Tuesday, 8 May 2018

SOUTH SUDAN: Nuer People, Rainbow Is Necklace Of God. Woman Not Allowed To Remarry Because She Is Still The Wife Of Her Dead Husband

The Nuer people are a Nilotic ethnic group primarily inhabiting the Nile Valley.

They are concentrated in South Sudan, with some also found in southwestern Ethiopia.

They speak the Nuer language, which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan family.

As one of the largest ethnic groups in southern Sudan, the Nuer people are pastoralist who herd cattle for a living. The cattle of the Nuer people serve as companions and a lifestyle.

The Nuer are a cattle raising people devoted to their herds, although milk and meat must be supplemented by the cultivation of millet and the spearing of fish.

Because the land is flooded for part of the year and parched for the rest of it, they spend the rainy season in permanent villages built on the higher ground and the dry season in riverside camps.

Politically, the Nuer form a cluster of autonomous communities, within which there is little unity and much feuding; homicides are settled by payments of cattle effected through the mediation of a priest.

The basic social group is the patrilineal lineage. Groups of lineages are organized into clans. The members of a clan have in their territory a slightly privileged status, although they form a minority of its population.
The majority belong to other clans or are descendants of the neighbouring Dinka, large numbers of whom have been subdued by the Nuer and incorporated into their society. In each community the men are divided into six age sets.

Marriage, which is polygynous, is marked by the giving of cattle by the bridegroom’s people to the bride’s kin.

Because it is held that every man must have at least one male heir, it is the custom for a man’s kin, should he die unmarried, to marry a wife to his name and beget children by her, a custom known as ghost marriage.

The Nuer pray and sacrifice to a spirit associated with the sky but also thought to be ubiquitous, like the air.

This spirit is conceived of as a single creative spirit in relation to mankind as a whole, but it is also figured in different representations in relation to different social groups, such as clans, lineages, and age sets, and it may then be symbolized by material forms, often animals or plants.

However, they refer to themselves as Nath. The Nuer people have historically been under-counted as a result of the semi-nomadic lifestyle in which the community engages, as well as a lack of proper national census information about the community.

In addition, the Nuer also have a culture of counting only older members of the family.

For example, the Nuer believes that counting the number of children one have could result to misfortune and the community prefer to report fewer number of children when in fact they have many children.

The nature of relations among the various southern Sudanese tribes was greatly affected in the 19th century by the intrusion of the British.

Some ethnic groups made their accommodation with the colonizers and others did not, in effect pitting one southern ethnic group against another in the context of foreign rule.

For example, some sections of the Dinka supported colonial rule which was resisted by the Nuer.

The Dinka treated the resisting Nuer as hostile, and hostility developed between the two groups as a result of their differing relationships to the British.

There are different accounts of the origin of the conflict between the Nuer and the Dinka, South Sudan's two largest ethnic groups.

There are suggestions that neither the Nuer nor the Dinka are intrusive and that the Nuer are actually Dinka. They argue that hundreds of years of population growth created expansion, which eventually led to raids and wars.

In 2006, the Nuer were the tribe that resisted disarmament most strongly.
Members of the Nuer White Army, a group of armed youths often autonomous of tribal elders' authority, refused to lay down their weapons, which led SPLA soldiers to confiscate Nuer cattle, destroying their economy.

The White Army was finally put down in mid-2006, though a successor organisation self-styling itself as a White Army formed in 2011 to fight the Murle tribe, as well as the Dinka and UNMISS.

Cattle have historically been of the highest symbolic, religious and economic value among the Nuer.

Among Nuer people, the difference between people and cattle were continually underplayed. Cattle are particularly important in their role as bride wealth, where they are given by a husband's lineage to his wife's lineage.

It is this exchange of cattle which ensures that the children will be considered to belong to the husband's lineage and to his line of descent.

The classical Nuer institution of ghost marriage, in which a man can father children after his death, is based on this ability of cattle exchanges to define relations of kinship and descent.

In their turn, cattle given over to the wife's patrilineage enable the male children of that patrilineage to marry, and thereby ensure the continuity of her patrilineage.

A barren woman can even take a wife of her own, whose children obviously biologically fathered by men from outside unions, then become members of her patrilineage, and she is legally and culturally their father.

This allowing her to participate in reproduction in a metaphorical sense.

The life of the Nuer people primarily depends on cattle which has shaped them into being a pastoralist group, but sometimes they are known to resort to horticulture as well.

