Turkana Ngigolio and Corogat (Kenya)


Turkana Ngigolio and Corogat finger knives

Code:  AC7

This is a rare and unusually large and broad example (92 x 75 mm / 3.7 x 2.9 inches) of a Turkana tribal finger knife (ngigolio) from northern Kenya. It is forged from crude iron and has an aged and pitted feel. The British banned the making and wearing of these objects during colonial rule as they were considered lethal in close-combat fights. It is very difficult to find finger rings today among the Turkana.  (A related weapon is the Ararait Wrist Knife of the Turkana.)

The smaller finger knife, or “finger hook”, is also typical of the Turkana and is called a “corogat”. The seller described it to me as being of the “Pokot” tribe in western Kenya.  The Pokot also create and use finger knives in a manner not much different than the Turkana. Nevertheless, the style is distinctly Turkana. The finger hook has different functions. It may serve as a weapon, for gouging out an enemy’s eyes, although its main use, among the Turkana tribe is as an instrument for extracting teeth. Tooth extraction is usually carried out by an “ekalokon” - person who removes teeth. The finger hook is usually worn on the small finger.

Pieces of iron or steel wire are employed to make finger hooks. This task is restricted to male members of the tribe. The finger hole is referred to as akeju (lit. foot).

Traditional Turkana weapons were used as much to protect their herds as to raid neighboring tribes for theirs. Turkana men have traditionally taken pride in skills of combat, and produce a wide range of inventive weaponry including the finger knife. The finger knife is the smaller cousin of the Turkana’s formidable wrist knife (abarait).

For close combat fighting they wear a circular wrist knife (abarait) and one or two finger knives (egolu) and finger hooks (ecorogat) which are designed to gouge out an enemy’s eyes. For the Turkana, it is the utilitarian quality of the weapons which counts, their usefulness in raiding and repelling raids.  Their weapons are seldom decorated for aesthetic purposes.

The finger knife is used both as a weapon and as a cutting instrument among the Turkana. It consists of a knife blade or “miniature knife”, fashioned into a finger ring at the base. The finger hole is referred to as akeju (literally “foot”) and the sickle shaped blade is called ekababait.

Finger knives are mostly worn by old men on the middle finger of the right hand. Pieces of iron or steel wire are used to make finger rings. These pieces of metal are beaten into shape using a stone or a hammer. The finger knife has no outer protective sheath and is used for various purposes, i.e. as an ornament or as a weapon for close quarter attacks (scooping or picking out an opponent’s eye. Alternatively it may be used as a knife or fork when eating meat.

See:  The Turkana


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