The Lopit people inhabit the Lopit hills that form the eastern frontiers of the Torit district. The main settlements of the Lopit are the Mehejek, Lohotok, and Hiyala. The Lopit inhabit a mountainous environment, thereby forcing them to take on the role of being agro-pastoralists practicing traditional agriculture as well as livestock rearing. These socio-economic occupations are undertaken in both the alpine areas and the flat plains within the region. Before they dispersed into their respective settlements, the Lopit people came to Southern Sudan from East Africa, most likely as late migrants from Lake Turkana. Apart from the belief that they came along with the waves of groups migrating from Lake Turkana, very little is known about the origins of the Lopit. The members I spoke to told me of the understanding that their elders are said to have broken away from the Dongotono after a quarrel over gazelle soup.
The main crops I was shown by the tribe included sorghum, bulrush, millet, pumpkin, groundnuts, simsim, and okra, which they cultivate in abundance. The tribe also harvests forest products such as honey and shea nuts, from which they press pure, unfiltered oil. In addition to their harvesting, the Lopit people also practice extensive hunting. I would watch them disappear for hours, only to come back with animals slung over their shoulders and a look of fierce satisfaction on their faces. From the day’s hunting, they would then engage in the trade of commodities such as cattle, groundnuts, sorghum, honey, chicken, handicrafts, okra, calabashes, hoes, and tobacco, amongst other groups in the area.
The main cultural initiations they celebrate, and I was immersed in, include; the childhood naming ceremony, the initiation into adulthood, the initiation into the camp (referred to as Mangat), and the age-set initiation. Upon my arrival in the community, I was soon made aware of the monyomiji, who serve as the authorities and representatives of each village, and are understood to be the most powerful people in the village. They strut with an air of intimidation, making any explanation of their status redundant. As part of their well-established role, they are given the authority to make decisions about war, festivals, cultivation, and initiations. Whilst their word is respected and obeyed, they reciprocate by serving the community and proceeding generation of monyomiji with utmost diligence. However, with great power comes even greater responsibility. It was made clear to me that if any of the acting monyomiji are seen to be making negligent decisions or disobeying rules, then their predecessors have the right to suspend them. Accountability and discipline course through their veins, with nothing superseding their responsibility. When a new generation of monyomiji takes over from the previous line, a momentous ceremony is held in the village. This transfer of power occurs in regular, cyclic intervals, with one group’s assignment ranging anywhere from 12-22 years depending on their location. A change in pattern is only afforded in exceptional circumstances, which I was told does not occur often. When it comes to religion and spirituality, the Lopit believe in a God, the spirits, and the sacredness of their spheres. Much of their beliefs and customs are heavily influenced by the Lotuka culture, of which aspects are still woven through their traditions. Lopit culture is orally transmitted through the medium of music and poetry, with both expressing universal emotions such as love, hatred, sadness, and more. Most of their physical culture and arts are adapted into warfare, strategic hunting patterns, and other socio-economic activities that make up the daily life of the Lopit tribe.
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