The Dinka people vary their lifestyle by season – in the rainy season they live in permanent savannah settlements and raise grain crops like millet, while in the dry season they herd cattle along rivers throughout their region. Their lives are very closely intertwined with those of their cattle – at their coming of age ceremony, young Dinka men are given an ox, and that ox’s name becomes a part of their own name. As it grows, they also shape their ox’s long horns into different forms.
Some Dinka go nude, although goat skins or beaded corsets and decorations are also common. The common use of ash is not just for its decorative properties – it helps repel mosquitoes as well.
Beckwith and Fisher are motivated by a desire to preserve “sacred tribal ceremonies and African cultural traditions all too vulnerable to the trends of modernity.” According to their joint biography, they are “aware that traditional cultures are fast disappearing.”
If you like this glance into a way of life vastly different from your own, you may enjoy “Before They Pass Away” by Jimmy Nelson, whose mission in that series was similar to that of Beckwith and Fisher.
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