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Sudan – Lost Arts?

Posted by learntobead on December 11, 2009

Sudan – Lost Arts?

Before the ethnic, religious and racial wars, and before the damming of the Nile by Egypt, there were many ethnic groups in the Sudan.    The culture and society of these ethnic groups evolved as a very tight ecology.    This ecology was based on the trading of cows and women and food and goods — and the weather.

Good weather would start at the source of the Nile, and gradually shift further and further north with the progression of the seasons.     Where weather was good, cows and families could be fed, and a full life sustained.

But as the weather worsened, people had to strategically trade herds and family members — we’re talking women — , to reduce the burdens on land that was now poorer, upstream to where land was better.

This ecological and cultural balance — a delicate trade and dance up and down the river as the weather waxed and waned — was maintained up and down the Nile River for many centuries.      Each ethnic group along its own part of the Nile River and its flood plains had to calculate, based on assessments about the River, the weather, the ability to raise cows and grow crops to feed them, the optimum number of cows to raise, and the most strategic set of familial ties, knowing how many women would have to be traded, as well.

And then all the environmental clues disappeared.   The disruptions that came in the latter part of the 20th century, such as the Aswan Dam in Egypt, and the religious/racial wars between Muslim and animist, and light skin and dark skin, resulted in the current chaos and anomie we dreadfully look away from, when displayed on our TVs and computers.

We have documented the conflict very well, but have paid little attention to the crafts and arts of each ethnic group that made up the Sudan — numbering almost 400.    We have poor documentation of the kinds of things that have been created, and even poorer documentation and understanding of the techniques used by Sudanese artists and craftspersons.

Sudanese ethnic groups translated African motifs and techniques and influenced the flowering of Egyptian jewelry.

What kinds of things will we miss?

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