the nuba in sudan
Francesco Zizola travelled several times to the Nuba Mountains between 1997 and 2005 and has documented the Nuba’s struggle, as they sought to survive and maintain their traditions in one of the most remote places in Africa.
Strategically positioned like a cushion between Black Christian and Arab Islamic Africa, the Nuba Mountains are located in the center of Africa’s largest country. The Nuba people sought refuge in the mountains when they rebelled against the sharia (Islamic) law imposed by the government in Khartoum in 1983 and joined sides with southern Sudan (largely black animist and Christians) in the war.
For decades, the Nuba were completely cut off from the rest of the world and forced to live under prehistoric conditions. This total isolation causes serious hardship to a people already suffering the dramatic conditions caused by the war. The population has been subject to ethnic cleansing, the forced “Arabization” (thousands of women and children have been abducted, gang raped, and taken north to be used as concubines and slaves), repeated aerial bombings of schools, hospitals, refugee camps, churches and other civilian targets.
The conflict has caused at least 2 million deaths and over 4 million displaced.
The absence of even the most basic necessities: medicine, food, salt, clothing, paper, pencils – cause unquantifiable suffering to these peoples, who faced their lot with strength and dignity and fight to keep a hold on their ancient culture.
In fact, it’s thanks to this ancient culture that the Nuba have endured. Fire building, farming techniques and not last, their wrestling tradition allowed them to survive and maintain tribal and inter-tribal relationships. From an anthropological viewpoint, this created a type of laboratory and, uncontaminated by the social-economic progress to which the rest of Africa has been subjected, the Nuba are an anomaly in Africa.
On another level, the Nuba are an exception in a region not generally noted for its tolerance of diversity. Different faiths, cultures and languages live together. The one and a half million Nuba comprise 52 different tribes, each with its own language and culture. The majority of Nuba families are mixed, living their subsistence existence, in a land without roads or cars, without electricity or running water.
Early in June 2011, the Nuba population was once again the target of ethnic cleansing performed by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and other paramilitary forces, after violence exploded in the North’s only oil-producing state of South Kordofan, following contested elections and a failed disarmament campaign in the state.