The Nuba of Sudan
A cluster of 12 closely related groups.
There are many Nuba groups, each constituting a different ethnic group with its own language. In fact, nearly 100 different dialects are spoken in the Nuba hills. This leaves one community unable to understand the next. Fortunately, many Nuba speak Arabic as a second language, which has enabled them to communicate with other groups.
For many centuries, the Nuba Mountains served as a refuge for peoples fleeing oppressive governments and slave traders. Perhaps this best explains why there is such a variety of Nuba groups and languages.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Nuba are industrious farmers and their livelihood is based primarily on agriculture. Sorghum, the staple crop, can either be sold or made into beer. Millet, sesame, peanuts, and tobacco are grown for personal consumption. The Nuba also gather forest products and sell them as some of the region's exports. Even the women have small vegetable gardens in which they raise vegetables such as onions, okra, beans, and maize. The Nuba also keep cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens.
Millet porridge is a main part of the Nuba diet. It is served with a sauce made from meat, okra, or kidney beans. Dura, a thin, course bread, was introduced to the Nuba by the neighboring Arab groups. Today, it has become one of their staple foods. Dura can also be used to make a mild beer. The Nuba who have migrated into cities now enjoy eating bread from bakeries, fresh meat, and fresh produce, leaving their desire for millet porridge behind.
Individual Nuba communities vary in size. Some groups live in smaller villages with only 1000 inhabitants. Other groups have combined with the neighboring villages, forming communities of up to 50,000.
A typical Nuba home is made of either stone or plaster-covered thatch. Each home has a kitchen, sleeping quarters, and a granary. Some houses also have special rooms where the young unmarried girls of the neighborhood sleep.
Village communities are organized by clans or extended family sections. The authority of the village is left in the hands of the clan elders. Each community usually has a large, stone mosque. Most villages also have Islamic schools where young boys and girls are sent to study the Koran.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Nuba of the southern section of the Nuba Mountains such as the Mesakin, Krongo Nuba, and Tulishi, however, have not yet converted to Islam. They instead follow their traditional animistic religion (believe that non-living objects have spirits). The villagers depend on shamans (priests or priestesses) to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events. The shamans often go into trances and speak to the spirits who are said to control the lives of the tribe. The people believe that the local priests can be incarnations of spirits. They are in charge of such things as fertility ceremonies, and also participate in sacrifices to ward off illness or famine.
What Are Their Needs?
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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