Samburu Marriage Necklaces (Mporo)

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        This lowland Samburu woman is wearing a large mporo marriage necklace on top of other beaded ornaments.  Mporo beads form a vertical row down the necklace's center.  Samburu women began acquiring mporo beads (Venetian glass, wound white-hearts) in the late nineteenth century, mostly from Somali and Arab traders.  The necklace has changed over time.  The example you see here is contemporary.  It is made of doum palm fibers, occasional giraffe hair, which are strung through layers of mporo beads.  There are mporo beads behind those you can see--these multiple layers of beaded fibers give the necklace its structure and fullness.  Ideally, a Samburu woman is given her mporo necklace as a gift from her mother (with additional mporo beads from other female kin and friends) at her marriage.  It is a necessary component of the bride's adornment in the marriage ceremony.  Since poverty has forced so many women to sell their beads to local, national, and international traders however, an increasing number of women no longer own their own necklaces.  These women must borrow one of these precious necklaces from a friend for their daughters' marriages, and then return it afterward.


These two women are each wearing their mporo necklaces, just for fun for the pictures.  The woman on your left has a high school diploma and ordinarily dresses in skirts and blouses.  Notice the difference in her other ornaments and her hair style.

This is a young woman on the day of her wedding (1994).  She is wearing her new mporo necklace and leather clothing and sandals made especially for the occasion.  She is covered from head to toe in red ochre, a pigment to enhance her beauty and signal further the specialness of the occasion.