The exact origin of the Samburu, who inhabit an area in Kenya's northern frontier, is unknown. What can be said is that the Samburu are one of several East African Nilotic peoples, who show traits of Hamitic acculturation. The men are tall and lean.
The warriors spend many hours braiding each other's hair into ever longer strands that fall evenly down their backs. They also smear red ochre mixed with animal fat over their hair. They wear beaded decorations across their foreheads, often entwined with their braided hair. All warriors wear ivory earplugs in the stretched holes in their earlobes.
The Samburu Woman
Many married women wear thin, metal ornamental crosses at the front of their beaded headbands. Although this decoration serves no purpose other than adornment, it would appear to have derived from the elaborate Christian crosses of Ethiopia. Some of the warriors also wear smaller versions of these crosses hanging from the visors of their headdresses.
Some women wear long beaded earrings which, in addition to the small circular brass earrings, denote married status. These are made of hide oversewn with beads and are threaded through the large holes in the earlobes made shortly before marriage.
Their strands of beads are given to them by the warrior admirers of their girlhood or more recently by their husbands.
Color photos and text from the book African Warrior the Samburu, Thomasin Magor, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1994.