Saturday, March 3, 2007

DINKA OF SUDAN

Location: The Dinka are a group of several closely related peoples living in southern Sudan along both sides of the White Nile. They cover a wide area along the many streams and small rivers, concentrated in the Upper Nile province in southeast Sudan and across into southwest Ethiopia.


Identity: The Dinka are one of the branches of the River Lake Nilotes. Though known for centuries as Dinka, they actually call themselves Moinjaang, “People of the people.” The more numerous Southern Luo branch includes peoples throughout central Uganda and neighboring sections of Zaire and the lake area of western Kenya. The Dinka peoples still live near the hot and humid homeland of the River-Lake Nilotes. They are the largest ethnic group in southern Sudan. The Dinka groups retain the traditional pastoral life of the Nilotes, but have added agriculture in some areas, growing grains, peanuts, beans, corn (maize) and other crops. Women do most of the agriculture, but men clear forest for the gardening sites. There are usually two plantings per year. Some are fishers. Their culture incorporated strategies for dealing with the annual cycle of one long dry season and one long rainy season.

The Dinka are split into twenty or more tribal groups which are further divided into sub-tribes, each occupying a tract of land large enough to provide adequate water and pasture for their herds.

Corseted Dinka Man, Sudan Besides cattle, the most coveted possession of a Dinka man is an intricately beaded corset. This corset is sewn on tightly and worn until marriage. The height of the beaded wire at the back indicates that the wearer comes from a family rich in cattle.

The Dinka have lived pretty much on their own, undisturbed by the political movements in their area. They did fight the Ottoman Turks when they were ruling Sudan. They have periodically had clashes with neighboring peoples, such as the Atuot, with whom they have fought over grazing areas. They have not been active in national politics.


Before the coming of the British the Dinka did not live in villages, but traveled in family groups living in temporary homesteads with their cattle. The homesteads might be in clusters of one or two all the way up to 100 families. Small towns grew up around British administrative centers. Each village of one or more extended families is led by a leader chosen by the group.

Traditional homes were made of mud walls with thatched conical roofs, which might last about 20 years. Only women and children sleep inside the house, while the men sleep in mud-roofed cattle pens. The homesteads were located to enable movement in a range allowing year-round access to grass and water. Permanent villages are now built on higher ground above the flood plane of the Nile but with good water for irrigation. The women and older men tend crops on this high ground while younger men move up and down with the rise and fall of the river.

Polygamy is allowed among the Dinka, though many men may have only one wife. The Dinka must marry outside their clan (exogamy), which promotes more cohesion across the broader Dinka group.


A “bride wealth” is paid by the groom’s family to finalize the marriage alliance between the two clan families. Levirate marriage provides support for widows and their children. All children of co-wives are raised together and have a wide family identity. Co-wives cook for all children, though each wife has a responsibility for her own children.

RIGHTS OF PASSAGE - INITIATION

Initiation marks a young man's passage from boyhood to adulthood. An initiate is called a parapool - "one who has stopped milking". Initiation means he no longer does a boy's work of milking, tethering the cattle, and carting dung. Initiation is marked by mutilation - tribal marks of several parallel lines or V-shaped marks - are scarified onto the youth's forehead. The pattern of scars may change over time but the parapuol is always easily recognisable as belonging to a particular tribe. This scarification takes place at any age from ten to sixteen. Initiates are warriors, guardians of the camp against predators - lions, hyenas - and against enemy raiders. Some stay with the cattle all year round. All of them stay with the cattle during the dry months but most return to the villages to help cultivate the crops during the wet season. Even in this duty, the parapuol have the role of warrior protectors. The cattle, protected by the parapuol who remain with them, are kept in camps on the plains at the base of the foothills for the entire wet season.


Photo by Foto Morgana

Initiation occurs around harvest time. The night before the ceremony the boys come together to sing the songs of their clans. Their heads have already been shaved in preparation for the initiation ritual itself. At dawn, they are collected by their parents and taken to where the ceremony will take place. After receiving a blessing, the boys take their places in a row, sitting cross-legged, the rising sun behind their backs. As the initiator comes to each boy in turn, he calls out the names of his ancestors. The initiator clasps the crown of the boy's head firmly and spins it past the blade of an extremely sharp knife. After the first cut, the initiator makes the second and third, etc., whatever the clan pattern of scars might be. The cuts are deep, in fact skulls have been found that have the scars visible on the bony forehead. The initiate, psyched up by a night of clan song-singing, looks straight ahead and continues to recite the names of his ancestors.

This is the moment he has been waiting for; when he joins the ranks of the warriors and puts aside the lowly status of boyhood and the demeaning chores it represents, and takes on the status of warrior, with all the privileges and honour this brings. His initiation scars declare him to be a warrior and a man, and therefore brave and proud. To flinch or scream during the initiation ritual would be to deny his own courage and therefore to disgrace his family and his ancestors. A kink in his initiation scars would brand him a coward, visible for all to see.

When all initiates have been ritually scarred, their fathers wipe the blood from their sons' eyes and mouths, then wrap a broad leaf around their foreheads. Initiation scars mean that a man is able to marry - the parapuol may now begin to court eligible girls. The boys are presented with a spear, a club and a shield - necessary accoutrements of a warrior. There is great rejoicing within the group, with singing and dancing going on for several days. After his initiation, a parapuol is given an oxen, his "song oxen". It is his most precious possession and he will lavish care on it, even to the extent of delicately training its horns into unusual, often asymmetrical, shapes.(http://www.ptc.nsw.edu.au/scansw/dinka.htm)



Girls learn to cook, but boys do not. Cooking is done outdoors in pots over a stone hearth. Men depend upon women for several aspects of their life, but likewise the division of labor assigns certain functions to the men, such as fishing and herding, and the periodic hunting. After initiation to adulthood, the social spheres of the genders overlap very little. The basic food is a heavy millet porridge, eaten with milk or with a vegetable and spice sauce. Milk itself, in various forms, is also a primary food.

The Dinka wear few clothes, particularly in their own village. Adult men may be totally nude except for beads around the neck or wrist. The women commonly wear only goatskin skirts, but unmarried adolescent girls will typically be nude. Clothes are becoming more common. Some men will be seen in the long Muslim robe or short coat. They own very few material possessions of any kind.


Personal grooming and decoration are valued. The Dinka rub their bodies with oil made by boiling butter. They cut decorative designs into their skin. They remove some teeth for beauty and wear dung ash to repel mosquitoes. Men dye their hair red with cow urine, while women shave their hair and eyebrows, but leave a knot of hair on top of the head.

The major influence formerly was exercised by “chiefs of the fishing spears” or “spear masters.” This elite group provided health through mystical power. Their role has been eradicated due to changes brought about by British rule and the modern world. Their society is egalitarian, with no class system. All people, wealthy or poor, are expected to contribute to the common good.

The primary art forms are poetry and song. There are certain types of songs for different types of activities of life, like festive occasions, field work, preparation for war and initiation ceremonies. History and social identity are taught and preserved through songs. They sing praise songs to their ancestors and the living. Songs are even used ritually in competition to resolve a quarrel in a legal sense. Women also make pottery and weave baskets and mats. Men are blacksmiths, making all sorts of implements.


The Dinka lifestyle centres on their cattle: the people's roles within the groups, their belief systems and the rituals they practice, all reflect this. Cattle give milk (butter and ghee), urine is used in washing, to dye hair and in tanning hides. Dung fuels fires from which ash is used to keep the cattle clean and free from blood-sucking ticks, to decorate the Dinka themselves (body art), and as a paste to clean teeth. While cattle are not killed for meat, if one dies or is sacrificed, the meat is eaten and the hide cured. Skins are used for mats and drum skins, and belts, ropes and halters are also made from it. Horns and bones are used for a range of practical and aesthetic items.

Religion: The Dinka believe in a universal single God, whom they call Nhialac. They believe Nhialac is the creator and source of life but is distant from human affairs. Humans contact Nhialac through spiritual intermediaries and entities called yath and jak which can be manipulated by various rituals. These rituals are administered by diviners and healers. They believe that the spirits of the departed become part of the spiritual sphere of this life. They have rejected attempts to convert them to Islam, but have been somewhat open to Christian missionaries. Cattle have a religious significance. They are the first choice as an animal of sacrifice, though sheep may be sacrificed as a substitute on occasion. Sacrifices may be made to yath and jak, since Nhialac is too distant for direct contact with humans.

FAMOUS DINKA PERSONALITY
SUPER MODEL ALEC WEK


www.style.com Images

30 comments:

Ryan said...

I think they should grow their hair and wear more clothes to cover themselves that is just nasty!!! God is looking at them, horrible children!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Is it not possible to un-post Ryan's ignorant comment? After such a thoughtful and organized account of Dinka customs, it's a shame to see this at the end. I believe that God is looking INSIDE people, and hopes for more from all of us.

Mach said...

Ryan was talking nonsense, who was born in clothes? or does God shut his eyes at one's birth time.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos and description of a beautiful people and culture. It's amazing to consider the differences between our lives and theirs.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that Ryan is serious...It's just incomprehensible to me that anyone could be so stupidly, pathetically intolerant and blind. Anyone with a mind broader than a pinhole would be able to see that the Dinka are beautiful people with a rich, beautiful culture. I shudder to think that creeps like him exist and may be even be allowed to vote. Aside from that, thanks for the great website!

Anonymous said...

I am confused about the statement regarding Dinka's being undisturbed by political movement. Aren't there thousands of Sudanese refugees, many being Dinka, in the US because of political turmoil?

S. Machar said...

please be careful of what u saying; stop negative feedback. the web look pefectly with beautiful people on it very tall, slim with that beautiful tradition look as well. I'm proud of them! very much i'm.........

Anonymous said...

The article was not clear about the part about polygamy. Is it only men who may have more than one partner?

Ed Jones said...

