Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Article Excerpts About Nuba (Sudan) & Seven Videos Of Nuba Music & Dance

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post features excerpts from three online articles about the Nuba people of Sudan, North Africa.

This post also showcases seven videos of Nuba singing and dancing, with special attention to traditional Nuba singing and dancing. Of course, this is only a very small sample of YouTube videos of Nuba people.

The content of this post is presented for historical, educational, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

I’m particularly interested in the traditional clothing, jewelry, musical instruments, singing, and dancing that are shown in these videos.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

These excerpts are given in no particular order. I've numbered them for referencing purposes only.

Article Excerpt #1:
From [retrieved 2/14/2017]

The Nuba are a group of peoples who share a common geography in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Province, known as Jibal al-Nuba or Nuba Mountains. The origins of most Nuba peoples are obscure, but there is no doubt that they are Africans. They arrived to the area from various directions and in the course of thousands of years. Today there are over fifty Nuba tribes, who speak as many different languages. Traditionally the Nuba are farmers, but they are now employed in all segments of society. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, labour migrants have formed large Nuba communities in the large cities of North Sudan, like El Obeid, Khartoum and Port Sudan. Their combined number is estimated at 2.5 million people.

Until the Egyptian occupation of Sudan during the nineteenth century, most Nuba tribes lived relatively isolated. Contiguous events that shaped their history are the short but extremely violent rule of the Mahdi and his successor, and colonial rule by the British. Sudan took its independence in 1956 and since the 1960s the Nuba have been at odds with their successive National Governments. From 1987 to 2001, the Nuba Mountains were a battle zone in Sudan's larger civil war between the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

A cease fire in the Nuba Mountains eventually led to a comprehensive peace agreement reached in 2004. This CPA included the Nuba Mountains but proved inadequate to solve the differences between the parties. Just weeks before the secession of South Sudan, in 2011, fighting broke out in Kadugli, escalating into another long violent conflict that takes a heavy toll on the civilian population.

The following brief history aims to provide a broad perspective on the history of the Nuba. I have drawn from many different sources, and consulted scientists considered to be expert in their field for the more remote history. For the period of 1970 - 2005, I have relied largely on interviews with Nuba who were closely involved in the developments leading to the war in the Nuba Mountains and eventually the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2004. The most recent developments are mainly a summary of news articles and reports.

I. The name Nuba

For centuries, the geographical area where the Nuba tribes live has been known as Dar Nuba: the land of the Nuba. The Tegali Kingdom (a truly Nuba kingdom indeed) was known on its own accord, as were several individual hills, but to the Arab people living around the area, the people of the Mountains were all Nuba. The Europeans, relying on the Arabs for information, used the same name.

Until very recently the Nuba people themselves would rather use their tribal name and many didn’t really consider themselves to be Nuba. In the words of Yousif Kuwa Mekki:

It is one of the funniest things: when you were in the Nuba Mountains, you just knew your own tribe. We for example were Miri. So if we were asked: "Who are the Nuba?" we would try to say: "The other tribes - but not us." Only when we came out of the Nuba Mountains, to the north or south or west, we learned that we are all Nuba.1

Please note the word ‘try’ here: linguist and anthropologist A.C. Stevenson noticed that:
Some of the more educated are also shy of applying the term to themselves, they tend to reserve it for those they think of as rustic hill-dwellers: for them ‘Nuba’ is the reverse of a status symbol.2

An old theory supposes a relationship between the word ‘Nuba’ and the Archaic Egyption nbw [nebu], meaning ‘gold’. In ancient times the land south of Egypt produced a lot of gold and so the people were gold diggers; or the ‘land of gold’ would be called Nubia (which it wasn’t) and its people Nuba… Brief: lot’s of charming nonsense.3 And then there is A.J. Arkell’s expalantion:
The name of the Nuba apparently comes, like so many other tribal names in the Sudan (Berti, Berta, Burgu, etc-) from a word in their own language which means 'slaves'.4

Surely there is a connection: the Nuba were harassed by slave raiders for many centuries and to the Arabs ‘Nuba’ became nearly synonymous with ‘slave’. But since Arkell doesn’t mention in which of the many Nuba languages their name means ‘slave’, there is little we can say about his theory, except quoting anthropologist S.F. Nadel:
I will not attempt to trace the origin of this name or to speculate on its original meaning. Suffice to say that in none of the groups which I have studied is the term Nuba indigenous […]5

II. Kingdoms on the Nile
1. Nubia
There are Nuba and there are Nubians and this is cause for great confusion. The Nuba are the different peoples living in the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan. The Nubians today are a people who live along the Nile at the border between Egypt and Sudan. Many of them were relocated when the Nasser Dam was built. The Nubians are considered to be descendants of the great Nubian Kingdoms of Kush; Meroe; Nobatia; Makuria (Dongola) or Alodia (Alwa).

