Dinka tribe – avid pastoralists with giant herds

The African Dinka tribe is considered the largest in South Sudan. Its number exceeds the 3 million mark. The people of this tribe are among the tallest on the entire planet, and among the African tribes, they are the most elevated. The moderate height of a Dinka man is 185-190 centimeters. Women of these people are not much lower than the representatives of the more vigorous sex – their average height is 175-180 centimeters.

For a modern person who lives, the life of a Dinka looks wild and ridiculous. Indeed, a hundred kilometers from this people’s habitat, there are many new technologies and benefits of civilization, represented by a full spectrum. However, in the Dinka tribe, they are categorically rejected.

The way of life of the Dinka tribe has not changed since the 10th century. Their traditions are over a thousand years old, and they still help these people survive in the barren savannah.

Anthropologists believe that the high growth of the Dinka is the result of the adaptation of the thermoregulation system to low conditions. Their ancestors, who come from East Africa, were also tall. When they set foot on the land of Europe, they were taller than the Neanderthals because they came from the equatorial regions.

Dinka men among the tallest people in the world
Dinka men among the tallest people in the world

Livestock is the highest value

The Dinka tribe lives on the banks of the Nile River, migrating depending on the season. When it rains, members of the tribe go into the depths of the savannah to grow grain and tobacco. During the dry season, they engaged in the most important business of their lives – grazing cows, sheep, and goats.

For a Dinka, a cow is a life source, providing food and milk and a kind of currency.

For example, the groom must give the dowry for the bride in cows. Also, a family’s status and social position are higher the more livestock its members have.

To identify cows belonging to a particular family, the animals’ horns twist in a certain way. Each family has its way of turning – so tribe members can always tell their cows from others.

Dinka man with his cows
Dinka man with his cows

Civilization infiltrated the ranks of the tribe only in weapons—Dinka force to use this invention of modern technology. Propeller guns use to intimidate hostile and aggressive neighbors and help to avoid their attacks. In addition, weapons use to guard livestock so valuable to the Dinka.

Deification of animals

Dinka treats their livestock incredibly respectfully and carefully. From early childhood, boys teach to take care and be careful with animals. After the ceremony of initiation into men, according to tradition, young people take a middle name for themselves – the name of a bull, and it is equivalent to the name given from birth. These are how the Dinka demonstrate and show the most profound respect for their breadwinners. Songs and dances performed for the sacred animal.

Representatives of the more vigorous members of the tribe spend almost all their time with cattle. They pay much more attention to animals than to their wife and children. Surprisingly, it is customary for Dinka men to spend the night in barns and camps with animals, while women and children sleep in clay houses with straw roofs.

Dinka milk cows especially gently. To make milking a cow easier, young men stimulate the genitals of the animal. The cow calms down, and it becomes much easier to extract milk.

Cow dung and urine

Cow dung is extremely valuable for Dinka. It uses to fertilize the earth. Dry manure uses as a building element for creating dwellings and barns and is also used instead of firewood for making a fire.

Members of the tribe smear their bodies and faces with the ash from the burnt dry manure. Thus, they protect themselves from the sultry rays of the sun, flies, mosquitoes, and other annoying insects. Ash powder also use to clean teeth.

Cow urine will not be waste either. Dinka washes their heads with it. After such a procedure, no lice are any longer afraid of these people. One more use for this substance, which the animal body uses, is that urine is added to foods, saturating them with various minerals.

Appearance Concepts

Women of this tribe get rid of their hair since it is the bald head that is considered a sign of beauty. On the top of the head, the fair sex leaves only a tiny tuft of hair.

Dance in Dinka Districts 1929-50
©Zoe Cormack – Dance in Dinka Districts 1929-50

A person with an entire row of teeth, according to these people, looks ugly. Therefore, to make the image more aesthetically pleasing, several teeth are pulled out.

Dinka does not know what clothes are, but they are very fond of bright accessories.

They are happy to wear colorful woven bracelets, necklaces, beads, rings, earrings, and loincloths and corsets embroidered with beads.

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