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The Borana

Oromos in northern Kenya first entered the region from southern Ethiopia during a major expansion in the late 10th century. They then differentiated into the cattle-keeping Borana and the camel-keeping Gabbra, Sakuye and Rendille.

The Borana speak Borana (or afaan Booranaa), a dialect of Oromo language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. Roughly over 7 million people identify as Boranas.


 The Borana calendar

It is believed that the Borana developed their own calendar around 300 BC. The Borana calendar is a lunar-stellar calendrical system, relying on astronomical observations of the moon in conjunction with seven particular stars or constellations. Borana Months (Stars/Lunar Phases) are Bittottessa (Triangulum), Camsa (Pleiades), Bufa (Aldebaran), Waxabajjii (Bellatrix), Obora Gudda (Central Orion: Saiph), Obora Dikka (Sirius), Birra (full Moon), Cikawa (gibbous Moon), Sadasaa (quarter Moon), Abrasa (large Crescent), Ammaji (medium Crescent), and Gurrandala (small Crescent).[5]


With so little water to be had, their beauty routine is an unusual one and involves anointing their locks with ghee (clarified butter) to keep hair smooth and shiny.

Girls are given the most striking hairdos and wear the crown of their heads shaved until they marry, at which point the hair is allowed to grow back while the rest is plaited into elaborate designs.

But hair isn’t the only part of life governed by the Borana’s centuries-old laws. The majority of rules apply to children who, for instance, aren’t allowed to call anyone older than themselves by their first names.

Those names are also governed by tribal law and are inspired by the time of day they were born. ‘Boys born in broad daylight are always called Guyo,’ explains photographer Eric Lafforgue who took these incredible pictures.

‘Some are named after a major event, a ceremony (Jil), a rainy season (Rob) or a dry season (Bon). Others are named after weekdays while a few get odd names such as Jaldes (ape), Funnan (nose), Gufu (tree stump) and Luke (lanky long legs).’

Whatever their parents decide to call them, all children are given a place in the social pecking order at birth – and once done, it is rare for it to be changed.


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