The Dinka people have been on the move for over 25 years due to uprooting from their homeland from invaders from the North of Sudan. Many Dinka are now scattererd throughout the world, living in countries with climates, cultures, and living conditions far different from what they left in Southern Sudan. While they may be scattered, the Dinka hold in their homeland close to their hearts, even though memories of Dinka culture and lifestyles may for some be fading into a distant memory. The founders of Werkok Youth Development Association (WYDA), like many Dinka around the world, have grown ever more accustomed to their new homes, but their focus is forever on their homeland where they hope to make a difference even from thousands of miles away, in the quality of life of those who are living right now on their ancestral lands.
The Dinka people are a group of tribes living in southern Sudan along side of the White Nile. They cover a wide range along the streams and small rivers in the Upper Nile region of southern Sudan and across into southwest Ethiopia. Prior to colonization by the British, the Dinka lived relatively undisturbed. They did not live in permanent villages, but traveled in family groups living in temporary homesteads with their cattle. Over time, however, permanent villages or towns grew up following British arrival and today, each village of one or more extended families is led by a leader in their clan. During the war which pushed millions of Dinka from their ancestral lands, cows were decimated and their semi-pastoral way of life was completely disrupted. Today the Dinka people are slowly returning to their homeland from Uganda, Kenya, and far corners of the earth.
Dinka still practice agro-pastoral lifestyle with migrations determined by climatic conditions that induce periodic floods and droughts throughout the region in which the Dinka live. Dinka grow millet, sorghum, corn, and other grain products. The cultivation time begins in May and harvest of crops takes place July-0ctober.
Dinka are known best, however, as cattle keepers, although they also may herd sheep and goats, fish and till the soil. Cattle are the mainstay of Dinka life and culture, indicating wealth and providing a dowry for marriage in addition to life giving sustenance. Cattle give milk (butter and ghee), urine is used to wash in order to dye hair and tanning hides. Cow Dung fuels fires from which ash is used to keep the cattle clean and free from blood-sucking ticks, to decorate the Dinka themselves, and as a paste to clean teeth. When cows die, skins are used for mats, belts, ropes, and are stretched over drums. In Dinka culture, cows are not killed for meat, but if someone dies in the family, then the cow is killed to have meat for the mourning time.
The Dinka family members provides an essential support network. Each family group lives in its own cluster of grass and sapling huts, placed around a communal cooking hearth. The family’s cattle are tethered around its own site. Blood links extend out to clan members (all the descendants of a single ancestor) and there is the sense that blood relatives will unquestioningly support each other, the closer the blood link, the more automatic and total the support.
The Dinka believe in a universe single God, whom they call Nhialic. They believe Nhialic is the creator (duchiek) Humans contact God (Nhialic) through spiritual intermediaries and entities called Yath and Jok/ jak many years ago. They believe that the spirits of the departed become part of the spiritual sphere of the life. They have rejected outright attempts to convert them to Islam by the Muslims from Northern Sudan. But have been somewhat open to Christian missionaries. The Sudan interior Mission began work among the Dinka in the 1930s, along with the Uduk and Mabaan peoples. From these groups, approximately 4-8% practice Christianity.
For more in depth information on Dinka, please see the following websites: