Reth Anei Kur (copyright LIFE Magazine)Abstract

This study is an attempt to trace historical background of the Northern Luo particularly the Collo [Shilluk] people. The paper gives an explanation on geographical setting and a recognition of Nyikango as a culture hero and founder of their nation. It also includes incarnation, shrines, annual ceremonies, their belief in a supreme power, expected assassination ,and system of choosing their king[Rath].

The paper describes royal graves, succession, interregnum era, stool, presentation of Nyakwer, entry into Fashod, replacement and cults of ancestors. Medicine men among the Collo people, tribute and disputes and marriage are reconsidered.
The Collo people are a bulwark between the Arabs in the North and Africans in the South. They are united under their divine king and their system of governance is highly organized as well as democratic to the extent that there are no interferences in other duties. Appeals are made to the king



Southern Sudan was unprecedented to the World outside until the 19th century .Its documented history started with the advent of the Turko-Egyptian conquest in 1821 and its subsequent annexation with the Northern Sudan. The Collo people inhabit the west and east banks of the White Nile. They are the cattle herders and relatively unified under the divine kingship.
Nyikango is believed by the Collo people as a culture hero and founder of their nation and assumed to have disappeared in a dusty storm at Akurwa, the ceremonial village.
There are two remarkable annual ceremonies in the Collo land whose functions are performed by the king. They believe in a supreme being. According to Collo system of succession,any prince with any abnormal wound in his body cannot become a king or to be nominated as a candidate. They pay tribute to their sovereign . Disputes are settled by local chiefs and appeals to the paramount chief are possible. Freedom is given to young people to choose their partners.



This study is based on techniques of content analysis .It also describes, analyses and interprets historical writings on historical background of the Northern Luo-[ Collo people]

Historical Background

South Sudan was potentially unknown to outsiders until the nineteenth century. Its documented history starts only with Egyptian intrusion in Sudan in 1821 and its subsequent unification with the Northern region, from which it is physically, ethnically and culturally distinct. Historically and geographically the region of South Sudan is a part of equatorial Africa and its earliest ties with the Muslim north were constructed primarily by Arab slave traders who exploited the black south as a hunting ground for commerce in human lives.

The Cøllø of the White Nile are the northern most group. They constitute a wall between Semitic Arabs and the Negro world in the south. They consist mainly of Cøllø, Anuak, Pari, Luo of Bahr al Ghazal, Acholi, Bwor and their off-shoots. I am mostly concerned with Cøllø as the main body of the Northern Luo speakers.
The Cøllø are divided into four main groups of clans such as the Kwarath, the royal clan, the Arørø who are a disinherited branch of the royal house, the Cøllø who are the main body of the Cøllø clans and finally the Bangirath, the personal attendants of the Rath, his wives or wives of the past Orri (Kings). The Cøllø are pastoralist Nilotic group. They are relatively unified under their divine King (Rath). Rath is not traditionally endowed with absolute political power. The Cøllø are cattle herders and farmers on the west bank of the White Nile, the majority and on the east bank of the Nile also. They speak a Nilotic language closely linked with Anuak, Pari, Lou of Bahr al Ghazal and Luo of East Africa. This Nilotic language is spoken as far south as the eastern shores of Lake Victoria. They have centralized Kingdom with its significance, which was founded at Fashoda most likely in the 19th century, they are famous within general Sudanese historical memory. They were not isolated but rather thrived on trading and cultural exchange with their neighbours on all sides, playing an important role in relation to the kingdom of Sennar itself with whose royal institutions and rituals (including kingly execution) there were many parallels. The Cøllø people have also become a key examplar in the literature of anthropology, the type case of what has been called divine kingship, used in historical debate about the institution of royalty in many other parts of the world(1).


