Spotlight on the Dinka Tribe of South Sudan

At Expedition Subsahara, we love celebrating different cultures. Today, the spotlight is on the Dinka of South Sudan. 

Also known as Jieng, the Dinka are the largest ethnic tribe in South Sudan, and are noted for their traditional forms of agriculture and livestock raising. The tribes move herds of cattle to riverine pastures during the dry season, December to April, and back to permanent settlements in savanna forest during the rains. Food crops, principally millet, are grown throughout the growing season. 

The Dinka are composed of many independent but interlinked clans, with groups ranging in size from 1,000 to 30,000 people. They’re known for deriving religious power from nature and the world around them, ascribing great value to cows. Dinka wealth is measured in terms of the number of cattle one has, with the sacred livestock used primarily for making dairy products. 

Cows also play a part in almost all aspects of daily life, including in ceremonies and rites of passage. When boys transition to manhood, they are given a hardship to work through together before “abandoning forever the activity of milking cows, which had marked their status as children and servers of men.” During the ritual, they also take on new names centered around cattle. They apply ash from burnt cow dung over their bodies to protect it from insects while using cow urine to bleach their hair. Cattle also are used as a dowry in Dinka marriage.

Along with the Tutsi tribe of Rwanda, this nomadic ethnic group is the tallest tribe in the world, with an average height of approximately 5 feet, 11.9 in.  

The Dinka are just one of many tribes that make up the multifaceted, glorious continent of Africa. Through learning about one another, we believe that we can create a bridge between cultures, leading to a more respectful, accepting world. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. 

Photo by Beckwith & Fisher