Dinka, Sudan

Dinka, Sudan

The Dinka, who live in the swamplands of the Sudd in southern Sudan, believe that their enormous herds of cattle are their link to the spirit world. The Dinkas pastoral lifestyle is reflected in their religious beliefs and practices. They have one God, Nhialic, who speaks through spirits that take temporary possession of individuals in order to speak through them. Age is an important factor in Dinka culture, with young men being inducted into adulthood through an initiation ordeal which includes marking the forehead with a sharp object initiation horn shapes. Both women and men are known for these special scars they use as body decoration on different parts of their body.
Dinka corsets are made up of thousands of tiny glass beads in various colours and are usually supported by strong wires at the spin. Beadwork is an expression of the creativity and is an important part of adornment traditions of the Dinka. The corsets are used as symbol of wealth and social status, therefore an indicator of gender, age, wealth, and ethnic affiliations. The colours of the beads indicate the age of the wearer; young Dinka between 15-25 years-old will wear a corset made of red and black beads. The use of pink and purple are appropriated to a man between 25-30 years old while yellow beads are worn by wearers of over 30 years old. The combination of colours including blue, green, white, black, and red is frequently used. This composition may appear purely aesthetic. Dinka corsets were used by both men and women. Women’ corsets Alual are different from those worn by men and often decorated with cowry shells. They are of a looser, bodice style and when worn, women’ corsets appear ample and hang from the neck like a large necklace. In some rare cases, young girls will wear a tight corset with an important projection in the back such as those of the men. This corset will remain on her and will be cut open only at her wedding. Corsets for men Malual are worn tight and are characterized by a high projection on the back usually seen as indicator of the wealth of the wearer’s family. Dinka young warrior would keep his corset on him and will change it only when he reaches another group age.