The Wedding Camels

David MacDougall
Judith MacDougall
1 hour and 48 minutes


This is the first film in the MacDougalls' trilogy "Turkana Conversations" about the Turkana, a seminomadic herding people living a traditional life in an isolated region of Kenya.

A young girl's marriage to an elderly man, a friend of her family, should work out well, but under the pressure of both families' demands of animals and services in exchange, the negotiations threaten to collapse. The film depicts the purchase of a bride in its most elaborate form, where discussions concerning the price, the forms of negotiation, and the final ritual of surrendering the bride, are left to the spectator to understand. The observing film technique give us the events as they took place.

The film chronicles a series of events, which surround the marriage of Lorang's daughter, Akai to his age-mate, Kongu. A dispute arises over the number and size of goats and camels to be given as bride wealth to Lorang and his kin. Kongu proclaims his poverty, whilst Lorang seeks to obtain sufficient animals to meet what he sees as the just claims of himself and his relatives. This dispute is not confined to the two men and by the end of the film there are two parties composed of the relatives and other interested persons putting forward their own accounts of the dispute. Despite the difficult negotiations, we finally get to follow the young bride, making her way from her parents' home to that of her new husband. Akai's initial doubts and unhappiness are replaced by smiles, and we understand that the cultural constraints on her also have their advantages. Her groom is certainly elderly, but he is also wealthy and he will assure her access to animals and wealth for her future sons.

The MacDougalls deploy a technique of filming which has been termed 'participatory camera' and which depends for its success on skilful sound and camera work and on an intimate knowledge of the filmed people based on longterm participatory fieldwork. The filmmakers explore the values, attitudes and expectations of the protagonists, and never failing to contextualise these insights they offers us a rich and detailed knowledge. The second film in the series is "Lorang's Way" and the third is "A Wife Among Wives".

Suggested readings: 
Gulliver, P. H. The family herds: a study of two pastoral tribes in East Africa: the Jie and Turkana London: Routledge, 1998. XV, 273 s., pl.: ill. (International library of sociology, The sociology of gender and the family; 6).
Originalutg.: London : Routledge & K. Paul, 1955.
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