Gabra (The)

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Camel Nomads of Northern Kenya by Paul Tablino Read more

ISBN 9966-21-438-0; Year of Publication 1999, 1st Reprint 2005; 434 pages

The Gabra are a small group of pastoralists (about 30,000) who live in the arid, lava-strewn lunar landscape of northern Kenya. Like other people living in that desert area, they are nomads, but they have a unique culture that distinguishes them from their neighbours, the Borana, Rendille, Samburua and Somali.

In 1959, Fr Paul Tablino, a then youthful priest of Alba, Italy, came to Kenya as a Fidei Donum missionary. After several years he and a colleague Fr Bartolomeo Venturino, left lush, green Nyeri and moved to the then Northern Frontier District to establish a mission among the Gabra. With the encouragement of Bishop Cavallera they undertook to study the Gabra culture in depth, to better understand the people to whom they wished to bring the message of the Gospel.

In 1980, Fr Tablino published a description of Gabra culture, the first book to be written about these people, I Gabra del Kenya. As a result of his sincere interest in and appreciation of the Gabbra culture, Fr Tablino came to be greatly respected by the Gabra themselves. His conscientious work and his generous personality earned him the admiration of the international community of scholars dealing with various aspects of Oromo culture, and subsequent students and anthropologists in the area relied greatly on his knowledge and excellent rapport with the people. But since his book was in Italian it could serve relatively few scholars, and the Gabra not at all. Hence, in 1997, he accepted the offer of Cynthia Salvador, an anthropologists  and also historian, to translate and help revise his book, and also illustrate it. When work on the book is finished, Fr Tablino took the opportunity to fulfill a long desire to join the Consolata Institute.

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