The Dinka of South Sudan 

The Dinka are one of the most populous ethnic groups in South Sudan. They are believed to be the tallest people in Africa with an average height of 7 ft and one of the reasons you should visit South Sudan  The Dinka are part of the Nilotic people, a set of civilizations that all inhabit southern Sudan. Also known as the Jieng, the Dinka are South Sudan’s biggest ethnic group and are recognized for their traditional practices of agricultural and cattle keeping. The Dinka reside in the savanna land bordering the Nile basin’s central marshes, predominantly in South Sudan. They speak a Nilotic language that is classed as part of the Nilo-Saharan languages’ Eastern Sudanic branch and is closely connected to the Nuer.

 The Dinka, who numbered over 4,500,000 people in the early twenty-first century, is divided into several separate communities of 1,000 to 30,000 people. These tribes are further divided into clusters based on geographical, linguistic, and cultural factors, with the most well-known being the Agar, Aliab, Bor, Rek, Twic (Tuic, Twi), and Malual. During the dry season, from December to April, the tribes relocate their cattle herds to riverine pastures and then back to permanent homes in savanna woodland. Throughout the growing season, food crops, primarily millet, are cultivated.

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Where are the Dinka of South Sudan found?

The Dinka live in a wide territory in southern Sudan that creates a seasonal swampland when the Nile River floods. Due to the civil conflict, a substantial number of Dinka have relocated from southern Sudan to the northern Sudanese capital of Khartoum, as well as to Kenya, Uganda, Europe, and the United States. Nonetheless, they majorly spread throughout a large region along several streams and small rivers, concentrating in the Upper Nile state in southeast Sudan and extending into southwest Ethiopia.

History of Dinka of South Sudan?

According to ancient Egyptian cattle pictographs, the Dinka are linked to the arrival of domesticated cattle south of the Sahara. Around 3000 BC, herders who also fished and tilled lived in the world’s biggest wetland area, the area of southern Sudan where the White Nile’s flood plain is additionally supplied by the rivers Bor, Aweil, and Renk; the Dinka are one of three communities that arose from the initial settlers over time. Dinka civilization extended over the region in recent centuries, maybe about AD 1500. In the mid-1800s, the Dinka defended their land against the Ottoman Turks and resisted attempts by slave traffickers to convert them to Islam. And up to date, they have lived in solitude. 

Language of Dinka of South Sudan

Linguists describe Dinka as a significant African language family in the Nilotic category. The Dinka people’s language is classified into five main groupings of dialects. These five formal languages are referred to as the Northeastern, Northwestern, Southeastern, Southwestern, and South Central and all these titles cover all of the recognized varieties of the Dinka language. The Dinka have a rich dictionary with which to describe their reality; it is thought that they have more than 400 to refer to cattle alone—their movements, their sicknesses, and their variability in color and shape. Literature is part of the Dinka culture that keeps them entertained. 

Culture of Dinka People

Before the British, just like many other south sudan tribes the Dinka did not dwell in communities but roamed in family groupings living in temporary homesteads with their livestock just like the Mundari. The homesteads were often in groups of 1 or 2 up to 100 households. Later, small towns were established around British administrative hubs. Each Dinka village is governed by a leader chosen by a group of one or more extended families. Men sleep in mud-roofed cow pens, while women and children sleep inside the home. Earlier before, homesteads were positioned to permit mobility in a range affording year-round access to pasture and water; today, permanent communities are now developed on higher terrain above the Nile’s flood plain, yet with adequate irrigation water. On this high terrain, women and elderly men maintain crops, while younger men move up and down with the river’s rise and fall.

Although many Dinka men have only one wife, polygamy is good for their custom. The Dinka must marry outside their clan (exogamy), which encourages better solidarity among the larger Dinka population. Kinship groups are linked to designated descent groups, each represented by a totem, and wives leave their descent group to join their husbands’ lineage group.

The groom’s family pays a “bride fortune” to consummate the marital connection between the two clan lines. Widows and their children benefit from Levirate marriage. All children of co-wives are reared together and have a strong sense of family. Co-wives cook for all children, and though each woman is responsible for her children, co-wives cook for all children.

Boys do not learn to cook, although girls do and cooking is done outside in pots over a stone fire. Men depend upon women for numerous parts of their existence, but conversely, men carry out duties such as fishing and herding, and periodic hunting. The social worlds of the genders intersect relatively little after initiation into adulthood. The Dinka main dish is a thick millet porridge with milk or a vegetable and spice sauce. Milk is also their staple meal. 

The Dinka dress simply, in their home hamlet. Except for beads around the neck or wrist, adult men may be completely naked. Women normally wear simple goatskin skirts, although unmarried adolescent females are also usually naked. Clothes are getting increasingly prevalent amongst the Dinka. Some guys will wear a long Muslim robe or a short coat. 

The Dinka apply oil produced from boiled butter on their body for personal grooming and beautification. They carved ornamental patterns into their flesh. They shave their teeth for beauty and use dung ash to ward off bugs. Men color their hair red with cow urine, while women shave their hair and eyebrows, but leave a knot of hair on their heads. 

Poetry and music are the major forms of art among the Dinka. There are several sorts of songs for various tasks in life, such as festival events, war preparation, fieldwork, and initiation rituals. Songs are used to teach and maintain their history and social identity. They chant songs of gratitude to their ancestors and the living. Songs are also utilized ritually in competition to settle judicial disputes. Women also weave baskets and mats and manufacture ceramics. Men work as blacksmiths, creating various tools.

Religion of Dinka People

The Dinka of South Sudan believe in one global God, whom they name Nhialac. They believe Nhialac is the creator and giver of existence, but that he is uninterested in human matters. Humans communicate with Nhialac via spiritual mediators and creatures known as yath and jak, which may be influenced by various ceremonies that are carried out by diviners and healers. 

The Dinka of South Sudan also believe that the spirits of the deceased become part of the spiritual domain of this life. They have rebuffed attempts to convert them to Islam, although they have been fairly receptive to Christian missionaries.

Cattle are religiously significant to the Dinka. They are the preferred sacrificial animal; however, sheep may be killed as a replacement on occasion. Because Nhialac is too far away for direct touch with people, sacrifices to yath and jak are permissible. In Dinka’s religious thinking, the family and wider social interactions are essential values.

Political Status of Dinka in South Sudan

The Dinka of South Sudan have mostly lived on their own, unaffected by local political movements. They did, however, fight the Ottoman Turks while they were dominating Sudan and have frequently had battles with adjacent peoples, such as the Atuot, with whom they have fought for grazing regions. Otherwise, they have usually not been involved in national politics.

In the late 20th century and early 21st, the demands of the struggle between the Arab North and African South have put hardships on the Dinka people. Many people have joined the military and political opposition to Sudan’s central government in the rising push for southern Sudanese independence.

Sudan’s vice president, John Garang de Mabior who was a Dinka, became the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s leader in 1983, spearheading an armed fight against the Sudanese. William Deng Nhial, the founder of the Sudan African National Union, was another Dinka independence struggle leader (SANU)

In recent years, southern Sudan has seen considerable armed strife, which has been compounded by extended periods of drought and hunger. Periodic cease-fires and attempts at resolution offered some relief, but it wasn’t until 1910-11 that a definitive resolution was reached. Following a series of talks under a cease-fire brokered by the United Nations and other organizations, the Republic of South Sudan was established on July 9, 2011.

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