Documenting narrations of personal experiences of the process of initiation into manhood in Terik language of Kenya


Documenting narrations of personal experiences of the process of initiation into manhood in Terik language of Kenya

Language: Terik (ISO639-3:tec)
Depositor: Benson Oduor Ojwang
Location: Kenya
Deposit Id: 0391
Grant id: SG0246
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Group represented

Terik is spoken in parts of Nandi South District of Kenya and Vihiga District in Kenya. The speakers of Terik are referred to by their Luo neighbours as the Nyang’ori while thy refer to themselves and their language variously as Terik,Terikin,Terikek or Terikintet. However, Terik is the more common and official name that is also adopted by ethnologue. Terik belongs to the Kalenjin group of languages which is in the Southern Nilotic branch.

Terik speakers neighbour the Luo who speak Dholuo to the South, Nandi speakers to the East, and speakers of the Lulogooli dialect of Luhya to the North. These three groups have had varying degrees of influence on Terik including total linguistic and cultural assimilation of some Terik. The annual traditional practice of male initiation through circumcision forms the core of Terik culture especially the age-group system but is in danger of being eclipsed by modern modes of circumcision and initiation.

Due to the language contact through trade, Christian religious activities, intermarriage and education, some Terik speakers have become multilingual and can switch easily between Terik, Nandi, Dholuo (Luo), Luhya and Kiswahili (the national lingua franca). The Nandi have had the greatest influence on Terik because the Luhya have exerted pressure on Terik settlements due to overpopulation thereby pushing most Terik speakers into the neighbouring Nandi District which is less densely populated. As a result, among the Terik aged under 30 years, 67% are mixed speakers of Terik and Nandi. In Nandi District, the Terik have been exposed to Nandi language and culture which is significantly different from theirs. Considerable numbers of Teriks have gradually adopted Nandi culture and shifted to Nandi language in order to be accepted and to get land rights so that the Nandi do not consider them as outsiders. UNESCO (2008)reports that the closer a Terik lives to the Nandi territory, the less likely he or she is to be a mixed speaker of Terik and Nandi and the more likely he or she is to be a Nandi-ized speaker. There are also small pockets of speakers distributed in parts of Rift Valley province such as Chemase, Turbo, Kobujjoi and Chepkoima. The speakers who are dispersed from the cradle of Terik slowly lose their ability to comprehend the language.



Language information
Terik is classified in the UNESCO Red Book of Extinct and Endangered Languages as a language in danger of disappearing because the youngest speakers of the language have either reached or passed middle age. Among the Terik aged under 30 years, 67% are mixed speakers of Terik and Nandi. This is a clear sign of gradual assimilation of Terik speakers by Nandi speakers. The Nandi influence on Terik social structure started in the 1920s and is likely to lead to the disappearance of Terik as a distinct language and culture.

Deposit contents
This project will document audio and video episodes of narrations based on the process of male initiation among the Terik of Kenya. Terik is a Kalenjin (Nilotic) language spoken by some 20,000 people. Initiation entails one month of seclusion and mentorship whereby boys are taught diverse aspects of Terik way of life and cultural identity. However, this process is threatened by modern alternative rights of passage through hospital and church oriented options. Linguistic and cultural assimilation by the Nandi, Luhya and Luo neighbours has precipitated systematic loss of Terik culture and identity. Terik youth may not experience the folk wisdom transmitted intergenerationally during initiation.

Deposit history

Speakers of Terik have maintained a strong tradition of male circumcision as a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. The audacity to undergo the rigours of initiation is therefore considered a virtue that guarantees the initiate admission into adult life. During seclusion, the recuperating initiates are mentored into adult life through stories and acts of stoicism, heroism, environmental conservation, health and herbs, perseverance and responsibility. We consider this as a critical life-changing experience in which a great deal of folk wisdom is imparted. This is pivotal for the survival of the language and of the Terik ethnolinguistic identity because the initiates are taught how to talk and reason about life,culture and society by competent adult speakers of their language.

