A Samburu Wedding

Photography by Grant Swanepoel


Samburu warriors of northern Kenya are young, unmarried men, who are literally the people’s army, offering protection from enemy tribes and from wild animals. Under the oversight of the elders, the warriors are responsible for the care of the tribe’s wealth–the sheep, goats, and camels. They spend their days far from home in the bush, taking the herds wherever the water and grazing is best.

The livestock is never far from the warrior's side.
A Samburu warrior is the guardian of the people and herds.


The beaded necklace is built up over time by gifts from admirers and family as well as some that she makes herself.

For years prior to a young Samburu girl’s marriage, she collects beaded necklaces from family members and admirers and wears them with pride. Once she reaches her teen years, she will marry the warrior her family choses, a man who will ensure a strong family lineage and whose herds will contribute to the family’s wealth.

Two Samburu girls with a hint of mischief in their eyes.


The day of the wedding, these normally-nomadic people gather together for the festivities, which include the sacrifice of a bull and hours of singing and dancing. The sacrifices are meant to appease the ancestors, who they believe bless the new couple with healthy children and animals.

Samburu Christians often struggle with traditions like the slaughtering of the bull. Does the ritual truly carry a spiritual significance that opposes the teachings of the Bible? How can the tradition be redeemed?

A Samburu warrior at his finest for the dance.
Brightly decorated Samburu warriors dancing.

Our purpose as missionaries among people like the Samburu is to teach them the truth of the Word of God. As they come to faith in Christ and continue to grow, they will be convicted by the Word of what in their society is evil and what must be stopped.



Jesus Christ is relevant to all cultures of the world, and he delights in his creation’s diversity. As Samburu believers mature in their faith and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts, they are learning how to be Christians while still maintaining their unique and beautiful Samburu identity.

At the Samburu dance, some lead singer warriors stand in the middle clapping and chanting out a song while a ring of warriors paired up with the unmarried girls spin around them in a fast-moving circle.