If they weren't threatened by the numerous diseases cattle could catch then they would solely rely on pastoralism.

Due to the seasons of harsh weather, the Nuer move around time after time to ensure that their primary source of living is safe.

They tend to travel when heavy seasons of rainfall come to protect the cattle from getting hoof disease, or when there is a scarcity of resources for the cattle.

They depend on the herds for their very existence. Cattle are the thread that runs through Nuer institutions, language, rites of passage, politics, economy, and allegiances.

If they didn't have cattle most of their traditions or other characteristics shaped by cattle in their culture would be altered.

Cattle is their primary resource that can be utilized in more than one way. They are able to structure their entire culture around cattle and still have what they need.

Times before development the Nuer used every single piece of cattle to their advantage. Cattle helped evolve the Nuer culture into what it may be today.

It has shaped the daily duties of the Nuer as they are seen to dedicate themselves to protecting and ensuring safety to the cattle. One can see their true dedication for cattle in times of bad health.

For example, each month they place their faces into the ass of their cattle blowing air to relieve or keep them from constipation.

Cattle are no good to the Nuer if they are constipated because they are restricted from producing primary resources that families need to survive.
The importance of cattle in Nuer life and thought is further exemplified in personal names. They structure the names of their children off of biological features of the cattle themselves.

All of the Nuer raw materials come from these cattle things such as drums, rugs, clothing, spears, shields, containers, and leather goods. There isn’t one single part of the cattle that the Nuer throw away.

As they have purpose for ritual intent, churning cheese and even to cleanse the body. Even daily essentials found in common cultures like toothpaste and mouthwash are created with the cattle’s dung and urine.

They even use the cattle's dung for everyday use. What they do is gather the dung that the cattle have extracted overnight and put them in big abundant piles.

Once they have them in piles they chop the dung into smaller pieces and leaves it out to hardened. From there they use it for whatever resource they may need like containers, toothpaste, or even to protect the cattle themselves.

They protect the cattle by feeding the dung to the fire allowing it to produce more smoke keeping insects away from cattle to prevent them from catching a disease.

The Nuer people never eat cattle just because they want to. Cattle are very sacred to them, therefore when they do eat cattle they honor its ghost. They typically just eat the cattle that is up in age on dying because of sickness.

But even if they do so, they all gather together performing rituals dances or songs before and after they slaughter the cattle.

Never do they just kill cattle for the fun of it. Never do Nuer slaughter animals solely because the desire to eat meat.

There is the danger of the ox’s spirit visiting a curse on any individual who would slaughter it without ritual intent, aiming only to use it for food.

Any animal that dies of natural causes is eaten. Many times it may not even just be cattle that they consume, it could be any animal they have scavenged upon that has died because of natural causes.

There are a few other food sources that are available for the Nuer to consume. The Nuer diet primarily consists of fish and millet. Their staple crop is millet. Millet is formally consumed as porridge or beer.

The Nuer turn to this staple product in seasons of rainfall when they move their cattle up to higher ground. They might also turn to millet when the cattle are performing well enough to support their family.

Kinship dynamic is different with the Nuer. To a Nuer individual, his parents and siblings are not considered blood relatives or kin. He doesn't refer to them as kin.

To him they are considered gol which is far more intimate and significant. There are kinship categories in the Nuer society. Those categories depend on the payment to them.

There is a balance between the mother and father's side that is acknowledged through particular formal occasions such as marriage.

Nuer girls usually marry at 17 or 18. If a young girl gets engaged at an early age, the wedding and consummation ceremonies are essentially delayed.

Women generally give birth to their first children when they are mature enough to bear them. As long as a girl marries a man with cattle, she is able to freely choose her husband.

Her parents may choose a spouse for her, but they must ask for her consent.
Cattle are an important aspect in their way of life; virtually all matters involve cattle- conflicts are usually about cattle, and cattle are used to pay fines for offenses as well as bridewealth in marriages.

Nuers even take the name of their favourite oxen or cows, and greet each other with their cattle names. Cattle also mean prestige and wealth. It also acts as a mediator to the divine, as we would see in the ceremonial rites of Nuer marriages.

Cattle not only provide companionship, food and economic security, but also a cultural identity for the Nuer. Cattle also plays important role in rites in their marriages.

Bridewealth is a significant feature in Nuers’ marriage practices. It is an exchange that brings a woman and her children into the descent of her husband.

The Nuer has certain marriage prohibitions that revolve around the matters of kinship. A man and woman who stand on a relationship based on kin is hence forbidden to have sex or marry.