The Geographically Setting

Geographically the Nilotic groups are extensively distributed stretching, with gaps, from about latitude 120 North to latitude 40 South. They, according to the Professor Ogot, number about three and half million. The Cøllø are estimated at 3 million people and live in an almost continuous narrow strip along the White Nile (mostly on the west bank) from Jebel Ahmad Agha in the north known by the Cøllø people as "Thwori Gwang" to Tonga, 220 miles to the South o f Fashoda royal capital. There are villages along the East bank from Kodok to the Zeraf mouth and for 20 miles up the Sobat. A number have lived in White Nile province in a detribalized state for a long time(1).


Nyikango Recognized as Culture Hero

Nikango Ori Okwa was recognized by the Cøllø people as the culture hero, the founder of the Cøllø nation and ideal of the present Cøllø people is not mythical figure but a historical ruler. The majority of the Cøllø people think of Nyikanga as divine or semi divine figure human in form and with physical qualities. He is believed that he did not, however, die or perish but disappeared in a dust storm at Akurwa, the ceremonial village where effigies of Nyikango and his successor Dak are kept. At the same time, too many Nyikango is basically a spiritual being who manifests to himself on occasions.


Incarnation,Shrines and annual ceremonies in collo land.

There are chiefs' incarnations of Nyikango which include firstly, spirit of Nyikango what is associated with certain royal shrines known as cenotaphs. Secondly, each Cøllø king incarnates the spirit of Nyikango Uri Okwa, and thirdly this is true of certain animals. His spirit is considered as being present at certain periods in the wooden effigy at Akurwa, the holy village.
There are ten shrines of Nyikango Uri Okwa, the most significant being Akurwa and Panyikango(1).  Each shrine comprises two or more huts which are scared: Attendants and priests (Bangirath, King's wife) include old men with hereditary link with the shrine, ex-wives of kings and male and female epileptics of advanced years. For example, in 1922 Aker widow of Kings Kur and Padyed was chief prietress at Panyikango(1). The working of Nyikango at his shrines consist of a solemn ritual of sacrifice and prayer.
There are two most significant annual ceremonies which include first Rain making ceremony held before the rains at new moon performed by the Cøllø Rath. The bull is stabbed to the death to mark the occasion of the ceremony and secondly, harvest festivals held when grain is cut.
Each settlement will carry to Fashoda their seeds of grain as many as possible sacks they could gather together to maintain the administration in the royal capital. There is also a ceremony at the occasion of each king who should send cattle and other presents to each shrine of Nyikango Uri Okwa.


Election of Radh

-All Nyiradhs are genuinely eligible for the position of radh.
-All radhs must be the sons of previous radhs.
-The lections are divided into three groups namely:
(a)gol Nyikango (Southern Cøllø) under the chief of Kwøm.
(b)Gol dhyany (Northern Cøllø) under chief of gol banyø, and
(c)The Kwaradh under the chief of padhyang.

Immediately on being introduced to Fashoda the radh - elect starts to receive homage, unofficially and without ceremony, of the chiefs of his kingdom. They come from all parts of the country and for a chief to fail to come would be a sign of disaffection or at best gross discourtesy All the same, there remains potential danger to the new radh trying to ambush him by night. No armed rising is now likely, but an individual challenge remains a possibility for the radh until the end of his days.The initial ceremonies are simple and soon over. There remains an interval for the radh-elect, until he is installed of Nyikango.

The funeral dance of his predecessor is to be arranged by others, though he has a say in fixing dates and procedure.

The Coronation of Radh.

There are different preliminaries to the coronation of the radh by Nykango. Many materials important for the ceremonies have to be collected, and apparatus has to be made.
Military service for collecting certain objects to Podhi manyo (raided county) has to be carried out by two sections such as gol Nyikango at Akwabayo in Kwom and gol dhyang at Abwor in mwomo for obtaining.

1-Silver and Cloth from the north. These two sections are responsible for this embassy. As they go north they get gifts from Cøllø villages by the way. Nowadays the silver and cloth which wee originally plunder, are bought from Kosti with money supplied by the radh and contributed by Cøllø north of Kaka.

2-Ostrich Features: Procured from the country round Kaka for the head pieces of the images of Nyikango and Daag, by the people of Mwomo and Ivory for bracelets to be worn by different functionaries at the coronation itself.

