The Culture of the Luos; Their Naming System


Who are the luos and What’s their culture?

Luo culture is among the most vibrant and diverse cultures in Kenya and all over the globe. Luo community is among the largest ethnic group in Kenya and estimated to be approximately 25% of Kenya’s total population. According to history, Luo communities originated from southern Sudan hence referred to as river lake nilotes. The name river lake attributes to the fact that during the migration process, the luos followed the river Nile and settled along Lake Victoria.  

Luo culture is traced back to centuries. The traditions of the Luo people are based on respect for their elders, one another. Respect for their teachings and beliefs. The Luo communities believe that the regulations and traditional teachings are from God, and as such, to enjoy a better life on earth, they have to observe them. Among the Luo communities, it is believed that God had chosen Ramogi as their leader. Therefore, this was adapted, and today any credible leaders among the luos are referred to as Ramogi. Furthermore, the luos believe that their God 

“Obongo Nyarkalaga will curse any person who fails to obey the rules.”

Cultural practices

However, many do not comprehend the Luo culture as they find it interesting and complicated. Especially for their cultural traditions. For instance, the practice of wife inheritance. This practice was commonly known as’ tero buru’ among the luos. It involved the widow being inherited by the brother to the deceased. In cases where the dead had no old brother, then the wife was inherited by a close cousin. The wife’s inheritance was to help the bereaved feel comforted, and her children cared for by the family. It was a form of enhancing a sense of belonging. However, the practice is a controversial issue as some people are misusing it by committing adultery.

Before inheritance, the widow was to sleep with her dead husband. This was to purify and cleanse her. Other practices included; fishing, sharing of responsibilities, fathers having full ownership of the children, etc.

Following the migration route and their place of establishment, the Luos engaged in fishing activities. They are the first community to fish. During fishing expeditions, the men were they left the only permitted ones as women at the shore where they awaited the catch. Among this community, the fathers had full ownership of the children. When parents separated, the children left the children’s father. Within these communities, men who they expected men who had more women and look after. Responsibilities were they also shared responsibilities were also in that as men went fishing, women prepared meals and performed domestic chores.


Other than these practices, the Luo communities engaged in various ceremonies i.e. wedding, funeral, naming, rites of passage, etc. Unlike other communities, the luos removed the six lower teeth as a rite of passage to adulthood. For the wedding ceremony, it is described in four phases. After forming the marriage alliances, the groom pays a sum of money known as ‘ayie’ to the mother of the bride. The latter is preceded by cattle delivery by the groom to the girl’s father. The girl is then kidnapped and taken to the groom’s house. After which an actual wedding ceremony commences and a bull sacrificed for the big celebration.

During the funeral ceremonies, both the relatives and community members are present. This was an occasion to pay tribute to the deceased. Food was plentiful as people drunk beer and ate to their fill. This occasion provided an opportunity to mingle and form marriage alliances. However, the naming ceremonies were dependent relatives, and if the mother conceived without seeing her periods. Children received names depending on their time of birth. For instance, Atieno/Otieno was born at night while Okoth /Akoth born during the rainy season. Furthermore, Akumu/Okumu was born when the mother failed to experience her periods. Although naming children after dead relatives were stopped, it was a way of appeasing both the living dead and ancestors. Nonetheless, the coming of the missionaries has dramatically impacted on the people’s way of life as they are slowly transiting.



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