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The Teso

The Teso are Nilotic and speak a completely different language to Oluyia. Their customs are also different. For instance, they remove two lower teeth instead of four and six. They used to be hostile to strangers, and the Luhya say that no one could pass through Teso country without being killed. The Bakhayo have many things in common with the Teso because they live so close together. The Luhya of the west have borrowed a Teso word for greeting - it is ‘yoga’. The Teso live in the same region as the Luhya, in Busia. More...

The Luo are Nilotic and also speak a different language from the Luhya. Many of their customs of birth, initiation and death have been copied by the western Luhya: for instance, naming. The Luos name their children according to the time of day or of the year when they are born, or circumstances in which they are born. The following are examples:
Boy            Girl               Meaning
Otieno        Atieno            Night
Okinyi        Akinyi             Morning
Okumu       Akumu           After twins
Odoyo       Adoyo            During weeding

The Luhya of Busia have adopted this naming system.

Luos are survivors of ancient Egyptian culture

By Dr. Terence Okello Paito
After the Second World War, Henri Frunkfort, an eminent Egyptologist, suggested that there are distinct groups of Africans surviving today, whose ancestors can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. A couple of decades later, at a symposium on the peopling of ancient Egypt and the deciphering of the Meroitic script, C.A. Diop, resolved to carry out a comparison of the languages of ancient Egypt and those of contemporary Africa. More...

luo egyptians
Black Egyptians believed to be Luo. The Luhya also claim to have come from Egypt.
teso deadteso dead
Exhuming the dead: The Teso exhume their dead after ten years to perform a cleansing ceremony before permanently burying the skeleton.

Here are some typical Luhya names which are not borrowed: These names are predominantly Bukusu and Bunyala..

Boy                Girl               Meaning
Wafula            Nafula            During rain
Wasike           Nasike           During locusts
Wabwire         Nabwire         During Nightfall
Wanjala           Nanjala          During famine
Wekesa           Nekesa          During harvest
Wamalwa         Namalwa        Beer brewing

Names for twins: The first to come is called Balongo and the other Mukhwana. In western Luhyaland they are called Apiyo and Adongo, respectively. Again there is Luo influence in this.

Removing teeth: The Luos remove six teeth of the lower jaw at puberty. The western Luhya also remove six due to Luo influence. But the Luhya of the east remove four, if at all.

Tattooing: Luo women used to tattoo their abdomens and foreheads as well as the back. Some Luhya also did this.

suba artsuba legends
Abasuba rock art (left) at Kwitone, Mfangano Island and woman stands by Nyamghodho, a revered Suba legend. More details can be found on Abasuba museum


The Abasuba are bantu in origin and are closely related to the Kisii and Maragoli. They live on the islands of Rusinga and Mfangano. Although there are still significant number of native speakers, the suba language is under threat as the majority of people speak Luo and have adopted Luo customs. They still practice circumcision like their bantu counterparts. One of their famous sons is the late Tom Mboya, a minister in the Kenya government who was assassinated in 1969. Another one is veteran journalist, Philip Ochieng. More...
Elkony & Nandi
They are Nilo-Hamitic and of the same stock (Kalenjin). Their customs include:
Circumcision: They circumcise all boys and in some areas girls as well.
Boring ears: They used to bore their ears and let them hang.

The Elkony live in Western Province: the Nandi are found in the Rift Valley Province. They are related to the Nyang’ori found on the border of Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley Province. They are related to the Terik (Tiriki) of Luhyaland. More...

Uasin Gishu Maasai
They used to be called Abakwabi, but nowadays they are generally referred to as Abaseebe. A secret cult in Luhyaland called emiseebe originates from these people. For the Luhya who become Abaseebe tend to behave like the ancient Maasai and speak a strange dialect. The Maasai are NiIo-Hamitic. They too circumcise their young people. They call themselves Sabaot.

The Kisii (Gusii) originally came from the same ancestor as the Abalogoli, and so they are really Luhya in origin. They have clans similar to those of Luhya, and their legends are also almost identical with those of Luhya. They live in Nyanza Province. More...

kisii soapstone
Kisii art: soapstones handicrafts come from Tabaka region.

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