2. The Nuba enter history
Erastothenes (276 to 194 BC) is the first known author to mention a tribe called Nubae. We don’t have the original text, but Strabo was speaking on Erastothenes’ authority when he said:

[…] the parts on the left side of the course of the Nile, in Libya, are inhabited by Nubae, a large tribe, who, beginning at Meroë, extend as far as the bends of the river, and are not subject to the Aethiopians but are divided into several separate kingdoms.8

Erasthotenes is working his way downstream along the Nile, so he means that the Nubae lived between Meroe and Dongola.. It’s important that he makes a clear distinction between the Aethiopians and the Nubae."...
The italics and ellipses (...) were found in this article.

Article Excerpt #2
From Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine
..."Who Are The Nuba Peoples?
The Nuba claim that they are the indigenous inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains region which occupies the central part of South Kordofan Province, Kordofan State (or Region prior to 1991) in Sudan. According to the 1955 population census, the Nuba represent about 6% (572,935) of the total population of the Sudan. With a growth rate of 2% to 2.8% per annum, modest estimates and population simulation results put the total number of the Nuba today at approximately 1.615 million. (These figures are consistent with a proportion of 5-6% of the total population of the Sudan-about 30 million -- as published by the government in 1993.) Although the Nuba represent about 70% of the total population in the Nuba Mountains, they constitute a political minority due to their social and economic marginalization.

The Nuba are indeed the indigenous peoples of the Nuba Mountains; they have the strongest ties to their lands and have lived in this region since or before colonization. The Nuba are now dominated by other groups with markedly different cultures. Like other indigenous peoples, the Nuba were not incorporated into Sudanese's mainstream political culture. Furthermore, the Nuba do not accept Islam as their religious ideology or `Arabism' as their racial ideology. These two notions of exclusion are often used by the state to justify the oppression and appropriation of Nuba lands and natural resources.

Like other indigenous societies, Nuba culture is diverse -- ethnically, culturally, religiously (animists, Muslims, and Christians), politically (with various ethnic and cultural affiliations) and economically. Although the Nuba have marked linguistic and cultural differences among themselves, they use their collective name, `Nuba' to distinguish themselves from the Baggara and Jellaba. The Baggara and Jellaba are Arabic-speaking Muslims who migrated to the Nuba Mountains, in several waves since the turn of the 17th century, for slave raiding and trade. There is also a large number of Fellata (West Africans) who migrated to the Nuba Mountains in search for work as agricultural laborers in the cotton fields during the 1920s and as a result of subsequent droughts in the West African Sahel. There were continuous waves of migration from central Sudan to the Nuba Mountains and hence, many eastern Nuba have converted to Islam....

The call for jihad against the Nuba for their land and natural resources has been propagated by the National Islamic Front (NIF) and the government in the Sudan. There is no reason to believe that the jihad in the Nuba Mountains is waged merely for converting Nuba to Islam -- as many think -- since many Muslim Nuba have been killed and Nuba mosques have been destroyed.”...

Article Excerpt #3
From, Nuba= Prisoners Of Geography, 3 August 2015
Nuba reports With additional reporting by Rachel Harvey and Andrew Gully [retrieved Feb 14, 2017]

The Nuba, numbering between one and two million, are a collection of distinct peoples of black African origin who speak an array of different languages. Many are now Muslim, but there are Christian and animist Nuba too.

Along with a few Arab pastoralist tribes, they have the geographical misfortune of living on the fault line between Sudan’s largely Arab and Islamic north and its predominantly Christian, animist and black African south.

The origins of their oppression date back to the colonial era when the British segregated them, declaring the Nuba Mountains region a special “Closed District.” The Nuba were not allowed to stray northwards without a special permit and schooling was left up to missionaries.

When Sudan emerged from British rule in 1956, the Nuba were already politically, economically and socially marginalised and lacked any educational system. The next 30 years, much of it taken up by the First Sudanese Civil War, saw the gulf widen as successive regimes in Khartoum pursued policies of racial discrimination against the Nuba and other black northerners.

When the Second Sudanese Civil War erupted in 1983, the alternative message of equality and inclusion of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and its charismatic commander-in-chief John Garang resonated with Nuba leaders. By 1987, an alliance had formed. Garang took the fight north through the central state of South Kordofan. The Nuba Mountains became a key rebel stronghold.

After seizing power as a brigadier in a military coup in June 1989, Bashir began presiding over an increasingly hardline Islamist state. The Nuba were made to pay an extraordinarily high price for their resistance...

On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the world’s youngest nation. From afar, there was a sense of optimism and some jubilation, hope certainly that the history of war might be replaced by a brighter narrative. But even as the world applauded, bombs were once again falling on the people of the Nuba Mountains and the conflict that still grips South Kordofan today was well under way.