3-Bamboo is brought from Fungor in the Eastern Nuba mountains fro the bodies of Nyikango's image, and those of his sons Daag and Caalo. This is brought by the people of Akwabayo.

4-Sacred ropes are brought by Daag, who with his followers makes a special pilgrimage some two months before the ceremonies. They grow round Panyikango. They are made from the fibre of dom palms.

5-Skins of the female Mrs. Gray antelope. These skins are produced by the chief of Panykango from their island. These are required as the high robes of honour of the radh. They are worm by the radh himself and all the important people in the ceremony. They are royal game, and are only killed in the first year of a new radh's reign.

There are different dignitaries created Jagos and Chiefs responsible for separate small ceremonies. These have all to be appointed. There are old female nyiradhs specially appointed who look after certain shrines of Nyikango. Kwanyikango from golbanyo are the blacksmiths who are responsible for

6-Making the sacred spears. The preliminaries are then complete for the forgoing of the spears to be used in the installation.

7-The Cøllø say Nyikango disappeared in a dust storm at Akurwa. Since Akurwa was the scene of his departure, it is also the most likely place for his return. There are many shrines of Nyikango in Cøllø country, but Akurwa is by far the most important place. It is in Akurwa where the effigies of Nyikango and Daag are kept. These effigies are not merely symbols. They may become active at any time, and when active they are Nyikango and Daag. Both effigies have an important part to play in the ceremonies of coronation. The soul of Nyikango is manifest in the effigy for the occasion, and he must march from Akurwa to Fashoda to test the qualities of his new successor and toe installed him at the capital. This march, the opposition shown by the radh and the final ritual performed at Fashoda are the essence of the coronation ceremonies. The symbolic substitution on the sacred stool of the radh-elect in the effigy is the principal method by which the soul of Nyikango is transferred.


The Progress of Nyikango from Akurwa to Nyigir village:

1- The Radh's flight to Debalo Cøllø say that the radh has fled from Nyikango, and that he sends messengers to Nyikango beseeching him to stay away. The march of Nyikango from Akurwa to Nyigir was ended. He and Daag surrounded by the Kwanikwom and other followers were safely installed in the village of Adodo. They would take their rest there for three days.

2- The Radh's march Dabalo to Arepifir[small stream]
-Kwa Okel bring Nyakwer.
-Kwa Julo carry the brown heifer by leading it backwards from Debalo to Fashoda. They also bring with them the sheep over which the radh must step over at Khor Areipifur.

3- The Crossing of the Arepifur.
The chief of gol dhyang on the opposite side of the Arepifur has to come to hand over the black bull, over which the radh must step before crossing Arepifur, and bearing with them a fish spear wrapped round with a grass mat, another of the many sacred spears of Nyikango kwa mal carry a chicken with which they sweep the path of the Radh after he has crossed over. The warriors have run off to fetch millet stalks.

The two apposing armies have to meet each other. The radh than walked forward and holding Nyakwer by the hand stepped over the sheep and stepped right over the black bull and then walked swiftly across to the other side.

4- The March of Nyikango from Adodo Nyigir to Fashoda.

These people of Akurwa are guardians of Nyikango, and they will not stir out of their villages unless the new king promises them great riches. The new king has promised so many cows, sheep, spears etc and now the people trusted themselves upon Nyikango to make sure these things would be delivered to them. The people begging Nyikango to speak to them and promise them things of the earth to enrich them.

The procession move on to meet the king and his followers at Khor Arepifur in front of Fashoda. This is the traditional battle grouped, on which the forces of the king and those of Nyikango join in great sham battle, both sides using corn stalks instead of spears and fighting until the followers of Nyikango overcome the guardians of the king and capture the king to carry him away into Fashoda.

5- The Battle:
The warlike attitude of the opposing armies become apparent. The kwa Nyikango who are leading the army of Nyikango begin to move, and a few of them break away infront, brandishing their whips and ropes. The radh's army is considered to be repelled and the radh himself is captured by Nyikango. After the battle, the radh is seized by Nyikango and led to Fashoda. The Radh is concealed by Nyikango.

