Dorobo

Dorobo

Dorobo (or "Ndorobo", "Wadorobo", "Torobo") is a derogatory umbrella term for several unrelated hunter-gatherer groups of Kenya and Tanzania.

In the past 150 years, many of these peoples have assimilated to the pastoralist economy of neighbouring peoples (mostly Maasai and Samburu), and have, in the process, abandoned their own languages.

Etymology

The term 'Dorobo' derives from the Maa expression "il-tóróbò" (singular "ol-torróbònì") 'hunters; the ones without cattle'. Living from hunting wild animals implies being primitive, and being without cattle implies being very poor in the pastoralist Maa culture.

Classifications

In the past it has been assumed that all Dorobo were of Southern Nilotic origin; accordingly, the term "Dorobo" was thought to denote several closely related ethnic groups. [Huntingford for example writes (1931:228): "...all the Dorobo dialects, as now spoken, are based on Nandi—this was first shown by Hobley, who was a pioneer in this field, and whose vocabularies are fairly reliable—..." (for Hobley, see Hobley 1903, 1905, 1906).]

Although many of them happen to be Nilotic, "Dorobo" as used by the Maa simply refers to neighbouring hunter-gatherers regardless of their origin — the Yaaku for example (present-day Mukogodo-Maasai) are an Eastern Cushitic people, the Aasax are of Southern Cushitic origin, while the Akie (Mosiro) are Eastern Nilotes. Some of the people described in early accounts of the 'El Dorobo' are imaginary, or fictional accounts of 20th century savages such as "races of bearded men" as described by Charles Hobley. [Hobley says (1905:39-40): "The author in 1891 visited Mount Kenia, and while encambed on the lower slopes encountered a few specimens of a bearded race of man who were said to live in the depths of the forests on that mountain."]

Groups that have been referred to as Dorobo include:
*Kaplelach Okiek and Kipchornwonek Okiek (Nilotic; Rift Valley Province, Kenya)
*Sengwer
*Mukogodo-Maasai (the former Yaaku, sometimes Aramanik) (East Cushitic; Laikipia District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya)
*Aasax (South Cushitic; northern Tanzania)
*Akie (sometimes Mosíro, which is an Akie clan name) (Nilotic; northern Tanzania)
*Mediak (Nilotic; northern Tanzania)
*Kisankasa (Nilotic; northern Tanzania)

Notes

References

*http://www.ogiek.org
*Distefano, John A. (1990) 'Hunters or hunted? Towards a history of the Okiek of Kenya', "History in Africa", 17, 47–57.
*Hobley, C.W. (1903) 'Notes concerning the Eldorobo of Mau, British East Africa', "Man", 3, 33-34 (with a 100-item vocabulary on page 35).
*Hobley, C.W. (1905) 'Further Notes on the El Dorobo or Oggiek', "Man", 5, 39-44.
*Hobley, C.W. (1906) 'Notes on the Dorobo People and other Tribes; gathered from Chief Karuri and others', "Man", 6, 119-120.
*Huntingford, G.W.B. (1931) 'The Taturu, Mosiro, and Aramanik dialect of Dorobo', "Man", 31, 226–228.
*Kenny, Michael G. (1981) 'Mirror in the forest: the Dorobo hunter-gatherers as an image of the other', "Africa", 51, 1, 477–495.
*Maguire, R.A.J. (1948) 'Il-Torbo', "Tanganyika Notes & Records", 25, 1–27. " [reprint of a 1928 article published in the Royal African Society's Journal] "
*Rottland, Franz & Vossen, Rainer (1977) 'Grundlagen für eine Klärung des Dorobo-Problems', in Möhlig & Rottland & Heine (eds.) "Zur Sprachgeschichte und Ethnohistorie in Afrika". Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 213–238.


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