South Kordofan had been under the governorship since 2009 of Bashir’s trusted lieutenant Ahmed Haroun – like him indicted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur. As promised consultations on greater autonomy failed to materialise, so discontentment grew. When the delayed gubernatorial election was eventually held in May 2011 and Haroun beat ex-SPLA commander Abdulaziz al-Hilu by just 6,000 votes, the former rebels cried foul.

The touch paper was lit when the 20,000 SPLA fighters remaining in the north were asked to disarm in advance of South Sudan’s independence. They refused.

On 5 June 2011, South Kordofan was at war once again.

... By 2013, Bashir had deployed between 40,000 and 70,000 troops to South Kordofan, according to the ICG report. Local Arab tribes, the Misseriya, were coopted again by Khartoum to fight their black African rivals.


Since April 2012, almost 4,000 bombs have landed on civilian areas in South Kordofan, an average of between three and four every day. Out of the 4,577 recorded fatalities between June 2011 and May 2015, almost 500 were unarmed civilians, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)….
The result is that the Nuba Mountains region, more accurately described as a large area of hills, is effectively under constant siege.

When the fighting is fiercest, some try to escape. At the start of this year, more than 500 people were fleeing from the Nuba Mountains every week to refugee camps in South Sudan. This is hardly a safe haven though, as a civil war is raging in South Sudan and Sudanese jets are accused of regular bombing raids there too….
Facing what they see as a renewed threat to their existence, those joining the Nuba rebel ranks are quite clear about what is at stake.

"You  want to ask me why I fight?”  Thayr Urwa Hamdan Said, a new rebel recruit, exclaimed. 

“After the separation of the South, Omar al-Bashir  said that Sudan is now an Islamic Arab country that would be governed by Islamic sharia laws.” 

"They have to recognise and bear in mind that there are other people living with them in this geographical area called Sudan," he told IRIN.  "That is why if we do not overthrow this government we would be second-class citizens in our own country.”...
Click for general information about the Nubia. If I correctly understand what I've read in that article and in the quote that I repeated below, "Nuba people" and "Nubian people" aren't the same populations.

Pancocojams Editor's Note:
I've used the term "Nuba music and dance" instead of "Nubian music and dance" as that is the term that appears to be used in these video titles and summaries. Is "Nubian" not an acceptable referent for people from Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Province (Read this comment from the Article Excerpt #1: "There are Nuba and there are Nubians and this is cause for great confusion".

More information about the videos that are embedded in this post would be greatly appreciated.

Example #1: Nuba Dance and Celebration

Lawrence Molczyk Uploaded on Feb 19, 2009

Members of the Nuba Mountain Community in Sudan celebrate with traditional music and dance.

Example #2: nuba dance

kappykayo, Uploaded on Dec 30, 2009

Nuba mountains Bukhsa dance ( people of bleanya )

Example #3: The koalib kireng dance

nubakoalib, Uploaded on Sep 16, 2010

This is the dance of the Nuba koalib and it is shared by many nuba people. Koalib has more than six different dances. But This one is called kireng. enjoy it
Here's a comment from this video's discussion thread:
Nuba Mountain, 2011
"wel;come to kirang times. The dance which cuts across the Nuba societies, loke at that beauty of the girls, by nature Nuba girls should not gover up their bodies so that their beauty can be seen while dancing, but Nuba welcome decent dressing but atleast Thop or a veil will not make a good dancer with kireng how do you, they must dress in Congolese or Nuba traditional dresses do we have one?"

Example #4: Nuba Block Party in Khartoum, Sudan 3/8/11

Bob Ferguson Uploaded on Mar 29, 2011

Traditional Nuba dancing and music.

Example #5: Nuba country music, Nuba folk music

nubapeoples Published on Aug 27, 2012

Collected on a visit to Khartoum by Ahmed Rahhal, the Nuba people though living under harsh conditions caused by mass displacement, they are trying with defiance and self confidence to turn their new home into Nuba atmosphere by putting up a spactacular show of Nuba culture. This demonstrates clearly that Nuba Culture and heritage is part of their life and so is their homeland the Nuba Mountains
Here's a comment from this video's discussion thread:
Nuba Dingo, 2015
"So good to see my melanated people expressing life thorough music and dance. What a joy to behold!"

Example #6: 2012 Band Uttar mountains - Khartoum in January 2012

Ahmed Rahal, Published on Apr 9, 2013
This is the same performance event as the 2012 video Nuba country dance given above

تراث جبال النوبة - كيسا دمبا - قبيلة كادقلى Nuba Culture

Sallam Tutu, Published on Jan 25, 2013
Google translate gives the following Arabic to English translation for the title:
"Heritage Nuba Mountains - a bag Demba - Kadugli tribe"

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