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The Dinka is an ethnic group inhabiting the Bahr el Ghazal region of the Nile basin, Jonglei and parts of southern Kordufan and Upper Nile regions. They are mainly agro-pastoral people, relying on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and growing millet (Awuou) and other varieties of grains (rap) in fixed settlements during the rainy season. They number around 1.5 million people, constituting about 10% of the population  of the entire country, and constitute the largest ethnic tribe in South Sudan. Dinka, or as they refer to themselves, Muonyjang (singular) and jieng (plural), are one of the branches of the River Lake Nilotes (mainly sedentary agri-pastoral peoples of East Africa who speak Nilotic languages, including the Nuer and Luo). Dinka are sometimes noted for their height. With the Tutsi of Rwanda, they are believed to be the tallest people in Africa. Roberts and Bainbridge reported average height of 182.6 cm (5 ft 11.9 in) in a sample of 52 Dinka Ageir and 181.3 cm (5 ft 11.4 in) in 227 Dinka Ruweng measured in 1953�1954. However, it seems that stature of today's Dinka males is lower, possibly as a consequence of undernutrition and war conflicts. An anthropometric survey of Dinka men-war refugees in Ethiopia published in 1995 found a mean height of 176.4 cm (5 ft 9.4 in) in the Ethiopian Medical Journal.
The Dinka have no centralised political authority, instead comprising many independent but interlinked clans. Certain of those clans traditionally provide ritual chiefs, known as the "masters of the fishing spear" or "beny bith", who provide leadership for the entire people and appear to be at least in part hereditary.
Their language called Dinka as well as "thuɔ©¯j�331; (thuongjang)" is one of the Nilotic languages of the Eastern Sudanic language family. The name means "people" in the Dinka language. It is written using the Latin alphabet with a few additions
The Dinka tribe (or Jieng) has ten subdivisions: Gok Arol, Atuot, Aliab, Bor, Chiej, Agar, Gok, Rek, Twic/Tuic East, Malual, and Ngok. Malual is the largest of those groups, numbering over a million people. The Dinka's migrations are determined by the local climate, their agro-pastoral lifestyle responding to the periodic flooding and dryness of the area in which they live. They begin moving around May�June at the onset of the rainy season to their �permanent settlements� of mud and thatch housing above flood level, where they plant their crops of millet and other grain products.
These rainy season settlements usually contain other permanent structures such as cattle byres (luaak) and granaries. During dry season (beginning about December�January), everyone except the aged, ill, and nursing mothers migrate to semi-permanent dwellings in the toic for cattle grazing. The cultivation of sorghum, millet, and other crops begins in the highlands in the early rainy season and the harvest of crops begins when the rains are heavy in June�August. Cattle are driven to the toic in September and November when the rainfall drops off; allowed to graze on harvested stalks of the crops.
The Dinka are a group of several closely related peoples living in southern Sudan along both sides of the White Nile. They cover a wide area along the many streams and small rivers, concentrated in the Upper Nile province in southeast Sudan and across into southwest Ethiopia.
Ancient pictographs of cattle in Egypt give reason to associate the Dinka with the introduction of domesticated cattle south of the Sahara. Around 3000 BC, herders who also fished and tilled settled in the largest swamp area in the world, the area of southern Sudan where the flood plain of the White Nile is also fed by the Rivers Bor, Aweil and Renk.
The Dinka are one of three groups that gradually developed from the original settlers. Dinka society spread out over the area in recent centuries, perhaps around AD 1500. The Dinka defended their area against the Ottoman Turks in the mid-1800s and repulsed attempts of slave merchants to convert them to Islam. Otherwise they have lived in seclusion.
The Dinka are one of the branches of the River Lake Nilotes. Though known for centuries as Dinka, they actually call themselves Moinjaang, "People of the people." The more numerous Southern Luo branch includes peoples throughout central Uganda and neighboring sections of Zaire and the lake area of western Kenya. The Dinka peoples still live near the hot and humid homeland of the River-Lake Nilotes. They are the largest ethnic group in southern Sudan.
The Dinka groups retain the traditional pastoral life of the Nilotes, but have added agriculture in some areas, growing grains, peanuts, beans, corn (maize) and other crops. Women do most of the agriculture, but men clear forest for the gardening sites. There are usually two plantings per year. Some are fishers. Their culture incorporated strategies for dealing with the annual cycle of one long dry season and one long rainy season.
The boys tend goats and sheep while the men are responsible for the cattle. The cattle are central to the Dinka culture and worlview. A man will identify with one special ox, will name it and compose songs and dances about the ox. He calls himself by the name of the ox, which is given to him at his initiation to adulthood. The ox will be referred to by many reference names, allusions to the direct name, which is actually its colour.
The Dinka expect an individual to be generous to others in order to achieve status in the society. They base their life on values of honor and dignity. They discuss and solve problems in public forums.
The Dinka peoples speak a series of closely-related languages which are grouped by linguists into five broad families of dialects. The five formal languages are called by linguists Northeastern, Northwestern, Southeastern, Southwestern and South Central. These titles encompass all the known dialects of Dinka speech.
January 18th, 2012
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