Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Music, Arts, and Literature of the Nuer

    From the earliest known humans of Earth, there has been artifacts suggesting entertainment. It's not always about hunters and gatherers. The word bored didn't exist in our lifetime. Of course the earliest people "got bored". They did not have a Ipad or Ipod to just whip out and play a game on. Storytelling, music, and art were; and still are the greatest forms of entertainment. 

    Nuer arts, music and literature like in most unwritten culture are orally transmitted over generations in songs, stories and folktales. The Nuäär are very rich at songs, and folktales. Nuer arts, and music include, lyre thöm, and bul kiae “thor” which are similar to other Nilotice. The rest of African people, Nuäär articles for self-defiance there is different types of, like stick “keat” and spear “mut, bith”  long side-blown trumpet carved out of a single piece of Oryx horn that has been straightened and largely hollowed out. These tools of defense are the some of the most primal and simple but most deadly of their related culture.

    The different Nuer sections have developed their different dances: 'buul' performed during the early afternoon especially for marriages; dom-piny (a hole in the ground covered with a skin) is performed during the night where wut and nyal court themselves. Of the most important handcraft the Naath have developed is the dieny (a basket for carrying everything including children when on a long journey).

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

References of my Exploration

    As a college student, it is very difficult to travel let alone to travel to the sub-saharan region of South Sudan and truly investigate as well as get a first hand look at the Nuer tribe. I must credit the ones that have taken that extra step to see with their own eyes the Nuer culture. Their information has helped a great deal in furthering my knowledge about foreign beings like me.

    The South Sudan News Agency is a truly reliable source of current events happening in South Sudan. This page kept me up to date with the social life and culture of the Nuer people. This also gave me a really good aspect and view on their religion, on possible change in beliefs or rituals. Interactions and conflicts with other tribes or government intervention came across time to time.

    On the other end of the current event spectrum, "" enlightened me on the history of the Nuer people. As far as religion, tradition, food, hunting and gathering; this website gave me a crash course in the history of the Nuer.

Finally, my most reliable reference was "www.". This website was gold. It literally gave me the most detailed, to the point explanations of the people. Mainly because it was ran in collaboration with the Nuer people and their explorers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cultural Survival of the Nuer

    Many indigenous tribes struggle to survive. The environment may provide many complications from weather to the dangerous animals that pose as a mortal threat. The main priority of many tribes to "stay above water" is money. It is very difficult for landlocked poor tribes to import food and supplies. Considering the Nuer are landlocked and set away from water routes, it is difficult to ship supplies in and out, as well as money making opportunities. Out of the very few opportunities here are a few. 

    The Nuer economy is based on a combination of, in order of importance, cattle herding, horticulture, fishing, and collecting wild foods. Cattle are the Nuer's most cherished possession, an essential food supply as well as the most important social asset. Cattle play an important role in rituals. Nuer institutions, customs, and social behavior are directly related to cattle. Although the economy is based on a combination of cattle herding, horticulture, and fishing, pastoral pursuits take precedence because cattle not only provide daily nutrition but have a general social value in all other aspects of life. 

   Traditionally, when there was shortage of food and nowhere to barter, people relied on collecting wild foods and fishing. Recently, the Nuer have engaged in trading as a source of subsistence. Wild foods are abundant during certain times of the year throughout Nuerland. Recent famines, displacement, and loss of assets because of the war have forced the Nuer to make gathering wild foods, trading, and fishing important components of their economy. Besides grain and dried fish, the Nuer do not have nonperishable food items that can be stored for extended periods. The goal of economic activity is to satisfy immediate dietary needs rather than to accumulate wealth. When a household can harvest surplus grain, it converts the proceeds into cattle.