6- The Radh carried off to the Shrine by Nyikango

The procession drew up to be the cleared space called cerfuc and halted. The kwa okel are engaged in wrapping the brown heifer from head to tail in white cloth. Nyikango with the Radh processed three times round them. Kwa okel speared the heifer and tore off the white wrapping which immediately were seized and carried away by the crowds as sacred relics.

7- Enthronement and Substitution:
After the spearing of the heifer by kwa okel, the radh, still closely led by Nyikango, advanced towards the shrine. The sacred stool is screened from the people. The bull-hides upon which it is placed, has already been brought out and set-up at the entrance of the shrine, and set stool in hurriedly carried out. The effigy of Nyikango was set upon the stool by kwa Nyikango, while the radh knelt down and clasped the legs on the other side and Nyakwar seated herself to one side of the radh. The effigy of Nyikango is lifted from the stool and hurried into the shrine immediately followed by Daag, and the new radh took his place upon the sacred stool of the Cøllø. The place of radh holding the stool for Nyikango is now taken by the Jangi tyle kwon radh (Chamberlain)

The act of substitution upon the stool symbolizes to the Cøllø the possession of the Radh by the spirit of Nyikango.

After sitting on the stool, the Radh arose and escorted by the chief of the kwa Nyikwan, who held his left, walked across the open space in front of the shrine. Another bull of a black and white one, also swathed in white cloth and covered over the back with a leopard skin decorated at the edge with cowries shells, was tethered. The radh nake three passes in the air over the back of the Ox, which is then led off to be sacrificed.

8- The Temporary Camp:

The ceremony is four days. After this ceremony, the radh entered the screen which surrounded the temporary huts (Adul) and he himself entered the carger of them. The larger is considered the radh's temporary residence. After this the public part of the first day's ceremonies is over. The radh has retired into seclusion. The Cøllø people dispersed. Only the aroro, kwaradh and kwa Nyikwom, the immediately attendants of the radh, remained to guard him and minister of his wants.

9- The last day at Fashoda.

Lul group is responsible for bringing the spear of Nyikango and with it sacred beads from acoro lul. These beads are red and green in colour.

10- The Final Ceremonies .

Attended by a general assembly by all important chiefs and elders from all over the Cøllø country. Speeches are made, mostly exhortation. The radh is confined as supreme judge by the Cøllø people and finally he is personally shown round Fashoda by the chief of the kwanyikango stopping at each house in torn, after making his speech sticks a spear into the ground before the radh as a sign of homage. The drum is beaten by the kwa wang if his speech is good.

Appendix (1): Southern Sudan. A Select Bibliography

Journal Articles:
1-African Affairs 71(283), 1972, pp 293-303
2-Tarikh 3(1), pp 38 - 47
3-Atlantic Monthly 1929, pp 385 - 309
4-East and West Review (5), 1939, pp 35 - 43
5-Africa Today (28)2, 1981, pp 69 - 77, 1973, pp 19-28
6-African Communist (37) 1969, pp. 41 - 55
7-African Forum 3(213) 1967, pp. 58 - 74
8-The Journal of Africa History 2 (17), 1961, pp. 119-135
9-The Journal of Modern African Studies 18(10), 1980, pp. 73 - 91
10-The Journal of Contemporary History 6(1), 1971, pp. 108 - 120
11-African Affairs 62(246), 1963, pp. 310 - 311.
12- Middle Eastern Studies 1(1), 1964, pp. 113 - 134.
13-World Today 21(1), 1965, pp. 4 - 7.
14-African Affairs 72(287), 1973, pp. 163 - 178.
15-History of Africa 8, 1981, pp. 327 - 332.
16-International Affairs 54(3), 1978, pp. 421 - 436.
17-Africa Affairs 72(287), 1973, pp. 163 - 178
18-Journal of the Anthological Society of Oxford 10(1), 1979, pp. 1-20.
19-Africa Today 28(2), 1981, pp. 33 - 41
20-World Today 22(12), 1966, pp. 512 - 520.
21-International Journal 30(3), pp. 406 - 427
22-The Middle East Journal 10(6), 1986, pp. 410 - 429
23-World Today 40, 1984, pp. 520 - 527.

