Wisdom Comes with Age

A few steps away from our manyata a small group of elderly men deliberate. They talk, listen, react. Their murmur carries far this morning. The ‘apiaya’ have authority within the Samburu community. They are the ones who arrange and approve marriages and which herd grazes where. Unexpectedly it rained yesterday for half an hour. The men gather to discuss how the collected rain water should be divided among the families. This is the Water Control Board of the land of Samburu. Every elder states his opinion and they talk until they found an arrangement that suits all. A polder model on the African savannah. After a prayer for Nkai the God for all Samburu and a round of chewing tobacco for all the (male) attendees we walk to the water tank. On a hill two gullies form a funnel which fills the collectors. In only a loin cloth the most fit ‘apiaya’ scoop the water from one collector to another. They are in fact filter compartments to separate the stones from the water. There is no time to wait for the grit to settle. The liquid gold must end up as soon as possible in the round, concrete water tank. This is the place where the women will tap their household water in the coming period. Soon a Samburu warrior takes the work over from the older apiaya. Not so much from spontaneous courtesy, it is a crystal clear rule with the tradition abiding Samburu. Maybe this moran thinks, with water but above all sweat beading on his forehead, about the time when he will be an elder. His future is however just as unpredictable as the weather and climate here in North Kenya. Diederik Veerman

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