    Barter existed in Nuerland before there were markets, and a person who produced surplus food could exchange it for livestock. When the Nuer were introduced to items such as sugar, salt, clothes, medicine, and soap, it was difficult to acquire them since there was no paid labor and no other type of cash economy. The easiest way to buy those goods was to sell livestock in the city, but selling cattle was considered shameful. It was not until the British colonial government imposed a poll tax and insisted that it be paid in cash that the Nuer sold livestock. When Arab traders began to venture into Nuerland to sell a few of those items and later opened shops, grain became available. A few Nuer got involved in trading by selling old oxen in the city and then buying trade items and sometimes returning to the city to purchase more cows. Trading became another means to increase one's herd. However, in the 1970s, when the first civil war ended and reconstruction began, the Nuer found opportunities for paid labor in urban construction projects. Much of the money they made was used to buy basic supplies and cows.

    Historically, trading was not an important aspect of Nuer economic activity until the middle of the twentieth century, when Arab traders went from village to village selling salt, cloth, beads, and medicine. Those items were purchased with small livestock or chickens, and when cash became available, women brewed beer to buy those items. When northern traders realized that the South, including Nuerland, was a good area for business, there was an influx of Arab goods and the markets grew. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Migration of the Nuer

    In concern with the landscape and living conditions of Africa, there are many more reasons for a tribe to travel and migrate to solve their conflict with mother nature. On the more severe and immoral side of things, people can be pushed out of territories by a bigger, much larger tribe for territorial expansion to religious conflict.
    Nuer living to the east of the Nile speak of their western relatives as "homeland Nuer" and have a consistent oral tradition indicating that their expansion across the Nile, as far as the Ethiopian border, has a 200-year legacy. In the process of this expansion, they forced the Anuak to migrate farther east into Ethiopia, and incorporated many Dinka into Nuer communities. Nuer versed in such matters suggest that at one time three "brothers"—Nuer, Dinka, and Atuot—once lived in a neighboring territory. Legends suggest that they parted company to go their own ways following a dispute about the rightful ownership of a number of cattle. Both Atuot and Nuer traditions indicate that this separation and initial migration originated in a cattle camp in what is now termed western "Nuerland." These legends of migration sometimes have mythical properties, but it is prudent to appreciate them also for their historical character.

   It is certain that the Nuer, Dinka, and Atuot have a common "origin," and archaeological research may indicate that the spread of domesticated cattle in this region of Africa was contemporaneous with the origin of distinct ethnic identities. An especially active period of Nuer eastward migration began in the middle of the nineteenth century. Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, British colonial policy in Nuerland was aimed at fixing boundaries between the Nuer and the Dinka, thus effectively halting a dynamic process of cultural change that had been unfolding for centuries.

Next Door: Neighbors to the Nuer

    The Nuer lived in the landlocked nation of South Sudan. In that, they are surrounded by other tribes and cultures. Some may be passive and worthy of trading or agreement, others may be aggressive and conflict with each other. Especially when South Sudan shares a border with Eastern Ethiopia. Some of the Nuer may have never crossed a countries border just like if a citizen from the United States never left the country. We never know whats on the other side.

    To the west of the Nuer's territory resides the Dinka tribe. The Dinka people are an ethnic group inhabiting the Bahr el Ghazal region of the Nile basin, Jonglei and parts of southern Kordufan and Upper Sudan  regions. They are mainly agripastoral people, relying on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and growing millet and other varieties of grains in fixed settlements during the rainy season.The Dinkas' pastoral lifestyle is also reflected in their religious beliefs and practices. They have one God, Nhialic, who speaks through spirits that take temporary possession of individuals in order to speak through them. The Nuer and Dinka are very hostile toward each other for differences in cultural beliefs and territorial conflict.

Territorial Divisions of South Sudan and Sudan
     To the north of Nuer lives the Nuba. Nuba is a collective term used here for the peoples who inhabit the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state, in Sudan. Although the term is used to describe them as if they composed a single group, the Nuba are multiple distinct peoples and speak different languages.The Nuba people are primarily farmers, as well as herders who keep cattle, goats, chickens, and other domestic animals. The primary religion of many Nuba peoples is Islam, with some Christians, and traditional shamanistic beliefs also prevailing. Although the Nuba and the Nuer have little to no connection besides rare occasions of drifters, they relate in their agricultural, breeding, and farming techniques.

