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Making a Man: Kenyan Community’s Rites of Passage

In an isolated region in Kenya's Rift Valley, young men spear a bull in a ceremony called Sapana that marks a gateway to adulthood.

Far from the bustling city of Nairobi, Pokot women dance in celebration the day before an initiation ceremony for young men in Baringo County, on Jan. 19, 2016. Following the ritual improves men's marriage prospects, provided they can amass a dowry of livestock for their bride. Initiates can also take part in local decision-making in a region where tradition remains strong and cattle play a central part in daily life. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
Men restrain a bull as another prepares to shoot an arrow with a shallow point into its neck to extract blood. The men, aged between 18 and 20, are part of a small Pokot community of herdsmen who tend cows, goats, sheep, camels and donkeys in Baringo County. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
A man cuts a cow horn that will be used to store an anointment for ceremonies, the day before the ceremony. The Pokots can have several wives, and men are allowed to marry women many years their junior. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
A boy climbs on the back of a cow near his home the day before the initiation ceremony. The initiate’s age depends in part on when he and his family can afford to spare a bull for the killing in a community where cattle are precious. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
Men take it in turns to drink clotted blood from inside the carcass of a bull which was speared by a young man during the initiation ceremony. As Kenya develops and more people migrate to the cities in search of work, such traditional practices are on the wane. However, in this remote region, ceremonies such as Sapana still hold sway. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
Men carry a part of a carcass of a bull killed by a young man. Livestock are everything for the Pokots, representing wealth and social status. And in an isolated region with no permanent police presence, elders deal with disputes. Those who have broken the law are often required to pay a fine in the form of animals. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
Two men fight over a dispute during the ceremony. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
Young men collect blood pouring out the neck of a bull. Most of the blood is kept in a container to be mixed later with milk, a traditional delicacy to be shared. SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters
A young Pokot man sits on the ground after having been smeared with the contents of a bull's stomach by elders. This is the most important stages of the ceremony. This concluding rite seals the young man’s entrance to adulthood, conferring a new status on him.“Only then will he be able to speak to elders,” says Hassan Tepa, an elder. “In return (he will) be listened to and respected.” SIEGFRIED MODOLA / Reuters