If marriage takes place, it would be considered incest, or rual. Rual refers to both incest and misfortune brought about it, shaped by their religious beliefs.

Syphilis or other diseases, drowning, or any form of violent deaths are seen as a consequence or retribution followed by incest. Some misfortunes could be avoided through cattle sacrifices.

Nuers have to follow the rule of exogamy: a man cannot marry a woman of the same clan and the same lineage. This means, a man and woman who are considered close cognate are also not allowed to marry.

As long as a relationship cam be traced between a man and woman through either father or mother, up to six generations, marriage is not allowed to happen.

When a Dinka boy is adopted by a Nuer, he used be regarded as part of the clan, and normally would not be allowed to marry a girl in the clan he is adopted.

A man may not also be allowed to take a woman that is kin to the wife, like her sister or any of those in her clan.

Because a man and woman is only fully married when the woman has a child and comes to live with her husband’s people, this means that the relation is tied through the child.

The sister is also considered to be the mother of the child. Besides that, a man may not marry to the daughter of his age mate, a member of his age set.

This is because age-mates shed blood together during their initiation process and gives them a kind of kinship. The daughter one’s age-mate is also one’s daughter, and hence it would be considered incest.

One alternative marriage type is same sex marriage. Women in Nuer culture can marry each other, with one being the father of the children of the wife.

The father is referred to the pater. A third person, the genitor, is required to impregnate the wife. He could be a friend, neighbor or kinsman of the pater, and would help around in the home for tasks which are deemed unfit for women as well.

For the marriage to become official, the pater has to pay a bridewealth to the wife, as would happen if a man were to marry a woman.

Additionally, the pater would also receive bridewealth if any of her daughters were to marry. While this was not uncommon, the underlying motivation is still to carry on the family name.

A woman who marries as a pater is usually barren, and for this reason is regarded like a man. In addition, because a barren woman usually practices as a magician or diviner, she acquires more cattle and hence is rich and could have several wives.

Another alternative marriage arrangement is ghost marriage. A woman would be chosen to marry a family member of the dead man, and the offspring of these two would be thought of as belonging to the deceased.

This lies in the belief that a man who died without male heirs would leave behind an angry spirit to trouble the family. The woman marries to his name so that the children would carry his line.

The deceased is the legal husband of the woman whose name is used in paying for bridewealth. The main idea here is the continuity of the lineage.

For the Nuer, once married, the bond between them stays even after death. While polygyny is practiced in the Nuer society, a woman is expected to stay loyal to her husband, where relation with other man is seen as adultery.

Hence if one’s husband died, the woman is not allowed to remarry because she is still the wife of her dead husband. Brother of the deceased would then step in as a substitute for the dead man.

Because married women traditionally do not have significant wealth, this way she would be able to keep her wealth and power, though there is no living husband. She is seen as a widow who takes care of her husband’s wealth and children.

The alternative marriage arrangements for the Nuers are shaped by the patrilineal nature of the society.

Because men tend to have much more wealth than women, they have the means to have more wives and even pass down their wealth to future generation even he is not married when he is alive.

Having a family is one of the ultimate goals for traditional Nuer youths. The idea of marriage has been ingrained even through childhood.

Adults are open about sexual life with their children, and children familiarise themselves with marriage through role-playing of marriage ceremonies, conducting bridewealth negotiations and pretending having a conjugal life.

Carrying out domestic work also helps to reinforce the idea of family and commitment. Boys are initiated around the age of 16, after which they would go to dances to woo girls.

Girls in their 12 or 13 would begin to have relations with initiated boys.

Dances serve as an important medium where couples meet and court after that. It allows youths from different clans and villages to meet each other.

During the dances the men would charm the girls with their fine dancing and display of spearmanship and duelling with the club.

Marriage for the Nuer is made up of payment of bridewealth and by the performance of certain ceremonial rites.

These two aspects are necessary and indeed reinforce each other. The chief ceremonies in Nuer marriages include the betrothal or larcieng, the wedding or ngut and the consummation or mut.

The negotiations of bridewealth, or cattle talk or riet ghok starts when the boy comes to consult the girl’s and ask kins for approval.

After several cattle discussions and the girl’s people are satisfied, they would tell the bridegroom that he can bring the ghok lipa, the cattle of betrothal, on a certain day.

During the betrothal ceremony three to ten heads of cattle are transferred to the bride’s family. At this phase, marriage is provisionally agreed upon both families. The celebration would be usually be attended by neighbours.