Thoughts, perceptions and beliefs such as Ryan's illustrate the lack of respect and congruence for all humanity...

I wonder what individuals with ideas similar to Ryan actually fear? Suppose that tribes such as the Dinka share common DNA strands knitted within your genetic blue-prints... where would this leave any of us?

Opinions, biases and judgements that echo Ryan's sentiments are a rather small and insignificant mattter, as the Dinka never sought his approvals or judgemnts wile establishing their unique culture and lifesytles in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information! More comprehensive and personal than wikipedia. Cheers!

nessa said...

ryan is simply revealing his unfortunate disposition to lust and perversion..... god is looking at ryan and wondering why hes covering himself up... is ryan ashamed of being a child of god?
and what, my i ask, is nasty about having short hair?
ryan needs to open a few books and actually read them.

Justin said...

I have some Dinka neighbours, and they are wonderful people. Friendly and full of laughter. I live in South Dakota.

Ryan needs to realize that other cultures are not better or worse, just different. He should read Understanding Other Cultures by Brown. It is a wonderful book.

deidrimer said...

Best wishes to all Dinka people! There's much to be proud of in their culture.

Anonymous said...

Dinkas are awesome :)

preserve their culture, and keep them from bible toting idiots like ryan below me.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, Adam and Eve walked around nude in innocence. There is nothing wrong with nudity, its perfectly natural.

Anonymous said...

Ryan you shud learn to at least respect others cultures, you dont have to like them but disrespectin them just goes too far....please next time watch what you say coz it can easly offence people..

im a dinka and im proud to be.

Anonymous said...

ryan needs to realize what the norm for one culture is not nessary the same for anouther. If you think of it everyplace is different from another, USA, England, China ect every place has there own way of doing things and it dosent make them any less of a human.

Anonymous said...

be nice people this just culture
dinka people are really good people
i was born in Ethiopa and i learn more about Dinka people. and proud of my beautiful culture!!!!!!!!!
by B . D .D

grace20 said...

people comes from a variety nations and does not share the same culture but does not mean others are lesser people. Dinka or not, everyone deserve respect because we all are human being. It does not matter what color of skin we have. I am not Dinka nor African but I can tell you that Dinka are very nice people and caring.

amazingmovies123 said...

ryan isn't being an idiot because in the bible it points out that adam and eve were naked but encouraged by god to wear clothes. so probably all people brought up in christian communities were brought up thinking that.

the other issue is that the peole who wear clothes had decided to move out of africa and stay in cold climates where having no cover would kill them

simple explaination. but in the end all should agree that the dinka dont invade other countries and force natives to dress like them. they are good people sure

Anonymous said...

Actually in the Bible Adam and Eve realized they were naked and hid from God, so God gave them clothes.

I, too, am confused by the statement regarding Dinka's being undisturbed by political movement. That is simply untrue.

I do appreciate the beautiful pic's and other info. Thank you.

hawa said...

I don't think the Bible or its content is a danger for Dinka culture. Islam is more dangerous for them, especially for those who are taken as slaves to norhtern Sudan. What they go through there is not mentioned in the webside.

athieideng said...

Wow! all i can says to everyone who has responded to Ryan's comment is much thanks. Dinka or non-Dinka, you all have fight a good fight here on behalf of people like me and other Dinka who didn't see Ryan's comment. What can i say? Some people are very ignorant and block minded about others culture. God created everyone of us w/ different cultural background and that's what makes each of us stand out. God knows us very well, whether we have cloth on or not, He knows every part of our parts...so i don't think He's going to close His eyes on the Dinka people just because they didn't wear clothes in the past. For those of you who were confused by the statement "Polygamy." Only men can have multiply partners.

Once again, thank you all for your kindly comments.

Anonymous said...

Do u guys if know anything about Dinka people first of all they are called Muonyjang the original name meaning people of people very closely related to the nuer

Anonymous said...

My Beautiful people of Sudan <3 <3 ..
Dinka are beautiful peaceful people, I had the time of my life living with them <3

Anonymous said...

South Sudanese, especially the Dinka tribe are very proud of their culture. I just wish that some people can be civilised enough to appreciate such beauty of culture and traditions.

Papa Maury Clark said...

By the grace of God, I am honored to be a family member and an elder of the Yirol Dinka nation. The culture not only of the Dinka, but including virtually all of the nations of South Sudan carry more pride and commonsense than their bigoted detractors could find in a million of their own kind. By the way, I am caucasian, and American, and I wear clothes because it is COLD outside.
Papa Maury Clark

meccahness said...

i am in a relationship with a dinka lady.very beautifull.RYAN or whatever his name ,is just those mistakes that grew on earth.thank you all who see the bright side of the dinka they wonderfull people.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Ryan doesn't have an ounce of sense in his entire body. Sad...

Chol Mawuer said...

It's our fascinating culture and we have no fear in exposing it to the entire world althouth it's undermined or disregarded by some people like Ryan as something strange. He need to attend some lectures to atleast learn diverse cultures of the world.

 
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