The Luo were originally cattle herders, but the devastating effects of rinderpest in the 1890s forced them to adopt fishing and subsistence agriculture, which are the main sources of livelihood for most Luo today. Luo family groups consist of the man, his wife or wives, and their sons and daughters-in-law. The family unit is part of a larger grouping of families or dhoot (clans), several of which make up ogandi (a group of geographically related people), each led by a ruoth (chief). Traditional Luo living compounds are enclosed by fences, and include separate huts for the man and for each wife and son. The Luo consider age, wealth and respect as converging, with the result that elders control family resources and represent the family to the outside world.
The Luo people emerged from the Semitic-speaking, Nilo-Saharan-speaking, Cushitic- speaking people. The Luo were originally a light-skinned community with the culture of Egypt (Tekidi), Kush and Meroe. They migrated to Kar Thum (Khartoum) to Wau in the Bar-el Ghazal region in South Sudan. It was here that they met a dark-skinned people who referred to them as Jur Chol (the aliens passing through the blacks).Read More….
Luo Culture, Lifestyle & Religion
Luo people are among the few tribes that do not traditionally circumcise their males as an initiation to manhood. Instead, in Luo traditions, initiation involves the removal of six teeth from the lower jaw.
Another unique Luo custom is wife inheritance whereby, if a man dies, one of his brothers or close relatives inherits his widow and must meet all of her marital requirements. The Luo mourning ceremony, tero buru, is still widely practiced. This is a unique, elaborate and dramatic ceremony that symbolizes the departure of a loved one.
While most Luos are now Christians, many still uphold most of their traditional cultural customs. This is especially true for those living in the rural areas. However, some of the Luo cultural practices now regarded as retrogressive are slowly fading away, such as wife inheritance. As well, recent efforts have been made to promote male circumcision among the Luo, Teso and Turkana people, to help curb the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Political History of the Luo
Under British colonial rule, the Luo people did not have their land taken from them, unlike some other Kenyan tribes. The Luo community has been a key player in the Kenyan political scene since the pre-colonial times. Some of its favored sons in the pre-colonial and post-colonial period include.
- Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
- Ochieng Aneko
- Raila Odinga
Luo economic activity and Food
For Luos living in rural areas, freshwater fishing in Lake Victoria is the most important economic activity. The fish are consumed locally while some, especially the Nile perch, are exported to Europe and other countries. Fish and ugaliare the staple foods of the Luo tribe. Agriculture, especially sugarcane and cotton farming, is also practiced in other areas where Luos live.