The tradition is under threat by modern medicine and government policies that promote alternative rites of initiation through the hospital and future Terik generations may not have the exposure and access to this experience and may only acquire this knowledge from secondary sources hence the need to document this process. This project is unique because it delves into the nexus between childhood and adulthood where a wealth of knowledge encoded in the peoples’ ethnolinguistic resources are deliberately transmitted. This not only enriches the adult vocabulary but also ensures continuity and language maintenance. The age gap between initiates and elderly mentors can reveal signs of changes in perceptions of concepts (if any )and the various ways of perceiving ideas in an age-graded format. This will have lessons for future Terik ethnolinguistic vitality studies.



Other information

In the absence of written materials to teach Terik language, a group of grandmothers (Kogo) from Terik localities have begun volunteering as Terik language teachers of children from Kindergarten to class 3 in some seven primary schools where the head teachers prepare a lesson plan for the grandmothers to follow. The depositor feels that the efforts of teaching Terik can be supplemented with materials on the socio-cultural knowledge that may emerge from the project's data on initiation processes. Such data can contribute towards developing vocabulary as a basis for written texts in form of story books. The volunteer teachers will be inducted and facilitated with better communication skills and pedagogical skills because they are largely semi literate. This will be done with the aid of literate interpreters drawn from the bilingual literate consultants from the same community.

Residents of Terik localities have formed further community initiatives to try and articulate their goals and champion their interests. Their small numbers (about 20,000) has motivated them to stand up for self advancement as a distinct group that is not keen to live in the shadows of its influential neighbours. They have formed the Terik Council of Elders, a Community Based Organization to act as a lobby group to sensitize interest groups on their community initiatives.



Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the corpus, please cite the corpus in this way:

Ojwang, Benson Oduor. 2016.Documenting narrations of personal experiences of the process of initiation into manhood in Terik language of Kenya. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI1032008. Accessed on [insert date here].



Status

Collection online
Resources online and curated

Depositor

Benson Oduor Ojwang
Affiliation: MASENO UNIVERSITY, KENYA

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2018 December 18 to 2018 December 18
Deposit hits:2
Downloaded files
Without statistics


Showing 1 - 10 of 71 Items


In this video, Alfayo compares the original and stringent traditional practice that his age group underwent and the modern practice that is heavily influenced by Luo, Nandi and Luhya neighbours as well as Christian practice. Changes in Christian alternative initiation and marriage processes.

Recorded on: 2016-02-11




The muthirioth is a middle-aged adult male who hands over the sinendet to the pre-initiates during the eseh public dance. After the dance, they guard the pre-initiates in their secret hut and educate them about adult life.

Recorded on: 2016-02-11




The changes accompanying modern Christian practices are described in contrast to the old practices and customs that guided family life an dcommunity choices

Recorded on: 2018-07-06




The coming of the European settlers and colonial government and the impact and changes it had on the Terik way of life is presented. The changes they caused in the terik patterns of settlement and eating habits are described

Recorded on: 2018-08-10




Presents community's desirable character building among the youth. This is done through narration of human-animal intercation. This narration uses the character of the monkey to teach the youth the value of honesty and collective responsibility

Recorded on: 2018-06-03




Ritual dance performed in public by initiates who are still in seclusion. They emerge to prove to their relatives that they survived circumcision but they are covered in traditional dress and they use nicknames

Recorded on: 2014-12-14




Ritual dance performed in public by initiates who are still in seclusion. They emerge to prove to their relatives that they survived circumcision but they are covered in traditional dress and they use nicknames

Recorded on: 2014-12-22




Ritual dance performed in public by initiates who are still in seclusion. They emerge to prove to their relatives that they survived circumcision but they are covered in traditional dress and they use nicknames

Recorded on: 2015-12-18




The materials used for constructing traditional huts are described hee. Where to get them and how to prepare them. Specific trees and wood are used. Grass is cut and stacked to dry and used for roofing. Women smear the stick walls with cowdung

Recorded on: 2018-08-11

Keywords: Terik - English - NARRATION - DAVID TOO



The recommended ways of creating and maintaining wealth are explained. Wealth and possessions are menat for communal benefit and sharing at times of need is hihly recommended as a virtue

Recorded on: 2018-07-22