The dance in weddings attract crowds to come, although the union do not directly concern them. Families and kin of the bride and groom are more involved in prolonged discussions about bridewealth, sacrifices and other rites

The wedding ceremony or ngut takes place some weeks later, during the windy season, and meanwhile there are further discussions about bridewealth not only in the home of her bride’s father but also in the home of her senior maternal uncle or father’s brother-in-law, who is also responsible for the negotiations.

In the meantime, bridegroom and girl is considered man and wife, and he is respected as son-in-law. Occasionally visits the girl with his friends, but they are carefully observed by bride’s family.

The final cattle talk happens during the ngut. The wedding also consists of calling of the ghosts of ancestors, the wedding dance and sacrifice of the cattle.

There would be chantings to invoke the ghosts of ancestors to look upon the cattle of the bridewealth. This is to make the ghosts witnesses of the union.

In the evening or the following morning, a wedding ox provided by the bride’s father is sacrificed and distributed. This sacrifice is important to ward off evil and contamination, according to Nuer’s religious beliefs.

The consummation or mut concludes the marriage. Before the couple is allowed to consummate, half of the bridewealth have to be transferred.This ceremony makes the couple husband and wife.

After which, the husband can claim compensation if adultery happens, while the bride is prevented form going to evening dances. Important rites in this ceremony include the sacrifice of an ox, lustration and shaving of the bride’s head.

Because the union is seen complete only after the birth of the first child, the wife would only be brought to her husband’s home after that, where she would be accepted as kin.

Again this feature is important in Nuer marriage because infertility could cause the marriage to be dissolved and so the wife is pressured to have a child within one to two years.

The payment of bridewealth is to be completed before the woman moves into her husband's clan.

Bridewealth makes up an important aspect in Nuer marriages. Bridewealth serves several functions. It is basically an exchange whereby the girl is transferred to the male’s lineage and her family receives the cattle.

It also means that children born out of that union belongs to the husband’s descent. In addition, bridewealth is a way to develop relationship between two families.

It is different from dowry such that bridewealth is not given for the bride alone but also distributed among her kins.

Because marriage is a long process for the Nuer, bridewealth payments can be seen as a way to develop social relations among people with no kinship ties i.e. between families of the bride and bridegroom.

Each payment gives stability to the union and security to both parties.

Kinship along the Nuer is very important to them, they refer to their blood relatives as gol. Kinship within the Nuer is formed off of one’s neighbors or their entire culture.

Kinship obligations include caring for the children of one’s kin and neighbors. The network of kinship ties which links members of local communities is brought about by the operation of exogamous rules, often stated in terms of cattle.

This is never thought to be the sole responsibility of the child’s parents. Cattle are judged by how much milk they can produce which is a necessity in their culture. If possible they create the excess of milk into cheese.

But if a family’s herd cannot produce the amount of milk a family needs then they turn to other around them to give them what they need.

It’s seen as their responsibility to step in and help the family since it’s not really their fault on how much their cattle can produce.

The entire Nuer society is basically watching after each other, for example, hhen one household has a surplus, it is shared with neighbors. Amassing wealth is not an aim.

Although a man who owns a large herd of cattle may be envied, his possession of numerous animals does not garner him any special privilege or treatment.

In this tribe there is no special treatment for how one is treated because of their abundance in cattle. Just because one might have more cattle than another doesn't mean they have a higher prestige.

If one might have more than enough to provide for themselves then they also provide that to other kin that are in need, as it is a part of their role in kinship.

The Nuer believe that God is the spirit of the sky or the spirit who is in the sky - Kuoth Nhial or God in Heaven the creator, but Nuers believe in the coming of God through rain, lightning and thunder, and that the rainbow is the necklace of God.

The sun and the moon as well as other material entities are also manifestation or sign of God, who after all is a spirit.

The spirits of the air above are believed to be the most powerful of the lesser spirits, while there are also spirits associated with clan spears names such as WiW, a spirit of war, associated with thunder.

Nuers believe that when a man or a woman dies, the flesh, the life and the soul separate. The flesh is committed to the earth, while the breath or life goes back to God or Kuoth.

The soul that signifies the human individuality and personality remains alive as a shadow or a reflection, and departs together with the ox sacrificed, to the place of the ghosts.

In the 1940s, missionaries began to attempt to evangelize the Nuer. The book of Genesis was translated and published in 1954, with the whole New Testament following in 1968.

