The Name | Demography and Geography | Environment, Economy and Natural Resources | Mythology and History | The Language | Society: Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions | Marriage | Birth | Naming | Divorce | Relationships | Death |Social and Political Organisation, Traditional Authority, etc. | Spirituality, Belief and Customs |Culture: Arts, Music, Literature, Handicraft | Neighbours and Relationships |Latest Developments | Diaspora
Demography and geography
The Shatt is made up of sub-tribes namely: Yabulu, who live around Yabulu located between Wau and Raga; Achana who occupy the territory between Marial Bai and Raga; and the Chelkou who are domicile between Aweil and Raga. The Shatt number about seventy thousand people.
Environment, economy and natural resources
The Shatt occupy the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed. The terrain is their rugged plains with isolated hills cut by deep valley in which drain several perennial streams. The climate is tropical and the vegetation is thick forests with tall grasses. The rainfall regime is one long season that sustains their extensive agricultural activities. The Shatt are essentially agrarian but they rear few cattle, goats and sheep in addition to poultry. The main crops are sorghum, simsim, beans. They collect honey and lulu oil. They engage in hunting trading the games trophies with their neighbours e.g. they sell elephant trunks to the Arab merchants or barter it with the Dinka for cattle. The economy although is essentially subsistence it has elements of trade and barter. The natural resources are mainly forest products .
Mythology and history
The Shatt are a part of the Luo group and linked more closely to the Shilluk and Jo Luo of Bahr el Ghazal . They believe that Dimo gave birth to Othuru who became the ancestor of the Thuri . They separated from the rest of the Luo and came to settle in their present place some four hundred years ago. They have never moved away except as a result of the first war and the last war.
The Shatt speak a dialect very close to the Shilluk and Jo-Luo dialects of the Luo language.
Society, social events, attitudes, customs and traditions
The Shatt society is divided into three main agnatic lineages making up more than thirty Shatt clans. The society is patrilineal and the role of the women is believed to be in the domestic domain although their role in economic life of the community is recognised. The Thuri think highly of themselves. They have elaborate traditions and customs for nearly everything in their realm. They engage communally in many social events and activities e.g. hunting, fishing and marriage and funeral ceremonies.
Marriage – courting ends in declaration of intent to marry on the part of the groom and the marriage negotiations starts in earnest. The dowry payment or distribution is shared out among the relatives. The bride is then surrendered to the groom.
Birth and naming - the first born must be delivered in the bride’s parental home. The naming ceremony is performed after three or four days depending on whether the child is a boy or girl respectively. The child is made to hold three or four tiny pieces of grass each carrying a particular name which the child will have once it remains in its hand when it is dipped in warm water.
Death – is mourned by the whole village depending on the age of the diseased. Only elderly persons prepared the corpse for burial. After it has been lowered into the grave one of the close relative would come and sit next, but with the back, to the grave holding three or four stones , which are then thrown onto the corpse and the performer leaves immediately without looking back. This act signifies that presenting the case to God. The burial instruments are left on the grave for three or four days when the last funeral rite has been performed which signifies separating the dead from the living.
Hunting- is a social as well as an economic activity. It is performed in large groups and according to certain rules particularly when it come to hunting big games e.g. elephants, rhinos, giraffe, etc., to prevent conflict over the distribution of the trophies like the tusks, skins, tail hairs . The person who stabs the elephant first receives the right tusk and the second tusk goes to the second person etc.
Socio-political organisation and traditional authority
The Shatt concept of state and politics is not elaborate as would be found among the Shilluk. The traditional leader of the Shatt is Rwot but this system has been eroded by the state and replaced by government chiefs.
Spirituality, beliefs and customs
The Shatt venerate intermediary spirits, magic and charms. Each Shatt family or clan have own totem e.g. crocodile, hippo, certain snakes although they believe that there is super being God who resides in the sky Some Shatt have converted to Islam and Christianity and have therefore adopted their respective ways.
Culture: arts, music, literature and handicrafts
The Shatt have evolved a culture that honours the self and this is expressed in body and facial marks, speech, song, music, dance, poetry during the social events e.g. during marriage and funeral ceremonies. The Shatt songs carry praises and insults that sometimes could invoke conflicts especially among the youth and young people.
The Shatt used to weave cotton cloth using local technology. They evolved different kinds of tools and implements they use for agricultural, hunting and fishing activities. The Shatt also make beautiful crafts and furniture from erotic wood which abound in their territory.
Neighbours and foreigners, relations and co-operations
The Shatt neighbour the Kresh , Bai and the Dinka. The relation with the Kresh and Dinka is cordial as these communities engage in trade and barter. However, the Shatt have tensive relationship with the Bai.
Like other tribes in the area the long running civil war has affected the Shatt causing large scale migration to the towns and across the north-south borders.
There are small Shatt Diaspora communities in Kenya, United States and Australia. The above information was collected through the kind cooperation of the following Shatt intellectuals in Khartoum: Mr. Albert Ochalla Othomi Ojwok; George Jongo Omang, Rose Atech Pino Othomi and Andrea Bawal
Stefano Santandrea, ‘A tribal history of the Bahr el Ghazal.’ Museum Combonianum N 17, Bologna, 1964
Stefano Santandrea, ‘Ethno-geography of Bahr el Ghazal .’ Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Via dell’Arcoveggio 80/7, Bologna, 1981.
Seligman, C. G., and Seligman, B. Z., ‘Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan.’ George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, 1932