SUDAN. Kordofan. Men from the Kao-Nyaro tribe waiting to take part ina match. They wear lethal bracelets, each weighing 2 kilos with two inch double flanges. The function of the bracelt seems to be to crack open the skull of the oponent. 1949. - TarryCar

Nuba People: Africa’s Ancient People of South Sudan

The Nuba people consist of numerous tribes that live in an area of Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Province known as the Nuba Mountains. Though the Nuba people originate from various places and speak a selection of languages, their shared geography has led to the collective classification as the Nuba people.

In the hills surrounding the village of Kauda, in the heart of the Nuba mountains. – Phil Hatchet-Moor Photograophy
SUDAN. Kordofan. The Village of Kau. 1949.

They have been historically discriminated against by Arabic regimes in power. In 2011, war broke out between the Sudan government and a rebel group called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) in the Nuba Mountains.

Nuba communities are now under government-appointed chiefs. Marriage payments are made in livestock, weapons, and other objects and by agricultural service. In some areas the lower incisors are removed in both sexes; male circumcision is now more widely practiced. Wrestling and stick fighting are the principal sports. Varying degrees of Islamization may be observed among the Nuba, and Arabic is used as the lingua franca.

Image: www.hayleygrafflin

To this day the conflict continues, with humanitarian aid blocked. Sudanese journalists are banned from reporting on the war, and face imprisonment if they dare to cover the conflict. The Nuba continue to live through these hardships, with many displaced due to the ongoing war in the region.

The Nuba people originate from all parts of Africa, having traveled to the Nuba Mountains area over thousands of years. A few estimates suggest that there are around 2.5 million Nuba people in existence, including those who have moved away from the Nuba Mountains.


The colour of skin in the Nuba varies in degree from darker to fairer depending on the different ethnic group. The same goes for the height, for we can find some groups of taller giants such as the Korongo and Masakin Twal, while others like Tira are stouter, but the majority are in between these two extremes. Generally, the Nuba possesses a well-built body, which is due to some genetic elements peculiar to them, together with the type of food they take.


Another factor is that they are hard-working people, due to the demands of life in an environment like theirs, where everyone has to work hard to build his house, earn his living through cultivation and other activities such as making beds, cutting grass and trees. They are moreover characterized by their bravery, courage, patience, kindness and hospitality, which together with their strong physical structure makes them fit for all types of hard work; this obviously, had been the main reason which exposed them to slavery and abuse by others.

In order to understand Nuba way of life and culture, it is extremely important to know the structure of their society. Every Nuba tribe compromises several sub- groups or clans, which might either be Matrilineal (following the line of the mother), or Patrilineal(following the line of the father) and the main laws governing each, regarding obligations, rights and taboos. The first right for every individual is that of knowing his belonging to a certain clan and tribe. This belonging to the clan and the tribe entails that the individual has to pass through all the rites from the moment of his birth, up to that of his/her death, as a part of the clan and the tribe, together with the observation of the specific taboos according to the tribe and clan, where communion with the member of the family, clan and tribe is shown during such events.

Let’s look at a few things you might not have known about the Nuba people.

The Nuba people are made up of more than 50 tribes. Photo:

1. Over 100 languages spoken

Incredibly, the Nuba people are made up of so many different groups of people with varying cultures that over 100 different languages are spoken by those in the Nuba Mountains area, while many of the Nuba also speak Sudanese Arabic.

2. They may not identify as Nuba

The Nuba people may not necessarily identify as Nuba. There are over 50 tribes represented among the Nuba people, and some identify as their tribe, such as the Miri. When they are away from the Nuba Mountains, they may then learn that others consider them to be Nuba.

3. The Nuba Mountains have been considered a war zone

Between 1987 and 2001, the Nuba Mountains were effectively a war zone — part of Sudan’s larger civil war between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. There were many Nuba casualties

4. The majority of Nuba are Muslim

The majority of the Nuba living in the east, west and northern parts of the mountains are Muslims, while those who reside to the south are either Christians or part of a number of traditional animistic religions.

5. Sorghum is the staple food of the Nuba

The staple food of the Nuba people is sorghum. The sorghum is boiled with water or milk to make kal, which is then eaten with meat stew called waj. The Nuba also roast corn and eat it with homemade butter.

SUDAN. Kordofan. Men from the Kao-Nyaro tribe waiting to take part ina match. They wear lethal bracelets, each weighing 2 kilos with two inch double flanges. The function of the bracelt seems to be to crack open the skull of the oponent. 1949. – by TerryCarr
SUDAN. Kordofan. A gathering of the Nuba tribe in the Korongo Jebels (mountians). Girl dancers from the village of Kao. 1949. – by TerryCarr
SUDAN. Kordofan. A young grl of the Duk Faiwil tribe. 1949. – TerryCar

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