7 Jul 2020


State Information

The People Of Eastern Equatoria State

The Acholi Ethnic Community
Acholi-South SudanThe Acholi people are Eastern Luo who speak, relate and think relatively, traditionally and culturally oriented to the major Luo ethnic group of Jo Luo, Langi, Alur and Anyuak.

The Acholi have two main groups, one living in South Sudan and the other in Uganda (mainly referred to as “Northern Uganda”).Of all Luo tribes, the Acholi turns to Langi (South Sudan and Uganda) for help, according to History. These relationships have been in existence for years and only get better each time they learn from each other.

In terms of demographical and geographical location, size and number, the Acholi in South Sudan number about between 30,000 and 50,000 people inhabiting what is now Magwe County, originally part of Torit District on the east bank of Equatoria. The nationality has been fragmented by the international border with Uganda with part of the Acholi found in northern Uganda, including the districts of Agago, Pader, Gulu, Kitgum, Amuru, Nwonya, Lamwo and Magwe County in South Sudan.

The nature of the Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

The Acholi land is grassland lying on the western slopes of Imatong Mountains and Acholi hills that rim the southern borders of South Sudan. This environment has influenced the Acholi lifestyle and economy. They practice a form of mixed farming in which they keep cattle, goats, sheep and fowls in addition to subsistence agriculture; by growing sorghum, millet, simsim, beans, tobacco and sweet potatoes. They are not fishers because they are not bordered by major waters bodies. In recent times, just before the war, commercial farming of Irish potatoes, tea and rice had been introduced. A timber saw mill powered by a small hydro-electrical power plant was operational until 1992 in Katire. Their land holds some minerals like gold and chromite in Kit River area.

Mythology and History

Different accounts attest that the Acholi group was formed from different people who inhabited the area as the result of Luo migration and therefore assert that the Acholi are a product of intermarriages between the Luo and the Madi; being Luo in language and custom and therefore closely related in history to the Alur of West Nile, the Jopadhola of eastern Uganda and the Joluo of Kenya as well as the Shilluk, Anyuak and other Luo groups in the Sudan.

Another legend asserts that Luo was the first man. He had no human parents. He is said to have sprung from the ground. It is taken that his father was Jok (God) and that his mother was Earth. The legend adds that Luo’s son Jipiti, whose mother is unknown, had a daughter called Kilak. Kilak is believed to have conceived a son, Lubongo, whose father was said to be the devil, Lubanga. Lubongo was the first in the line of Rwot – the chiefs of Payera, the dominant Acholi clan.

The Acholi Culture: Arts, Music, Literature, Handicraft

The Acholi culture in Uganda and South Sudan is expressed in songs, music and dance. The Acholi compose melodic songs to incidences of interest and colourful communal dance. As a result they have evolved different instruments and artifacts for music and dance. Acholi folk music is, like most South Sudanese music, pentatonic. It is distinctive with choral singing, in parts with a lead voice. Songs are also accompanied by a string instrument, the harp-like adungu, and numerous percussion instruments.

The vocal lines of the songs of men and women are in polyphonic style, and they tend to create a counter-point effect. Songs are performed at various occasions. The singing is melodic, and dances are performed collectively. Solo dancing is rather rare. The Acholi have various kinds of dances. Various dances are performed on certain occasions like during birth, funerals, weddings, rituals (ancestral worship, beginning of a hunt, victory over enemies) and the celebration of the seasons (for example, thanksgiving).
 Apiti Dance was only performed by girls. The men were not admitted. The girls sang and danced in a line. It was a dance which was performed in the middle of the year; when it was raining.

Atira Dance was a war dance. Fighting scenes were enacted with spears and shields.

Bwola Dance is a court dance (in the king's palace) of the Acholi, who live in Magwe County in  South Sudan. This is a circular dance that is performed by the older men and women, and the circle represents a fence that surrounds the palace court. Many events and conversations take place during this dance, so it may last for many hours.
The main dancer is mostly dressed in a leopard skin and conducts the scenes. The men carry and beat the drum. This dance is a very rhythmic one.

Dingidingi Dance is performed by the young girls of the Acholi, and their movements are meant to imitate birds. The girls dance to attract the young boys, so the dance is usually held on bright days, when the sun is out.

Ladongo Dance was performed after a successful hunting event. Men and women danced in one line facing each other, with clapping of hands and running up and down while jumping.

Larakaraka Dance is a ceremonial dance of the Acholi, who have borders with the Sudan. It is primarily a courtship dance that is performed during weddings. When the young people in a particular village are ready for marriage, they organise a big ceremony where all potential partners meet. As a sign of friendship, food and alcoholic drinks are served during this ceremony. Only the best dancers will get partners, so there is a lot of competition during the dancing. In Acholi, if you are a poor dancer, you are likely to die as a bachelor.

Lalobaloba Dance is performed without drums. The people dance in a circle, with the men building up the outer circle and putting their hands on the girls' heads. The men hold sticks on the other hand.

Myel awal Dance is a funeral ceremony, in which the women dance around the burial site and the men make up the outer circle with spears and shields.

Myel wamga Dance: Men sat in circles on the floor and played the harp (ennanga), while the women danced the Apiti. This dance was performed on the occasion of weddings or beer festivities.

Otiti Dance: Dance in which the men carry spears and shields. The drummers are arranged in the middle, and the people dance more than they sing.

Last updated at 7/6/2020