References of the Cøllø Tribe
1- D. Westernmann, The Shilluk People, 1912.
2- W. Hofwyas, Die Shilluk, 1925.
3- C.G Seligman, Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan, 1932.
4- M.E.C., Pumphrey, The Shilluk Tribe, 1941
5- C.G. Seligman, the Cult of Nyakang etc Welcome Report, 1911.
6- Bancholzer P. and Giffen, J.K. Western Sudan: The Shilluk and their country. Appendix: History and Religion of the Shilluks Gleichen's Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
7- Howell, PP. "The Death and Berial of Reth Dak Wad Padiet of the Shilluk". SNR Vol. 33, 1952, pp. (156-176)
"The election and installation of Reth Kur Wad Fafiti of the Shilluk with an account of the final ceremonies" SNR Vol. 34,. 1953. pp. (70 - 112)
" The Shilluk settlement" SNR vol. 24, 1941. pp 47 - 102.
8-E.E. Evans Pritchard, "The Divine Kingship of the Shilluk of the Nilotic Sudan". SNR Vol. 31, 1950. pp. 158 - 201.
9-Dakhlia 112/2/80 Shilluk.
10-Dakhlia 66/2 Shilluk Administration-council of Chiefs
11-Dakhlia 112/7/42 Shilluk Tribal and Historical.
12-Kassala 1/871/352. Tribal Appointment and Dismissal of Sheikhs. Other province, Ruth El Shilluk.
13-Civsec Class 35 Immigration.
14-Civsec 1/1/35. A - I Policy of British and other European Settlers in the Sudan.
15-Dakhlia 4/22 Reports. Province General reports Upper Nile narrating over notes by F.C Corytorz ESQ (1939).
16-Civsec 20/88/20. B.4.7.I. Annual Budgets Shilluk Administration
17-Civsec 5/21/SCR/2-.A.8.2. Economic and Trade.
18-Civsec 5/23.SCR/20.A.8.2. Education
19-Civsec, Class 14 Education and Rewards.
20-4 Dakhlia 20 PA3 122 Education, general rulings post secondary education - Gordon Memorial College, standing committee 453/172/60.
21-4 Dakhlia 7 PA3 122 Education, General Rulings - Post Secondary Education - Gordon Memorial College, standing Committee 73/173.

References Dakhlia 112/7/42 Bibliography

1-Jackson - History of Shilluk 1861 - 1898
2-General Sir Herbert Jackson, History of Shilluk 1899 - 1929, Fashoda times February 1934
3-Mathew Bey - Power and Election of Ret.
4-Mathew Bey Report on Shilluk country, list of District, Chiefs etc.
5-M.S. Luch - Summary of Chapter on Shilluk, by Selgman M.S. Lush.
6-P. Munro; Installation of Ret.
7-H.C. Jackson, Note on shilluk Kings.
8-J.B. Stewart, Note of Shilluk Kings, Extraction of Tribal Interest from Shilluk council meetings.
9-Titherington, Election of Ret Fafiti,
- Shilluk Customary Law,
- Shilluk Courts.
10- J.B. Stewart, Marriage among the Shilluk.
11- Titherington, Notes of shilluk District.

