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Texts in English / Sudan





Tribes of Dar-Fur, Sudan, 1792~


Browne, William George: Travels in Africa, Egypt, and Syria from the year 1792 to 1798. London, Cadell, 1799. Reprinted by Elibron Classics.



In this country dancing is practiced by the men as well as the women, and they often dance promiscuously. Each tribe seems to have its appropriate dance : that of Fûr is called Secondari, that of Bukkara Bendala. Some are grave, others lascivious, but consisting rather of violent efforts than of graceful motions. Such is their fondness for this amusement, that the slaves dance in setters to the music of a little drum ; and, what I have rarely seen in Africa or the East, the time is marked by means of a long stick held by two, while others beat the cadence with short batons.







Funeral dance of the Latooka tribe, Sudan, 1863~


Baker, Sir Samuel W.: The Albert N'Yanza, great basin of the Nile, and explorations of the Nile sources.



Latooka tribe


Drums were beating, horns blowing, and people were seen all running in one direction;--the cause was a funeral dance, and I joined the crowd, and soon found myself in the midst of the entertainment. The dancers were most grotesquely got up. About a dozen huge ostrich feathers adorned their helmets; either leopard or the black and white monkey skins were suspended from their shoulders, and a leather tied round the waist covered a large iron bell which was strapped upon the loins of each dancer, like a woman's old-fashioned bustle: this they rung to the time of the dance by jerking their posteriors in the most absurd manner.


A large crowd got up in this style created an indescribable hubbub, heightened by the blowing of horns and the beating of seven nogaras of various notes. Every dancer wore an antelope's horn suspended round the neck, which he blew occasionally in the height of his excitement. These instruments produced a sound partaking of the braying of a donkey and the screech of an owl. Crowds of men rushed round and round in a sort of "galop infernel," brandishing their lances and iron-headed maces, and keeping tolerably in line five or six deep, following the leader who headed them, dancing backwards. The women kept outside the line, dancing a slow stupid step, and screaming a wild and most inharmonious chant; while a long string of young girls and small children, their heads and necks rubbed with red ochre and grease, and prettily ornamented with strings of beads around their loins, kept a very good line, beating the time with their feet, and jingling the numerous iron rings which adorned their ankles to keep time with the drums. One woman attended upon the men, running through the crowd with a gourd full of wood-ashes, handfuls of which she showered over their heads, powdering them like millers; the object of the operation I could not understand. The "premiere danseuse" was immensely fat; she had passed the bloom of youth, but, "malgre" her unwieldy state, she kept up the pace to the last, quite unconscious of her general appearance, and absorbed with the excitement of the dance.


These festivities were to be continued in honour of the dead; and as many friends had recently been killed, music and dancing would be in fashion for some weeks.







A hundred men of Obbo in a circle, Sudan, 1863~


Baker, Sir Samuel W.: The Albert N'Yanza, great basin of the Nile, and explorations of the Nile sources.



The chief of Obbo came to meet us with several of his head men. He was an extraordinary-looking man, about fifty-eight or sixty years of age; but, far from possessing the dignity usually belonging to a grey head, he acted the buffoon for our amusement, and might have been a clown in a pantomime. The heavy storm having cleared, the nogaras beat, and our entertaining friend determined upon a grand dance; pipes and flutes were soon heard gathering from all quarters, horns brayed, and numbers of men and women began to collect in crowds, while old Katchiba, the chief, in a state of great excitement, gave orders for the entertainment.


About a hundred men formed a circle; each man held in his left hand a small cup-shaped drum, formed of hollowed wood, one end only being perforated, and this was covered with the skin of the elephant's ear, tightly stretched. In the centre of the circle was the chief dancer, who wore, suspended from his shoulders, an immense drum, also covered with the elephant's ear. The dance commenced by all singing remarkably well a wild but agreeable tune in chorus, the big drum directing the time, and the whole of the little drums striking at certain periods with such admirable precision, that the effect was that of a single instrument. The dancing was most vigorous, and far superior to anything that I had seen among either, Arabs or savages, the figures varying continually, and ending with a "grand galop" in double circles, at a tremendous pace, the inner ring revolving in a contrary direction to the outer; the effect of this was excellent.


Although the men of Obbo wear a skin slung across their shoulders and loins, the women are almost naked, and, instead of wearing the leather apron and tail of the Latookas, they are contented with a slight fringe of leather shreds, about four inches long by two broad, suspended from a belt. The unmarried girls are entirely naked; or, if they are sufficiently rich in finery, they wear three or four strings of small white beads, about three inches in length, as a covering. The old ladies are antiquated Eves, whose dress consists of a string round the waist, in which is stuck a bunch of green leaves, the stalk uppermost. I have seen a few of the young girls that were prudes indulge in such garments; but they did not appear to be fashionable, and were adopted faute de mieux. One great advantage was possessed by this costume,--it was always clean and fresh, and the nearest bush (if not thorny) provided a clean petticoat. When in the society of these very simple and in demeanour ALWAYS MODEST Eves, I could not help reflecting upon the Mosaical description of our first parents, "and they sewed fig-leaves together."


Some of the Obbo women were very pretty. The caste of feature was entirely different to that of the Latookas, and a striking peculiarity was displayed in the finely arched noses of many of the natives, which strongly reminded one of the Somauli tribes. It was impossible to conjecture their origin, as they had neither traditions nor ideas of their past history.