    We must always be concerned with who surrounds us, explore the unexplored. Many things could be in comparison. Stay tuned for my next post concerning the migrations of Nuer people.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Travelers of the Sky: Birds

    The birds that dwell and strive in South Sudan are plentiful. Some may help pollenate plants, hunt insects or fish, and some tell a story that travels down the generational ladder by word of mouth. South Sudan is home to an impressive number of species of birds that vary from residents, that stay all year around, to breeding birds, that spend a good part of the growing season in South Sudan to raise their young, migrants who pass through South Sudan with the seasons, to wintering birds who like to spend a good part of the winter in South Sudan to escape colder conditions up north. 

Black Coucal

Black and White Cuckoo

  There are approximately 952 species of birds that live in South Sudan. The species are very diverse due to South Sudan's landscape. You can find  waterfowl and wading birds, a large suite of song birds, raptors, game birds, swifts and nighthawks, etc., many of which occupy several ecosystems simultaneously, as they fly to and from forests, meadows, shorelines of waters, cities and urban green spaces. 

Black-Headed Batis

Paradise-Whydah (male)
  As a fact to help you remember South Sudan, their national bird is the African Fish Eagle. Beyond the birds living their every day life, some may carry a distinct meaning with their presence or even tell a story. Stories often portray birds as emissaries of urgent and important news. They can reach places that are not avaliable to other story characters, both good and bad. They bridge the gap between characters and desired destinationsSentinels are soldiers on guard and birds in some African stories stand up as such to prevent fatalities. African people believe that the appearance of certain types of birds symbolizes or warns of danger or even death.

Do you know how many birds live in you hometown? You would be surprised, give it the thought and check it out. Keep Exploring! Till next time.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Cosmos of the Nuer

    Hello fellow explorers! I am back on from a bit of a researching hiatus from my last post on the homeland of the Nuer. This weeks topic I have been running into a bit of difficulty on my discoveries and research. Might I say, there is quite a bit of intersecting ties in Africa. The topic is the "Cosmos". In other words, the way the Nuer see the world around them. So let me get started in our exploration.

    The Nuer people are mainly Christian, in saying that they have a fairly common view of the world, heaven, and hell. Lets talk about how this mindset came about. There was an especially active period of Nuer eastward migration began in the middle of the nineteenth century. This movement could have caused mixed cultural and religious views. But at the beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, British colonial policy in Nuerland was aimed at fixing boundaries between the Nuer and the Dinka, thus effectively halting dynamic process of cultural change that had been unfolding for centuries.

    The Nuer's religion of catholicism makes it very easy for catholics or any comparable religion catholicism to picture the current physical life as we walk the planet and the view of the afterlife. In the Nuer picture of God he is thus creative spirit. He is also a person. The  do not Nuer suggest that he has human form, but though he is himself omnicsient and invisible he sees and hears all that happens and he can be angry and love (the Nuer word is nhok, and if we here translate it "to love" it must be understood in the preferential sense of agapo or diligo: when Nuer say that God loves something they mean that he is partial to it). As a person he is the father of men.

    But though God is sometimes felt to be present here and now, he is also felt to be far away in the sky. However, heaven and earth are not entirely separated. There are comings and goings. Stories told by word of mouth that God takes the souls of those he destroys by lightning to dwell with him and in him they protect their kinsmen; he participates in the affairs of men through divers spirits which haunt the atmosphere between heaven and earth and may be regarded as hypostasizations of his modes and attributes; and he is also everywhere present in a way which can only be symbolized, as his ubiquitous presence is symbolized by the Nuer, by the metaphor of wind and air. Also God can be communicated with through prayer and sacrifice, and a certain kind of contact with him is maintained through the moral order of society, which he is said to have instituted and of which he is the guardian. But in spite of these communications and contacts the distance between heaven and earth is too great to be bridged.

    I am going to close on the words of religion. Think about how this view of the physical and spiritual world could be compared to yours. Our worlds are not so far apart, no matter the miles of land and ocean that separate us. Stay tuned for next week.