While other Kenyan tribes can usually be categorized by certain trades or occupations, the Kamba tribe is involved in many economic areas. The Kamba are farmers as well as nomadic pastoralists. They wield quite a bit of economic power, as traders in all forms of goods. Traditionally, the Kamba traded with many other tribes, like the Kikuyu, Masai, and Meru.
History of the Kamba
The origins of the Kamba begin in western Tanzania, where they migrated from. Coming through the Usambara Mountains, they settled into eastern Kenya.
Some of the tribe were forced to migrate closer to the coast due to 18th century droughts in their homelands. Many of the modern coastal cities have sizable populations of Kamba, though there are still large numbers living in rural areas.
Their settlements along the coast, and trading ties with inland tribes made members of the Kamba tribe very valuable as guides to the first European settlers. From guides, many Kamba ended up then serving in the British military during both World Wars.
As the colonization of Kenya continued, the Kamba did not lose as much of their land as some other tribes due to its dry and somewhat unproductive climate. Though they did not lose as much land as others, they did lose their unique trade routes with the coming of the British railway through the country.
Kamba Culture and Lifestyle
Before marriage, a man pays a substantial price in cattle to the family of the bride. The husband is head of the household, and the wife is responsible for all duties in the home including tending the family's crops. Extended families live close together, and children tend to move freely among the adults, staying with parents as well as aunts and uncles.
Initiation into adulthood is marked with circumcision, for males and many females as well. Female circumcision is officially banned in Kenya, but many among the Kamba still hold the tradition.
The tribe is well-known for its artistic abilities, especially wood carving, basket making and pottery. Their work is found all over Kenya in shops and galleries.
The traditional god of the Kamba tribe is Ngai, or sometimes he is called Mulungu. He is considered a merciful god, but not approachable by man. People make offerings to the spirits of their dead ancestors to intercede with Ngai on their behalf. These beliefs are not as common as in the past, with most of the Kamba being converted Christians.
Related pages:Tribes in Kenya - Introduction
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