Egyptian soldiers in Suakim, Sudan, 1884


anonymous, The Graphic, 02/02/1884, p. 102





The rebellion in the Soudan

The Sheiks of the Shiah tribe at Suakim



The immediate effect of the arrival and the preaching of the Sheik El. Mhargani, a sketch of whose visit to General Sartorius we published last week, has been to bring in the Sheiks of some of the tribes which  inhabit the country surrounding Suakim. These, though they have hitherto not actually declared themselves in rebellion against the Egyptian Government, have lately shown no cordiality towards us.


"On the morning of January 4," writes Colonel G. Giles, to whom we are indebted for the sketch, "they arrived in camp, and at once proceeded to the Custom House yard, where they  were to be addressed by the Sheik El Mhargani. They were about 200 in number, mounted on camels, each man carrying a lance and shield, and in some cases a sword. We could not help thinking, as they silently swept through the town, and as silently made their camels lie down while they dismounted, what a first-rate corps might be made from such materials. The men themselves were fine and handsome, in some instances wearing turbans but, as a rule, having their heads uncovered, and their hair frizzed in the manner peculiar to this part of the world. They afforded a striking contrast to the Egyptian troops, a company of whom came down to the Custom House yard, and who, while the Sheiks of the tribes were upstairs being addressed by the Sheik El Mhargani, performed beneath the windows a dance, or religious ceremony, known as the "Zikrr."


This consisted in their taking off their belts and bayonets and laying them on the ground. They then formed two lines facing each other. They threw their heads backwards and forwards, bowing, and bending and straightening their knees at the same time, while keeping up a perpetual cry of  "Allah!" This, from the throbbing regularity with which it was repeated, reminded one very much of the noise made by a steam engine. The object of this spectacle was to propitiate the natives - a result, however, which was not obtained, judging from the scornful glances which the latter directed towards the Egyptians."










A war dance before Lord Wolsely


The Graphic 17/01/1885, p. 51.





Frederic Villiers (U.K., 1851-1922) (drawing)

"Not in earnest" - A native war dance before Lord Wolseley at Murideh, Dongola

Print, 1885, 30 x 47.5 cm. Greece, Athens, Alkis Raftis Collection. Dongola is a town in Northern Sudan. The Graphic, 031/790. London, 17/01/1885, p. 60-61.




"Another honour has been conferred on the Mudir of Dongola." writes Mr. F. Villiers, our special artist. "Lord Wolseley was requested by the Khedive to raise Sir Mustapha Jawar to the dignity of Pasha, and officer of the Second Class of  the Medjidie. On Lord Wolsely arriving with his staff in the courtyard of the Mudireh, about a dozen Arabs rushed out of the crowd brandishing long spears, and wielding their Crusader swords. They madly danced round the General and suite, who seemed somewhat astonished at this mimic onslaught, and one or two of the horses were with difficulty prevented from bolting with fright. The war dance was timed by two kettle-drums that were vigorously beaten in a corner of the Mudireh. All kinds of weapons were used in this fantasie, - the Crusader swords, and spears the like of which I have never seen before, about eight or nine feet in length, with a head nearly as large as a sapper's spade. Two of the Mudir's black soldiers threw spears at one another, in the manner of Zulus and Abyssinian warriors."
















Professional female performers of funeral music and dancing
The Illustrated London News 16/10/1897, p. 517
The advance in the Soudan. 


Frederic Villiers (drawing)
The Soudan advance: Funeral dance at Wady Halfa
Print, wood, 1897, 16.5 x 23.5 cm. Athens, Alkis Raftis Collection. Published in The Illustrated London News, 111. London, 16/10/1897, p. 535.














Frederic Villiers (drawing)
Women dancing and singing on the banks of the Nile
Print, wood, 1897, 21.1 x 31.6 cm. Athens, Alkis Raftis Collection. Enthusiastic reception of the Sirdar's force as it approached Berber. The Illustrated London News, 111. London, 16/10/1897, p. 538.






The Khedive of Egypt is now served, thanks to British counsel and help, by a very efficient, though not too large, native army of Fellaheen or Egyptian peasants and of "black" or dusky Soudanese, well drilled and trained, partly under the command of English officers, thoroughly disciplined and obedient, and perhaps not less courageous than the soldiery of most European States.  With the aid of a small contingent of troops of our own Army, the force which General Sir Herbert Kitchener the Sirdar, has led into the Soudan, and with which the reconquest of Nubia and of the Nile from Wady Halfa to Berber has been gradually but surely effected, seems to be as efficient and as completely equipped as any similarly mixed force employed in the British Indian dominions. The actual fighting in the present Nile campaign has not been such as to attract British public attention in a high degree; for the enemy's utter deficiency of tactics, and the inferior quality of his forces, a mere rabble of wild Desert tribesmen rushing to combat in the frenzy of Arab warfare, has allowed each engagement to be decided chiefly by the steady valour of the Soudanese regiments. The hardy and robust Nubian race produces very good soldiers, and now that some of our own countrymen are fighting by their side, we feel the more interest in presenting our Special Artist's sketch of a pathetic scene at Wady Halfa, that of women in the market-place, outside the town walls, mourning for those of their men - husbands, brothers, and sons - who had belonged to the famous 10th Battalion, and had been killed in the fight at Abu Hamed. These bereaved wives, accompanied by on orchestra of professional female performers of funeral music and dancing, to the monotonous sound of the beaten tom-tom, gave vent to their passionate grief in shrill cries of heartrending despair. In contrast with this scene of lamentation, we present that of the Sidar's reception on his arrival at Berber with general acclamations in the Anglo-Egyptian camp.