London, United Kingdom
Dinka Lady - South Sudan
Painting - Watercolour
The Dinka have cultural and linguistic affinity to and share much with the Nuer and Shilluk to whom they refer to in their names. The Dinka refer to other peoples as foreigners (jur) and the colour of the skin is the only distinction. ‘Jur chol’ refer to black foreigners and jur mathiang or buony refer to light skin people .
Modernity and foreign ideas have permeated Dinka culture and are slowly replacing their traditions and customs. Many Dinka have converted to Christianity and Islam - in Ngok and Abialang. They have adopted either jellabia or European dress and now nudity and wearing of skins are rare sight even in the cattle camps.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. The majority of Dinka practice traditional religions whose central theme is the worship of a high god through the totem, ancestral spirits, and a number of deities. The high god is called Nhiali and he is the source of sustenance. Deng is the most noteworthy of the lower gods and Abuk is a female god. Educated Dinka tend to conceive of Deng and Abuk as the equivalents of Adam and Eve.
Ancestral spirits are presumed to be able to increase productivity of the land, multiply cattle, and provide safety for all. They are thought to watch over the living, to reward good behavior with fortune, and punish wrongdoing with a calamity brought upon the individual, family, or whole group. They are the mediators between the people and the high god. Many of the gods and spirits are considered good natured and capable of being appeased when angered by human behavior, but there are also a number of free-roaming, largely malevolent spirits, who can be deployed by individuals with special capabilities to do evil.
When Christian missionaries first came in contact with the Dinka, they concluded that the Dinka were worshiping idols and ancestors. From the Dinka point of view, this was untrue, as these objects and locations are merely places of worship, analogous to the church, mosque, or synagogue. For this apparent misunderstanding, Christianity was resisted vigorously throughout the nineteenth century. It was not until the late twentieth century that large numbers of Dinka were converted. Dinka Christians comprised about 20 percent of the population at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Christianity plays a vital role in the lives of many people, including non-believers, because of the Islamic extremism in the north, and also because of increased churchrelated aid.
Religious Practitioners. The central figure in Dinka religious practice is the master of the spear. He has proven to possess certain powers to heal and bring fortune through his prayers to God, and whose prayers for good health, cattle safety, and fertility are met. Many Dinka believe that this aspect of their religion does not contradict Christianity, and so continue to believe in both
May 18th, 2013
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