The Changing World of the Dinka

The Changing World of the Dinka - Francis Mading Deng

The Changing World of the Dinka


In 1973, during the one year anniversary celebrations of the Addis Ababa Agreement which had ended Sudan's first civil war (1955-1972) and granted autonomy to the southern region of Sudan, Dr. Francis Mading Deng, himself the son of the Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief, sat with other Dinka chiefs in Juba and recorded their conversations - the first oral history collection by a Southern Sudanese. The Agreement had granted Southern Sudan regional autonomy and hailing the achievement of peace, they spoke of their concerns and questions for the future. Would Arab and Dinka become one and live together in peace? Should inter-marriage be accepted and encouraged? What will become of the government and the future of the country? Would Chiefs continue to play their traditional role or would their leadership be replaced by the newly-emerging educated class - which Dr. Deng, as the first Southern Sudanese to gain a PhD, was a leading member of? These Chiefs also spoke of the ancient past; sharing stories of creation, ancestors and migration and the recent past; of oppression, slavery and war and the spiritual and cultural beliefs of their cattle-centered culture. From these recordings came two extraordinary books. Africans of Two Worlds: The Dinka in Afro-Arab Sudan in 1978, reissued as The Changing World of the Dinka. In 1980, Dinka Cosmology, followed - now reissued as Dinka World View: The Wisdom of the Elders.

These seminal works were ground-breaking; not only marking a critical moment in one of the many African struggles for cultural, political, religious freedoms and survival, but in giving voice to oral cultures and their esteemed elders. In the 21st century, these books have lost none of their power and are critical reading for anyone interested in African history and South Sudan's long struggle for independence. However, what makes these two books really stand out, is the way they captured the Chiefs recognition that their culture was changing. Not only had war introduced a new period of governance, but that the spoken word was being replaced by the written word - and the future was uncertain.

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In 1973, during the one year anniversary celebrations of the Addis Ababa Agreement which had ended Sudan's first civil war (1955-1972) and granted autonomy to the southern region of Sudan, Dr. Francis Mading Deng, himself the son of the Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief, sat with other Dinka chiefs in Juba and recorded their conversations - the first oral history collection by a Southern Sudanese. The Agreement had granted Southern Sudan regional autonomy and hailing the achievement of peace, they spoke of their concerns and questions for the future. Would Arab and Dinka become one and live together in peace? Should inter-marriage be accepted and encouraged? What will become of the government and the future of the country? Would Chiefs continue to play their traditional role or would their leadership be replaced by the newly-emerging educated class - which Dr. Deng, as the first Southern Sudanese to gain a PhD, was a leading member of? These Chiefs also spoke of the ancient past; sharing stories of creation, ancestors and migration and the recent past; of oppression, slavery and war and the spiritual and cultural beliefs of their cattle-centered culture. From these recordings came two extraordinary books. Africans of Two Worlds: The Dinka in Afro-Arab Sudan in 1978, reissued as The Changing World of the Dinka. In 1980, Dinka Cosmology, followed - now reissued as Dinka World View: The Wisdom of the Elders.

These seminal works were ground-breaking; not only marking a critical moment in one of the many African struggles for cultural, political, religious freedoms and survival, but in giving voice to oral cultures and their esteemed elders. In the 21st century, these books have lost none of their power and are critical reading for anyone interested in African history and South Sudan's long struggle for independence. However, what makes these two books really stand out, is the way they captured the Chiefs recognition that their culture was changing. Not only had war introduced a new period of governance, but that the spoken word was being replaced by the written word - and the future was uncertain.

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