Shillluk Tribe - Bibliography

1-Adelung J.C and Vater J.S. Mithridates Vol. III Section I pp. 237, 238. Sprachproben der Schulluk etc Berlin, 1821.
2-Babi A. Atlas ethnographique du globe etc. table No. 216 Schilluk, Paris 1826.
3-Bancholzer P. and Giffen J.K: Western Sudan: The Shilluk and their Country. Appendix: History and Religion of the Shilluks Glienchen's Anglo-Egyptian, 1, 1905.
4-Banholzer P. In Lande der Schilluk, Vien Nathropos 6, 1911.
5-Bess, D - C. His African Honour is inaugurated; Old Customs of the Shilluk Negroes etc. New York, Travel 35, 1920.
6-Cann, Calpt G.P. A day in the life of an idle Shilluk, Khartoum-Sudan Notes 12, 1929
7-Hofmeyer, Father. Zur, geschichte and gliederung der Shilluk Anthropos 1910. In German only" copy in intelligence library, Khartoum.
8-Hofmayer, History and Religion etc of the Shilluk Anthropos - Veinna: 1925 in German only and badly wants translating (Superseded above) copy in Mudaria - Malakal.
9-I (D) Conspiracy against the Mek(Sic) of the Shilluk in 1917 by means of sorcery, Khartoum - Sudan Notes 5, 1922.
10-Kohnen, Father B. Grammatica Delta Lingua Schilluk 1930, Italian Only, copy in Shilluk Office, 200 pp.
11-Kohnen, father. Shilluk Grammar in English 1934 (superseded 10) copy in Shilluk Office.
12-Lattam R.G. Elements of Comparative Philology (P. 550) and Seq. Shilluk), London, 1862,
, - Note on Southern limits of Shilluk language in the Upper Nile Valley South of the Sudan, Khartoum, Sudan Notes: 1, 1918.
13- Munro, P. installation of the King of the Shilluk, Sudan Notes and Records No. 3, 1918, Copy in Shilluk Office.
14- Oyler, Rev. D.S. Nikang's Place in the Shilluk Religion, Sudan Notes and Records No. 4, 1918, Copy in Shilluk Office.
15- Oyler D.S. Nikawng and the Shilluk Migration, Khartoum, Sudan Notes 1, 1918.

16- Oyler Rev. D.S. Shilluk belief in the good medicine man. Sudan Notes and Records No.2, 1920. Copy in shilluk Office.

17- Oyler, Mrs. Examples of Shilluk folklore, Sudan Notes and Records. No.3 1919: Copy in Shilluk Office.

18- Seligman, C.G. The Cult of Nyakang etc. Welcome Report 1911. Copy in Intelligence library, Khartoum.
19- Seligman, C.G. Some Aspects of the Hamitic Problem. Royal Anthropological Institute 1913 bound in some volume as 2. in Intelligence Library Khartoum.
20- Seligman, C.G. The Religion of the Pagan Tribes of the White Nile- Africa No.1, 1931. copy in Shilluk Office.
21- Seligman, C.G, Pagan Tribes of the Southern Sudan, 1933, Copy in Muderia Malakal.
22- Tappi, C. Notes Ethnologiques Sur Ler Chillourks (Tr. From the Italian). Le cairt Bulletin de la Soc. Khediv de Geogr. 6, 1903 - do - pays des chehouks - le caire. Bulletin de la soc. Khadiu de geogr 6. 1904.
23- Thompson, F.S. Among the Shilluk of Southern Sudan. New York Independent. 68, 1910.
24- Vater, J.S. Problem deutcher volksmindarts Dr. Seetzen's Linguistischol namchlass - sprachen von den schulluk Leipzig, 1816.
25- Westenmann, D. The Shilluk people 1912. Copy in Shilluk District Office.
26- Westernmann D. Short Grammar of the Shilluk language 1911. Copy in Shilluk Office

27-Various School Books and Religious Books produced by the Missions in shilluk
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  • Guest - Wad-awang

    Thank to the professor of history, Dr. Daniel Thabo for the article. I would like to recommend to him, if he could compile together what was written by Dr. Lam Akol recently and mostly the work of our late Professor Dr. Walter Knojwok an iconic south sudanese politician who ever resign his ministerial position in national government, because his government turn around and kill his won people.

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  • Guest - Othom Ariel Temrial

    I would like to correct the photo ,It is Reth Dak Padiet to my knowledge and not Aney Kur Nyidhok.Thanks to professor Daniel Thabo Nyibong.

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