Uduk

community map

 


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 Uduk are eastern Sudanic people who used to inhabit the Ahmar, Tombak and Yabus valleys in northeastern Upper Nile and southern Blue Nile. Numbering about 30,000, the Uduk are divided into northern and southern sections and refer to themselves as ''Kwanim pa.'' The southern Uduk sometimes call themselves ''Gomus''. Their main settlements include Chali, Guffa and others.

Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

The land of the Uduk is in low-lying plains immediately at the foot of the Ethiopian highlands. It is dissected by numerous seasonal streams that drain from the Ethiopia highlands and disappear in the swamps. The climate is rich savannah with thick bushes and tall grasses. There is moderate rainfall. The Uduk were originally hunters and gatherers - They hunted forest game and gathered fruits. They however have turned agrarian, producing sorghum, simsim, beans, etc. Their main livestock are sheep and pigs.

Mythology and History

While it may indeed be irrelevant to talk about the myth of their origin, it is the contemporary context of Uduk existence as a people that is really important and must be highlighted. This begins at the closing of 19th century with the re-conquest of the Sudan that the surviving Uduk owe their being. Their simplicity coupled with strong physical stature must have been their curse. Like the Bongo in Bahr el Ghazal they became easy and priced targets of slave raiders. The beginning of this war was another catastrophe for the Uduk due to government policy. Many Uduk families have now been raised not in captivity but in refugee from their own government.

Language

There are two dialects of the Uduk language known as ‘Koman’ and closely related to Komo, Kwama and Shyita.

Society, Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions

The Uduk society, according to recent studies, consider themselves to have made a fresh start, after so much loss to slavery and death, when the Sudan was re-conquered by the Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1898. The history of their interaction with foreigners has shaped their attitudes and social norms.

Uduk society is agrarian but also skilfully draw from the forest resources, which they value more than what they produce by cultivation and their modest herds of sheep and pigs. The Uduk are shy of commercial individual profiteering and appearance of inequality among themselves. The Uduk are matrilineal. They absorb refugees and strangers while refusing marriage of their women by bride wealth to outsiders, which to them is reminiscent of slavery. Not only that but such transaction would in principle create distance, even potential enmity between parties. The absorption of strangers is on reciprocal basis eventually transmutable into kinship and the motif of re-creating the society of Kwanim pa.

Socio-Political Organisation, Traditional Authority

The Uduk don’t have the slightest concept of a state. Society is organised in such a manner that the most influential person in a clan was the maternal uncle. The Uduk practice an age-set system but not as elaborate as the monyomiji of the Lotuka. The government appointed chiefs as well as hereditary traditional chiefs exist. Other influential persons in the Uduk society are the diviners and charm makers.

Spirituality, Beliefs and Customs

Uduk society appreciated Bertha oracles and festivals, Nuer, Shilluk and Maban spirits and the Jum Jum healing cults. They have enthusiasm for Christianity and Islam while maintaining their older rituals for illness and healing; for hunting in the wild, and for make stages in the life cycle of a person. According to the Uduk tradition within the human person there is heart not in the literal sense, but which circulates the blood and the animating force or spirit which carries a person through life. The arum of the departed is reconstituted in communities underground. If a person has not been properly buried his arum roams in the bush.

Culture: Arts, Music, Literature, Handicraft

The Uduk have a very rich culture in song, music, dance and folklore all centred around the Ebony order or diviners with its five branches as different from the ordinary people .

Neighbours, Foreign Relations and Co-operation

The Uduk neighbour the Maban and Nuer to the south, Bertha to the east, Jum Jum and Burun to the north. The Uduk have friendly relations with their neighbours except the Bertha and the Watawith who participated respectively in their enslavement and destruction of their homes .

Latest Development

The eruption of the war and the incursion in 1985 by SPLA into southern Blue Nile witnessed the second destruction of the Uduk. Many of them were killed by government army and those who survived fled to western Ethiopia where they have remained to date as refugees.

Diaspora

The largest Uduk communities outside their homeland are in western Ethiopia and in Khartoum.

Further Reading

Wendy James, ‘Kwanim pa: The making of the Uduk people: An Ethnographic study of survival in the Sudan-Ethiopian Borderlands.’ Oxford, Claredon Press, 1979.
Wendy James, ‘The Listening Ebony: Moral Knowledge, Religion and Power among the Uduk of Sudan.’ Oxford University Press, 1999.
 

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