By the 1970s, there were nearly 200 Nuer congregations established. However, only around 1% of Nuer identify as Christian.

Nuer placed strict limits on the convertibility of money and cattle in order to preserve the special status of cattle as objects of bride wealth exchange and as mediators to the divine.

She also found that as a result of endemic warfare with the Sudanese state, guns had acquired much of the symbolic and ritual importance previously held by cattle.

The people speak the Nuer language / Thoknath which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language phylum.

Though their geographical proximity with their Dinka's neighbors, the two people speak completely different languages and are unable to understand each other.

The Nuer receive facial markings called gaar as part of their initiation into adulthood. The pattern of Nuer scarification varies within specific subgroups.

The most common initiation pattern among males consists of six parallel horizontal lines which are cut across the forehead with a razor, often with a dip in the lines above the nose.

Dotted patterns are also common especially among the Bul Nuer and among females.

The Nuer adopted the practice of circumcision as part of the process of assimilation other ethnic groups.

The Nuer are not historically known to circumcise, but on rare occasions, may participate as part of ritual in their belief systems.

For instance, The Nuer occasionally perform circumcisions to cleanse people who have engaged in the act of incest.

Typical foods eaten by the Nuer tribe include beef, goat, cow's milk, mangos, and sorghum in one of three forms: ko̱p which is finely ground, handled until balled and boiled.

Walwal ground, lightly balled and boiled to a solid porridge, and injera, a large, pancake like yeast-risen flatbread.

In the early 1990s about 25,000 African refugees were resettled in the United States throughout different locations such as South Dakota, Tennessee and Minnesota.

In particular, 4,288 refugees from Sudan were resettled among 36 different states between 1990 and 1997 with the highest number in Texas at 17 percent of the refugee population from Sudan.

The Nuer refugees in the United States and those in Africa continue to observe their social obligations to one another.

They use different means ranging from letters to new technologically advanced communication methods in order to stay connected to their families in Africa.

Nuer in the United States provide assistance for family members’ paperwork to help their migration process to the United States. Furthermore, Nuer in the United States observe family obligations by sending money for those still in Africa.

Some important Nuer politicians are Both Diu who was the first Nuer and South Sudan Politician from 1947 and followed by Gai Tut in Military is Bol Nyawan who fought against the Khartoum government in Bentiiu, he was killed in 1985 by the current president of Sudan.

Commander Ruai and Leah Diu Deng were responsible for the attack that forced Chevron to suspend activities in the oil field around 1982.

Nyada meaning daughter, all females begin with Nya which means of. It is the standard prefix used for female names. Gat, meaning son of, is a common prefix for male names.

Children are commonly given names to mark historical events e.g Domaac meaning bullet, or Mac meaning fire or gun.

These are given to a child born during times of war or from another man in the name of the deceased father who legally married the mother.

Nhial means rain, and is a common name for males.

Many Nuer have been exposed to missionaries and carry a Christian first name. Their second name is a given name and always in Nuer.

The father's given name follows the child's given name, which is then followed by the grandfather's name, and so on. Many Nuer can easily recount ten generations of paternal lineage because they carry those names themselves.

When a Nuer comes to the Western world, which wants a first and last name, it is their custom to give their name as their first name followed by their father's name as their middle name and their grandfather's name as their last name.

After the civil war, the Nuer began accepting cash currency into their economy, changing the dynamics of their cattle and how they were viewed.

Each type of cattle is titled according to how they are acquired such as the cattle of money or purchased with cash currency and the cattle of girls/daughters or bridewealth.

Most Nuer people are named after their cattle. The boys usually chose the name of their favorite cattle based on the form and color of the ox.

The girls are named after the cows that they milk. Sometimes the cow names are passed down.

Oil exploration and drilling began in 1975 and 1976 by companies such as Chevron. In 1979 the first oil production took place in the southern regions of Darfur.

In the early 1980s when the North-South war was happening, Chevron was interested in the reserves in the south.

In 1984 guerrillas of SPLA the Sudan People’s Liberation Army attacked the drilling site of the north at Bentiu. In return, Chevron cleared Nuer and Dinka people in the oil fields area to ensure security for their operations.

The Nuer-Dinka struggle in oil fields continued in late 1990s into the early 2000s. The struggle for oil production was not only manifested in North-South fight, but also in Nuer-Dinka and many internal conflicts among Nuer.

As part of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), 50 percent of net revenues of southern oil fields were given to the government of southern Sudan as a solution to one of the sources of decades of civil conflict.

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