directing the discussion when necessary and pronouncing the concensus opinion when it is reached. Such adjudicators (kirwogik) represent the extent of traditional civil authority.

8 Marriage between an old woman, who lacks sons, and a young woman, who is to provide heirs for the house is called kotunji toloch, to marry someone as a house post (see my paper "A Kipsigis Cattle Dispute"). Hollis (1909:135) lists a Nandi riddle "I have a hundred children and they all suckle me" for which the answer is toloita ak kureyuek, the center post and the roof poles. Huntingford reports that the Kamwaike clan is believed by the Nandi to be able to cause menorrhagia in women and hence have the nickname Kapkipchartalach, those who bleed the center post, "talach being applied to a woman as the mainstay of the home" (Huntingford 1963:177).

9 Intriguing differences area found among the closely related Nandi. Traditionally, their houses usually had two rooms, the living room, koiimaut, entered by the front door, kurget ap serem, and the back room, injorut, for sheep, goats, and calves, with a separate entrance, the kurget ap injor (Hollis 1909:13; Huntingford 1953:5). Unfortunately the sources do not explain the social meanings of Nandi private space.

10 I know a case in which a man arriving home drunk one night entered his dimly lit house to find a man talking with his wife. He immediately set upon the stranger with a cattle stick. The visitor proved to be a 65 year old clansman of his wife (a "father-in-law") from a nearby community. While the kokwet meeting held the attacker responsible, and decided he should pay the victim's hospital bill, his inexcusable mistake was nevertheless considered by most as quite understandable.

11 Many men reported that in the past men passed food to small children, not by hand, but on the instep of a foot. Although avoidance patterns have been relaxed in recent decades, children still generally remain beyond reach of men, and fathers rarely take hold of their children except to show them off to visitors, to punish them, or to carry them when they are sick (as in the 14th photo in the portrait gallery).

12 For a discussion of the dynamics which produce higher local densities of affines than agnates, see my paper "Residence Rules and Residence Patterns in a Kipsigis Community".
Beech, Mervyn W. H.
1911 The Suk: Their language and folklore. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Daniels, Robert E.
1980 Pastoral values among vulnerable peasants: can the Kipsigis of Kenya keep the home fires burning? In: Predicting sociocultural change, Susan Abbott and John van Willigen, eds. Southern Anthropological Society Proceedings No. 13. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. pp. 57-75.

Hollis, A. C.
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