Coming from my place in a comfortably developed country, South Sudan does not present itself to be the most pronounced country to be visited. Born in 2011, the young Republic of South Sudan has been ravaged by the civil war that often deters people from its rich culture. While the security within the country has stabilised since the year 2018, it still stands to be a country plagued by regular outbreaks of violence. However, I bring this recount not to purport a story of people who need our help, but rather a tribe who can teach us a great deal about the coexistence between humans and other species with which we share this earth. The Mundari tribe is a small ethnic group residing in the Republic of South Sudan. Their population, whilst abundant in culture, only consists of between 70,000 to 100,000. Their size ensured I felt not overwhelmed and intimidated but instead welcomed. urport a story of people who need our help, but rather a tribe who can teach us a great deal about the coexistence between humans and other species with which we share this earth.
During the war, the Mundari organised themselves into militias and acted as commando units under the leadership of the current governor of the Central Equatoria State. The nature of this relationship has somewhat changed today, with the tribe assuming what appears to be a much more pastoral role in the country. The tribe’s livelihood depends on the cattle, and so their reciprocal relationship is paramount to the survival of both. In contemporary South Sudan, the Mundari people only care about their cattle and protecting their herd from rustlers. This protective nature extends to their people, and I sensed an immediate ambiance of camaraderie upon my arrival. Grounded in the land, the Mundari exist in a state of simplicity, living alongside the cattle as opposed to governing them. It is a beautiful symbiosis that fostered within me a greater appreciation for the environment.
A typical day in the life of the Mundari, which is constantly changing, starts before sunrise when the women of the tribe collect manure for later use. They spread this out to later use as fuel to offer warmth and a means of cooking food. Later, the ash is massaged into the body of the cattle to protect them from insects, of which I can attest there are many, and also rubbed into the cattle’s horns to help them shine. The ash is further used to varnish the faces of the men in the tribe. Amongst the smoke of the dung fires, they walk like ghosts The resourcefulness of this tribe is an admirable trait that I believe should be learned from in our contemporary society.
As the sun dips and a dusty orange glow is cast upon the village, it feels like a completely different atmosphere. Unadulterated magic is fostered. During my slow stroll around the village bathed in the dusken glow, I watch as the men return from tending to the cattle, taking to lighting the dung fires that will sustain us through the night. Lagging ever so slightly, the cattle trail back as if called home, despite no sound being made. The animals are then secured for the night so as to keep them safe until just before dawn when the whole routine begins again. It is a comfortable pattern that even in my short stay, I fall into with ease. The connection between humans and cattle is palpable in the dusty air; it is serene, and it is beautiful.
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