Toposa: the African Tribe Famous for Its Striking Architecture and Fashion

Stephen Nartey September 02, 2022
A Toposa tribe hut

The Toposa tribe is one of the largest ethnic groups in the South Eastern border area of South Sudan. Being the biggest tribe is not what makes Toposa distinct, but, the spectacular creative huts they live in.

There are huts designed purposively for rainy season, and one when the weather is dry.  There are also huts for bachelors and dormitories for girls.

What makes the huts striking are their round enclosure and beehive shape. Since time immemorial, the Toposa tribe settlement has been well organized, according to Sudan Open Archive.

The huts are built with grass or palm leaves with an enclosure in the roof where grain, skins and equipment are placed for safe keeping. The native Toposa culture is orally transmitted through songs, dance, music, poems and folklore.

Traditionally, the Toposa tribe are pastoralists who herd cattle, sheep and goats. In the past, they had traded in ivory and engaged in communal war with neighbours, according to the African geographic.  

They are mainly in conflict with cattle rustlers and raiders from across the Kenyan and Ugandan borders.

In the Toposa tribe, men are in charge of the day to day meat supply while women and young girls take over the milking of cows.

The women are more involved in agriculture where they cultivate gardens on the river banks. The men, however, clear the fallow land at the beginning of every farming season while the women till the land with rudimentary farm tools like hoe.

Each woman has her own plot where they cultivate food crop but these farmlands are mainly fenced. The principal crop they cultivate is millet.

The women of the Toposa tribe are involved in some level of pottery while the men carve wood craft. Those who are smith metal work on imported iron.

One interesting way they cultivate salt for their food is collect ashes from certain grasses.

With regard to clothing among the Toposas, the men wrap their waist with a piece of calico obtained from traders and wear sandals and beads.

Those who have passed their rite of passage wear head-dress of the special Toposa style, in which the hair is arranged like an inverted basin.

Men of high standing in the Toposa tribe wear a large cap covered with red beads arranged in a circular pattern on their hair.

Men who carry out raids wear a rectangular skin shield while they carry with two spears. The raiders also carry with them wrist and finger knives as occasional weapons. The Toposas do not use bows and arrows.

Among the Toposa tribe, women have a unique way of dressing. They wear skin aprons common to their clan but mainly short in front and longer at the back. Generally, there are those who wear a cloak.

Unmarried girls in the Toposa tribe have the sides of their heads shaved. The central hair is shaved off when they marry and then the hair is left to grow in strands.

The skin of a Toposa man’s right shoulder is scarred with a number of dots if he has killed male enemies in war. The men smear clay on their bodies as camouflage before heading out to war.

Last Edited by:Sedem Ofori Updated: September 12, 2022


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates